Money Talks, So Should You

Spent Mama: Kids earn their keep with chores and household jobs

Erin Guerrieri
by Erin Guerrieri , Dimespring 30 (@scoutingjoy)

Until my kids turned 3, I didn’t notice too much of an extra mess around the house. Aside from additional laundry and dishes, their toys were relatively few in number and large in size. With that magical third birthday, though, chaos ensues. The toys inside those boxes marked “3+” are often also labeled with something like “672 pieces!” (Is that really a selling point?) Not only do toys become numerous and tiny (read: impossible to keep away from the teething baby), the kids also become much more intentional with their “projects” like finding out how quickly the bathroom sink can be filled with bubbles.

With three of my kids either past or nearing the 3-year-old mark, we’ve determined it’s time to put the kids to work. I’ve read a number of parenting books that suggest a 3-year-old is old enough for chores, and one author boasts that he learned how to clean the toilets and mop the floor when he was 3. If you have a 3-year-old that can do those things without causing more mess for me — and who doesn’t ingest the cleaning supplies while doing so — can you please send him to my house for an awesome “play date?” Thanks.

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Now that we’ve decided the kids need to work, we’re trying to decide exactly what they’ll be working on and if/how they’ll be compensated. We are of the mind that some tasks need to be done in order to contribute to the family. Making a bed, for example, is something we do to contribute to the family rather than something for which we’re rewarded. Those types of jobs will likely include making beds, setting the table, clearing the table and tidying rooms.

But, we also want to teach the kids about earning money and how to save/spend/donate, so we plan to have “financial” jobs for earning money. We’ll probably choose jobs like wiping baseboards/doors, cleaning shoe cubbies, etc., but we’re still looking for a bank of jobs appropriate for little people.

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We’re stumbling a bit on systems we can stay on top of and be consistent with — and also ones that don’t cause more work for us. With four children, taking time on the front end has been a challenge, but I’m hoping we can be smooth sailing in a few weeks. Or months.

Do you have any tips on what has worked for your family? What are some great chores/jobs for small kids?


Erin Guerrieri, aka Spent Mama, is a mother of four children (all under the age of 5) who blogs regularly about her journey as a mom on a budget. Erin is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and perspectives on personal finance.