Getting the Kids to Earn Their Pocket Money

You want your kids to be responsible, but you don't want to pay them to pick up their toys. Here’s how to get the balance right. Pocket money and chores help prepare your kids for adulthood – they teach the essential skills to run a home, and earn and manage money. Here are some great ideas for showing kids that hard work can pay, but there are also some jobs in life you just have to do.

Money for everyday jobs

The hardest part about giving kids money for chores is you don't want them thinking they'll get paid just to live. If that worries you, there are ways around it. You can use a chore or rewards chart system for helping out around the house, and keep pocket money as a separate deal. 

If you do decide to give pocket money in exchange for jobs around the house, separate out which jobs or chores earn pocket money, and which don’t. For example, less frequent jobs like ironing or mowing the lawn could become part of their pocket money. 

Everyday duties like keeping their rooms clean and helping out at mealtimes can be treated as an unpaid part of contributing to family life. Side note: doing chores together or side-by-side can help kids develop a better sense of wanting to help out. If they pick up toys while you dust furniture, it can be a lot more fun and therefore a lot more interesting.

Age-appropriate chore ideas

Don't know which chores are right for kids? Every child is different, but here are some age-appropriate jobs for kids of different ages. Just remember they're still learning, so use encouragement and patience, rather than taking over if they don’t do it the way you like it done.

Under 5s

  • Put their dirty clothes in the wash.
  • Sort family laundry into darks, colours and whites.
  • Put away their own toys in their room and their play area.
  • Make their own bed.
  • Put salt, pepper and condiments on the table before a meal.

Age 5–7

As well as the jobs above, you can add some new chores to their roster:

  • Feed the family pet – but you’ll need to keep an eye on this, or your furry friend may go hungry!
  • Help put away the food shopping.
  • Help with folding the washing.
  • Dust the furniture – though make sure kids don’t climb on anything.
  • Set the table.
  • Water the garden.
  • Pack their lunchbox into their school bag.

Age 8–10

As well as adding new jobs, you can give them a greater number of jobs and let them tackle extra responsibilities:

  • Peg washing on the line, and bring it in when it’s dry.
  • Put away their clothes after they've been folded, and put other people's folded clothes on their beds in sorted piles.
  • Empty the inside bins into the outdoor bin.
  • Sweep outdoor areas, and pull up any weeds in the garden.
  • Help cook – be guided by what they’re happy to do. They may start by getting out the ingredients and washing vegetables, and within a few weeks be up for chopping and grating, and even stirring the meal as it cooks. Provide plenty of supervision, of course.

 Age 10 and beyond

By now, jobs can be a lot more advanced. By age 13 kids will be able to do most of the jobs you can do. While kids are unlikely to meet your standards the first time round, lots of constructive feedback and guidance will remind them they are capable and to try again. Here's a guide to what they can master:

  • Load and turn on the washing machine.
  • Strip and remake their bed.
  • Clean the bathrooms, including the loo and mirrors. Provide gloves for this job and remind them to wash their hands once they’re done.
  • Vacuum and mop the floors.
  • Cook simple meals solo (you’ll need to build up to this – don’t expect gourmet creations on the first few runs).
  • Wash dishes.
  • Iron clothes – teach kids and supervise until they get the hang of it. This is ideally suited to 13 years and older, and keep your delicates out of the pile!

How much pocket money is suitable?

First, consider what works for your budget. Then what you expect your kids to do with the money – will they be buying their school lunch treat at the canteen? Or is just for play? As a guide, here’s the average amounts of pocket money Aussie kids received in 2014, according to the Commonwealth Bank:

  • 4–6 years of age: $7.17 per week
  • 7–9 years of age: $7.07 per week
  • 10–12 years of age: $11.37 per week
  • 13–15 years of age: $14.11 per week
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