echoing. teaching money to a preschooler

This photo was taken this weekend. His third time walking back across the bridge next to Trader Joes to a person begging. He SEES them. He always asks to go help them. “May I give them money so they can buy food?”


This next photo was taken yesterday. He earned 3 quarters for legitimately vacuuming four rooms in our home. He chose to put two quarters in the “give away” and one quarter for “Ethan”.


Since he was two years old, we have introduced the idea of “hard work” to Ethan. But most importantly that hard work is GOOD“It’s hard work biking up this hill! Strong legs! Strong Legs!” “Oh man it’s hard work doing laundry but it’s the only way to get clean clothes.”

During the last year it has also become clear that Ethan now understands concepts of buying things, giving away money, donating toys, not wasting food or water…..some of the core undercurrents of “stewardship”.

So the dreaded conversation of teaching kids money came up.

Chores or Allowance? Expected or Extra? What is a right and what is a privilege? Both Matt and I are strongly convinced that allowances are not the right method for our family, so we opted for a simple chore chart. Or as he calls it, “Hard work”. (oh, and really good books on money and kids = The opposite of Spoiled by Ron Leiber or Smart Money Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey)

The plan? Ethan may CHOOSE to earn money if he does hard work.

His options? Look at the totally fancy chart we made with crayons!!


He doesn’t get coins if the hard work is a consequence. And he also doesn’t ALWAYS get the money if he does the chore as an activity. He can clean by himself or with dad or mom just as being apart of our family.

Then what? After he earns it– he has the choice to put 2 quarters in one bowl and 1 quarter in another bowl. He gets to pick which goes in where. It’s either for “Ethan” (to spend at the farmers market) or for “Give away” (begging person or child in need).

Our goal? To start an expectation of a real-life experience in money management even in the earliest stages. We didn’t want to wait to introduce saving or giving to others. “We choose to spend our money on food and saving for trips, or giving it away to people how don’t have food or a home”. Dad and Mom get money from our jobs, doing hard work. And HIS hard work is at home right now because of his age. We want him to inherently understand that money only comes from earning it through hard work.

The flaws? Well there are many. The argument that cleaning should just be normal life and not “rewarded”. Did we pick the right activities? We didn’t want to reward character traits (such as kindness) with money, so then it’s actions. Do you then teach that good actions are always rewarded? Is it too much money? But a nickle will get you nothing (even a honey-stick is a quarter), and if he had to save for 6 months to get fresh cinnamon roasted almonds for $3 (his favorite at the market!) he’d never understand the concept.

UGH. It’s all a just a trial and error with parenting — so I say if we’re trying something, then at least that’s something. Our kids can always have counseling later for our good-intention-but-failed parenting choices. Mwah-haha. True story.

Well, the blessing of Ethan’s order and logic tendencies, is that this concept he doesn’t fight or question. He accepts it as logical and acceptable. Food comes from farmers — and I need to pay them for it — so I need to do hard work to eat. Basic and simple and true. I am actually VERY excited to see how he will continue to process this. Parenting is super fascinating!!