After school jobs for kids

28 August 2023

Today’s post is simple, but perhaps it will be for you what it was for me a few years ago: something that only seemed obvious in retrospect.

A few years ago, Annie was a newborn, Shep was in preschool, and June had just started kindergarten. I was fresh into the toting-three-kids-in-the-car phase of parenthood and realizing that I simply couldn’t carry the older two’s things in from the car as I had become accustomed to when I also needed to heft an infant carseat and my own things. And, once we got inside, I often needed to attend to the baby right away – so something that delayed the immediate cries for a snack would be helpful.

So, in the Montessori mindset of “don’t do for a child what she can do for herself,” we instituted what we call after-school jobs. We officially told the kids they were responsible for the following when we got home from school each day:

  • Collecting your things from the car and bringing them inside
  • Taking off your shoes and putting them in the shoe basket
  • Emptying your backpack, plugging in your school laptop, and putting your backpack in the closet
  • Putting any papers in the art basket or on the table for parents to see
  • Removing anything from your lunchbox (bento box, thermos, etc.), putting the dirty stuff in the sink, and putting your lunchbox in the pantry
  • Going to the bathroom (if needed!)
  • Washing your hands

When each step is complete, they can have a snack. For us, moving the snack to the final step in the process is a very simple and effective mechanism to make sure the jobs get completed with minimal reminders or whining. The expectation is clear. Rest assured, there is still at times both whining and reminders, but it is much easier for me to say, “did you do your jobs?” than to nag them repeatedly on individual items. Any sense of grievance seems to shift to the house policy rather than land on me as the enforcing individual, if that makes sense.

We don’t use cards or a chart to illustrate the steps; it’s really not that much and we just reminded them of the steps when we were getting started as needed.

Even Annie, at two, is a participant in certain steps. In fact, she’s often better than the older kids at immediately removing her shoes and putting them in the basket :) A great reminder that our kids are often more capable than we realize, and to continually be upgrading our expectations of them!

If you, too, find yourself with your hands full (physically or metaphorically), I hope this is a helpful glimpse into one family’s after-school routine! As always, let me know if you have any questions.

P.S. I would not consider these steps chores, per se, and in our family, they’re not connected to allowance. Allowance, is, in fact, a very new phenomenon in our household – we’re starting this week! – though an allowance, and all its pros and cons, has been on my mind for a while. (This is a perfect example of how I am prone to think perhaps a smidge too deeply about things.) June has been asking for one for months, so we’re making a first attempt. I will report back in a few weeks with how things have gone, if there’s interest, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear how allowance looks at your house, if you’d like to share!

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August 28, 2023 10:03 am

So smart! We started allowance last spring so we have been at it for over a year now. The allowance is related to chores. My son can earn up to $6 a week as he is 6 years old. But he also has 6 chores he must do every day to earn that $6. For what it is worth he usually earns between $3-5 a week. I make a seasonal chore chart for what we are working on. He routinely puts his clothes in the hamper now, but that was a chore that was on his first chore chart last spring, so it is no longer on his chore chart. I put things on there that help me out and help me teach him. He’s getting quite good at making his bed. I like it as it helps us focus on learning different cleaning/organizing skills and I also never have to fight him about buying things because I just ask if he has enough in his allowance to pay for it. I do not usually give him cash and keep track of it all electronically for him. I’d love to hear how other people do that as I am still in charge of tracking and letting him know if he has enough available. It works for us, but he’s an only child so I only have his money to keep track of.

August 28, 2023 10:43 am

Oh I’d love to hear your approach to allowance! In our family, both kids get a weekly allowance equal to their age (currently $8 & $6) that must be split between saving (in their Capital One savings accounts) and spending (their piggy bank money). Their spending money is saved up for a big purchase (my 6yo recently bought her own American Girl doll after many many months of saving) or for a splurge at museum gift shop, etc. We use allowance to teach about money, budgeting, and saving – it is in no way connected to chores. They also use their spending money to make donations to things that are important to them (recently had a lemonade stand where they donated the proceeds plus some piggy bank money to the children’s hospital where a friend is being treated for cancer). We pay allowance out every 4-6 weeks mostly because that’s when I think to get the right amount of cash to do it.
Chores are expected of everyone who is part of our household so that our family can function and no one gets paid for them. The regular ongoing “non-chores” include bringing in and unpacking backpacks, putting away dirty laundry, cleaning up your own toys, putting dishes in the sink – so basic clean up after yourself expectations. In addition, each family member has a daily chore assigned Sunday through Thursday. This includes rotating who unloads the dishwasher, emptying trash cans, bringing in the trash bins from the curb, wiping down bathroom counters & mirrors, etc. We have cleaners come two a month so we’re not doing full house cleaning here but this does help us stay on top of things in between visits from our cleaners. We’re still working on making these a habit but having them assigned to both kids & grownups has given us all some buy in (although my husband and I sure seem to have a lot of chores that don’t go on the official list!).

August 28, 2023 10:44 am
Reply to  RachelC

Clearly I too have put a LOT of thought into how allowance & chores are treated in our family :)

August 28, 2023 3:18 pm

Our approach is similar to Rachel’s: chores are obligations all family members have to making a house run smoothly and aren’t something you do to get money. It is so critical to us that everyone – and particularly boys – learn that it takes work to run a household and the bare minimum expectation of being part of a family is that they must participate in keeping it running, without expecting money for doing so! Allowance is separate and is intended to teach about money skills. Additionally, kids can get paid for some age-appropriate big jobs outside of normal chores: things like polishing silver, dusting the baseboards, mowing the lawn (when 13 or older) – these are infrequent and are on offer to all eligible kids but they are not obligated to do them.

August 28, 2023 5:05 pm
Reply to  S G

Yes, same on the big jobs to earn extra $$ – my kids LOVE to wash the baseboards and kitchen cabinets!

August 28, 2023 3:25 pm

I love the after school jobs. We have been in a “temporary” living space that has, sadly, carried on for about two years, and the temporary nature of it has allowed me to become complacent in my assignment of after school jobs. My 7-and-a-half year old can certainly do many of these tasks, and would likely do them willingly if I only ask! Oh… how I shoot myself in the foot sometimes…
As far as allowance goes – whether wise or silly – our dude gets $20 at the beginning of every month. No actual cash is exchanged, but he vigilantly keeps track of his accrued or diminished amount, and generally, he only buys Legos! On rare occasions, and always accompanied by my side-eye, my husband will bribe our son to try an item of food at the dinner table, but that usually only amounts to a dollar or two. He does get a few dollars here or there from grandparents, and we just pocket the cash, adding the amount to his tally. He doesn’t earn anything for chores.
For us, this strategy has resulted in a kiddo who understands he should shop around for the lowest price on something he wants, and who is willing to save up for the items he really wants. Though he sometimes wants to buy Legos for his closest little friend, I would like to integrate a more concrete “give” component, but I don’t know what that looks like yet.
I do love the idea of “give • save • live”, wherein any amount obtained is divided into those categories, but obviously I haven’t implemented anything like that, yet.

August 28, 2023 3:37 pm

We haven’t reached the allowance phase in our family yet, but I have bookmarked Merrick White’s ideas on it for the future! I love that she uses a digital system to track it. ( ) I also love the ideas “The Money Guy” podcast gives on kids money, ideas like teaching them to give, save and spend, as well as matching what they put into a savings account when they are older to teach them about employer matching plans. Interested to hear your thoughts soon!