Creative Ideas for Teaching 3 Year Old About Earning Money

Updated on August 12, 2011
L.C. asks from Denton, TX
12 answers

Hi Creative Moms!

I am thinking I would like to begin teaching my 3 year old the value of a dollar and how to earn them. Of course the classic lemonade stand comes to mind, which is definitely something we can do. But...I want to pick your creative brains to see if you have any other ideas or things you have done with your own kids to help them learn how to earn money. She is 3 right now so I can't have her mowing neighbors' lawns :). Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

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So What Happened?

Hey Moms!

Thank you to everyone for giving your feedback! I do agree with the moms who say that 3 year olds can learn the beginning concepts of money. If my daughter is old enough to want things at the store, then she is old enough to learn how we are able to buy things from the store! :) Also, I want her to learn about taking good care of her things and realize that if something breaks/gets ruined, it is NOT automatically replaced.

Ya'll gave me some great ideas! I already have her help with "chores" around the house, and she does not get paid for those. The reason is that I want her to learn there are certain things you do to help and serve because you are a part of the family and everyone contributes in the family. She helps make her bed, takes her clothes to the dirty clothes, cleans up all toys, wipes up the table after she eats, feeds the dog, loads clothes into the wash, helps transfer to the dryer and helps carry them to my bed for folding. She also loves to help unpack the grocery bags :).

I like the idea of her earning money for the "above and beyond" help around the house.

I was thinking when it comes to "earning" money that I would get 3 clear jars: one for giving, one for saving and one for spending and keep them on a shelf in her room. I've heard this recommended by Dave Ramsey. The clear jars are for the little ones so they have a clear visual of their money all the time.

I appreciate all you ladies giving time to answer my question!

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answers from Dallas on

3 is a little young for this in my opinion. I have a 3 year old and she's perfectly happy earning a penny to help load the washing machine. The value of money comes in a few more years.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Savannah on

I totally disagree with Mrslavallie. I've written this before, but my 2 year old son thought it was so cool to see his daddy dress up in a suit and go to work, and he wanted a tie to go "buy money". We thought that was cute, because yeah in a way, he's "buying" money with his time and effort. One month after he turned 3, our second baby was born. My husband took off for paternity leave, and when he went back to work, my oldest bust out crying. He kinda flipped out, he wanted to go to work and buy money, he wanted to be with dad (basically, he was unsure of his place now that we had the new baby). I called him over and was like "OK. Daddy has to go to work now. But with the new baby, I need a lot of help too. What would you think if I gave you a "job", and you helped me out, and then I gave you money for your work?". He was like "Really? I can go to work here and buy money?" And I answered "Yes, Mommy would really like the help". So he was VERY proud of that, and we worked out his job description.
Back then, his "job" was sort of a behavior AND chore chart combined because I didn't really want to argue with him about the annoying 3 year old stuff with a 1 month old baby keeping me up at night. So his "jobs" were to put his clothes in the hamper when he changed in/out of pjs (colored clothes in the colored bag, white clothes in the white bag), eat without a fight, at the end of the day put his toys back up (I helped him if we had guests and there was more than just a few things), and then he had a couple chores he did on different days to spread it out, but in a week's time he swiffered the floor (it wasn't perfect but he was happy and it did help a bit), used a swiffer duster to "wash" the furniture (dusting), he would help me sort clothes (and we'd call out the colors, to practice colors), he'd empty the dryer into the basket and push it to the table for me to fold, and I'd hand him the wet clothes a couple pieces at a time and he'd throw them in the dryer. He'd take all the little bags out of the little trashcans (bedrooms/baths) and put them in our big trashcan in the kitchen, which I'd take out. I'd water the cat, and he'd feed the cat (1 scoop---easy). After eating, he'd take his plate to the sink and throw his napkin away. Stuff like that, very simple, age appropriate. We bragged on him for doing a good "job".
I gave him a bank called The Giving Bank (from Mardels) which was one bank, but 3 buildings that we decorate with the stickers. It's blue, but see through. There's a church, a store, and a bank. We got him a little puppy dog calendar that hung by his bed. At bedtime, after bath and teeth, I'd read a story, then we'd go to his bed and talk a little about the day (what was his favorite part, what we can do if there was a "not good" part, what we have to look forward to tomorrow...if he did good and earned his quarter for the day, then I'd give him a star and he got to put it on the calendar for that day. If it was a bad day, we made an X on it, but talked about how we'd get a star tomorrow). Saturday night was payday, since it was a Sun-Sat calendar, it's easy for him to see the last day on the calendar is the end of the week. We practiced our counting and would count how many stars he had for the week. That's how many quarters he earned. I broke a couple quarters in change and would give him first the amount he was tithing (10%--and he'd put it in "church" building), then the amount he was saving (10%--and he'd put that in the "bank"), and then the rest went to the "store" building and he could do what he wanted with that. He was quite happy with that! And then when we went to church, he'd give his money at the offering. We explained our beliefs on that. He could explain, even at 3, that we give some to help people, we give some to the bank to save, and then we can have the rest for ourselves. It's an easy concept.
THEN: a neighborhood fishing event was coming up. I signed up my 2 guys (husband and son) and we went to Walmart to get a fishing rod. He fell in love with a Spiderman fishing rod, and he had the $7 for it. I had his money in a qt size ziploc and I said if he bought his rod, then I would buy the tacklebox and other stuff. We went to the cashier and I said Joseph is buying his own rod today with his own money from all his work! She was like "WOW" and he was beaming. I let him hand her the bag of quarters (but I distracted him with the rod and slipped her my credit card instead....I put the quarters in my purse to use again). While we were there, he saw a Toy Story sleepover set (sleeping bag, flashlight, compass, bag) that he wanted. I said "Ok, now you have $8, and this is $14 which is a bigger number. Also, the big fishing day with daddy is coming up so you will need a fishing rod. But if you'd like, we can save for this sleeping bag next. We will need more money!" Then I made a huge deal out of his first purchase---on the day they went fishing I took pictures of their first fishing day, packed them a fishing picnic (tuna sandwiches, goldfish, gummi worms, and blue "ocean water" aka juice, and some extra bread to feed the ducks b/c I didn't think he'd have the attention span to fish long....and I was right). This was to positively reinforce how we spend our money.
We pay him a quarter a day, to be paid on payday. Because a week is really long for children, we do the star on the calendar. Then he's learning the calendar, days of the week, the concept of days and weeks, and practicing counting his star stickers...sneaking in "education" without him knowing it. If he does something above and beyond, like was SUPER good with his baby brother or extra helpful, or if we had an extra chore that he helped us with (trimming the hedges: if he helped pick up the trimmings and put them in the wheelbarrow or lawn bag for us, or helped "wash" the windows in spring and fall, etc, etc--I'd make a little mark on the calendar and on payday I would give him a bonus of however much I felt to give (a dime, a dollar, whatever I felt to give), and tell him I really appreciated his extra team work. He does know (and can explain to others) that our family has to have team work. But if we do our job well, without a fight, then we can have it as a job and "buy money" with our teamwork. But if we are not nice, we still have to do the team work....but no money for bad jobs. He DID get his sleeping bag set, in time for his first sleepover at a friend's house. We went to the souvenier shop one day and I said "Ok. You have $6. We need to buy something that costs not more than $6". He picked out several things, and I said "Ok, these are awesome. Now which one is your FAVORITE?" Once he chose, I said that was a great choice (a horse) and he proudly bought it. (We count too....ok, this is 4. Does 4 come before 6? 1, 2, 3, 4...yes!) If it costs more, then we say "Ok, we can get this as soon as we save a little bit more money. We need this many more dollars."
Another special thing that was a big money lesson for him. One day he asked for fried chicken. My husband was out of town and I didn't want to cook so I said sure. We ordered and were in line waiting to pay, and he saw Sonic next door. He was like "No, no, I want a grilled cheese sandwich" (at Sonic). I said "No, we've already ordered the chicken. You ASKED for the chicken". He insisted. I thought I could either argue, or teach him a lesson. So I said "Ok....listen. You asked for chicken and it's been ordered. THE FAMILY is eating chicken. If you want to eat with THE FAMILY, you never have to pay for your food. But if you do something different than THE FAMILY, and go off on your own, you will have to pay with your own money." He insisted. I figured he could have the chicken for lunch the next day, so I drove to Sonic. I was like "Ok, this sandwich with tax is about $2. You will have to pay $2. (yes) Ok. $2 is 8 DAYS of work. Are you happy to work 8 days for this sandwich? (yes). So I ordered it and we went home. I put it on his plate, poured his milk, but said "wait, don't eat yet". I went to get his bank and had him count aloud and give me 8 quarters. I said thanks, and that was the end. We all ate. I had to be careful not to smile as he tried to choke down that 8 days worth of work on a sandwich. He's a stubborn guy, and wouldn't give in, and I wasn't going to argue with him. But he NEVER EVER did that again! It's been more than a year now (he's 4 1/2 now). He didn't like that at all. And this has completely cut out the "I wants" at the store. He'll pick up something while we're in line and say "Mom!" and I'm like "I see it! That's pretty neat". He'll ask for it and I say "If it is important to you, you may use your own money". He always says "NO, I'm just looking" and puts it back. Very rarely does he see something he really wants. If he wants it, he's free to buy it. But he has seen that he can buy lots of junk for a dollar a piece, or wait and save for a light saber that makes sounds, etc. He's seen that saving for a cool thing is better. (And we're not mean; he doesn't do without! But I do consciously make that effort to teach him not only how to make and handle money, but how to make wise choices).
If you want things outside of chores at home, then you could maybe recycle cans, or pay her for picking up outside, bagging lawn trimmings or leaves, etc. But I don't really like the idea of putting little ones out with the public too much---no door to door anythings. And she's too little to make bracelets or whatever. If your neighbor leaves town and needs their dog fed and watered, you could volunteer to do it and let her do the scoop of food, and give her the money the neighbor would pay. If your church or club has a bake sale, she could assist you in making cookies or cupcakes or whatever, and you could give her the money for that. (I did a inhome childcare and had two 3 year olds and a 6 year old bake homemade cookies for an army unit, brownies for the firemen (and we got to tour the firehouse and trucks when we went to deliver them), and cupcakes for a party. You just pour things out and let them pour from the cup to the bowl, and stir, etc. You could teach her about garage sales and craigslist, but we have opted to teach about charity and donating for most things instead. The only craigslist stuff he did was when I talked to him about craigslisting his train table and 2 of his 3 toyboxes for a much better, cooler toy / shelf unit from IKEA. And giving taking good care of his car bed and dresser, so that he can hand it down (if it looks good and is in good shape) to his little brother, so he could get a big boy bunkbed. 3 is a perfect age to teach money concepts. Before they get bad habits. :P

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

I know you're looking for creative ideas, but three is way too young to teach the value of money. My six year old, who is good at math, STILL thinks the people at the store are "giving us money" when I get my change back. It's a very abstract concept.

I think, for now, you'd do best to teach her how to help for the sake of being an awesome helper...that's where we were at when our oldest was three, and now that she's older she will STILL help out, just to help. I reward her sometimes with some change, just because she's very helpful, but she doesn't expect it. I think around age 10 or so is a good age to start earning money for chores, etc.

But as far as what she can do to help? She can sort laundry, match socks, rinse (safe) dishes, set the table, help "make" her bed, pick up her toys, help you straighten up, take out a small bag of garbage...really, they can help with a lot. :) Have fun!

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answers from Austin on

I think she is a better off learning to be a "big helper" right now.. Money can be so abstract.

We have always had piggy banks all around the house. Any time our daughter found change, she used to love to place them in a bank to "save".

She is still a big saver. I guess around the age of 5, she started "saving up" for books and toys..

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answers from Chicago on

Bringing in an elderly neighbor's mail
Feeding pets for vacationing neighbors

(of course both would be with parental supervision)

Chores around your house - matching socks, wiping down the bathroom sink with a vinegar/water mix & a rag

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

April C., that.was.awesome!
I'm having my husband read your post.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Something that is good for her developmentally and would be something people could "use" that a 3 year old has made would be keychains. Just make sure you get a cord/twine or something durable and easy to get through the hole of the beads, but that also holds a knot and you can hook it on the key ring or a clasp. Use beads with a large opening at first and she can find ones with smaller openings once she gets the hang of it.
Bracelets are an option too. She can start using wooden beads on colored pipe cleaners and move to other materials later on.

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answers from Toledo on

I have a chore chart for my girls and i have 3 chores each day. My 3 yr old has the chores of carrying her dishes from the meal to the sink, using the dust buster to sweep after dinner (she loves that) and feeding the cats. Each day they do their chores we put a picture of a Quarter in that column and I have a little guide that shows 4 QTRS = $1. Then when she gets the "I wants" at the store I tell her she can either use her chore money to pay for it or put it on her x-mas list...she usually chooses to put it on her x-mas list LOL. My 6 yr old has the same btu a bit harder chore list...and she is very proud to buy her own movie or doll, right now she is saving for a interactive dog. Once she was saving for a specific doll then went to buy it and it was gone, so sometimes if I know she has a specific item in mind I will pick it up and hide it until she has enough to buy it from me. My 6 yr old also did a lemonade stand at my yard sale when she was 4 1/2 and she made over $30 in one day! We split it up in plastic jars, to save, give to church and spend ;-)

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answers from Boston on

my daughter is 2 and she loves money....she takes a wet cloth and cleans the coffee table off with water of course or she takes the swiffer wand and goes over the tv and her toys and she "folds" the towels in the laundry then we put a few coins in her piggy bank and i keep it high so she cant get to it....
i know that she isnt doing the jobs properly or thoroughly but its the concept that im trying to get through to her ya kno? just a few ideas


answers from Dallas on

I Have one about to be 4 and one about to be 3, and let me tell you, I wish I would give them a penny.. If it's not paper, or a quarter.. Their unhappy. They know a quarter gets gum out of the machines at the mall. And they need paper money to buy other things. So I don't think she is to young. My kids asked me for a lemonade stand (they seen it on Olivia) buy we don't have to many people walking around in this 41 days of triple digit heat... So that's out of the question.. But she can do chores around the house. Get a sticker system going. We have paper with each girls name on it, and they have to do certain things like, make their bed, put dishes in the sink, whoever remembers to flush the potty (since no one can remember to flush), cleaning their room, putting dirty clothes in the basket... So on and so forth.. If the get all their stickers, on Friday they get 5 dollars. Every missing sticker, is a quarter deducted. We go to the mall almost every Saturday (exercise and indoor play for them) ( and yes shopping hehe) and they either spend their money in the candy store, ice cream, or they can put some in the movie jar ( a jar for when it full we take them to the movies) or if their being rational, they will wait till we get to Walmart, more bang for the buck.. But I can say, they are a little stingy with their money.. They don't like to share... I'll ask them for a dollar so I don't have to break a 20 for something I am 30 cents short on, my oldest huffs and puffs and tlls me ( just swipe your card).... Lol



answers from Los Angeles on

The little girl I used to babysit for (who is now 24) went door to door selling rubber bands. She still remembers it and she was like 5 or 6 at the time. I think we did it a couple of different times when I babysat for her. : ) Pretty funny.

She could go through toys she doesn't play with anymore and sell them.

Otherwise, I like the idea of helping neighbors with simple chores, as someone else suggested (bringing in the mail, taking out trash cans, helping with pets, watering plants, etc).



answers from Dallas on

At 3, start at home. She can have chores she does b/c she's family, like bringing her plate to the kitchen sink, and maybe putting the silverware away when the dishwasher is clean, and then she can have jobs to do for money like wipe the baseboards. I started cleaning with my kids when they were little like that. I didn't really pay them, but you could give her money for those things. She would be able to dust and wipe off low furniture. She should be able to pick up her room. You could give her money if she helps pick up the den and brings daddy's shoes to his room for him. She should be able to help you put laundry into the dryer. You can pay her for anything. You can pay her for having a good attitude and doing something the first time you say it (instead of the 5th! ha, ha!)

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