This post is part of a series of posts about the systems I use during the summer to help keep our days simple, fun, educational and productive. You can fin all other posts in the series here: Stress-Less Family Summer System.
Quick note: Being organized is a talent of mine. Being crafty is not. My system is organized and works well, but it isn’t overly cute. (-: If you are crafty and decide to use some or part of my system, I’d love to see some pictures of it “cute-i-fied!” Email them to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll add them to the post!
Family Store & Chore System:
One thing we’ve had going for a while actually is a “family store” of sorts. This store doesn’t sell actual items. Instead, it sells screen time. And this store doesn’t use real money. Instead, we use this pretend (but true to life sizes) money. Here is what the kids can buy with their pretend money at our family store:
- Choose and watch a “Short Movie” (usually Super Why or Wild Kratts or something similar): $4
- Choose and watch a “Long Movie” (typically a Disney movie): $8
- 30 min on Raz-Kids.com: $4
- 30 min on i-Pad (educational games only): $5
- 30 min on pbskids.org: $6
- Watch a short movie someone else chose: $3
- Watch someone else on i-pad or computer: $4
- Watch a long movie someone else chose: $6
- Movie night (invite a friend, eat popcorn and a treat): $40
The store includes fun things that I want to limit in my kids lives. They love screen time and I don’t want to remove it from their lives entirely, but I do want to limit it. Asking them to pay for it does that naturally. They can only have as much screen time as they do money.
Starting just this summer, we’ve also started limiting the hours the store is open. That has been huge for us. No more requests for screen time at all hours of the day in the middle of all sorts of other activities. The store is only open from 3:30-5:00 Monday – Friday (with the exception of a movie night….if they save up for that then we plan it for a night that works for our family).
Other Adjustments Made For the Summer
In the past, the store also included things such as a late bedtime, chocolate milk for lunch, sleepover with cousins or a date with Mom or Dad. This summer, I removed those things for a few reasons. (1) I want to be able to do those types of things without my kids having to pay for them….I just want them to be fun, spontaneous things that I give to them: especially during the summer. (2) My kids would request those things at times that really didn’t work (like chocolate milk for lunch when they were crazy grumpy and didn’t need more sugar, or a date with me on an evening when I had a migraine. Or a late bedtime the night before we had to leave early for vacation. I felt like I either had to yes to something that wasn’t really appropriate or I had to say no and break a promise of sorts with my kids. So, we removed those items and created the store “hours” (instead of them just being able to buy anything anytime).
In order to spend money, the kids needed a way to earn it. Now, I don’t love the idea of actually paying my children to do basic chores. I can’t afford it (nobody pays ME to make my bed OR theirs!), and somehow to me, actual cash doesn’t seem to be the most direct reward for their effort. I like responsibilities and rewards to be more connected than that. But on the other hand, I do want them to learn the principle that money is connected to work. In the real world, we do earn things for our efforts!
Connecting Work and Play
Yet, working is part of being in a family. My kids are expected to work simply because they live in our home. But playing is part of a family too, right? Both should be “expected” in a family setting, but I think the two should be connected.
So, my husband and I created this “pretend money” system. In order to “play” (screen time), you have to work first. The system basically requires them to do chores in order to have “fun” (screen time fun). It teaches an important life principle of “work before play.”
Simplifying the System
We’ve had a few different chore systems in the past, but for this summer, I really wanted to keep it simple. Each child has six jobs every day: four morning jobs and two evening jobs. They get $1 for each job done without whining.
Each job is written on a craft stick. When they complete the job, they put the stick in our job bucket. Every morning during breakfast, I pay them for the jobs done the day before and hand the sticks back out. If they lose a stick, they have to pay me $1 for a new one.
There are four jobs they all do every day: Brush teeth (am), get dressed (am), make bed (am), and pick up room (pm).
We also have 8 other jobs (so each kids gets two) that get rotated weekly: wipe bathroom counters (am), wipe kitchen table (am), sweep (am), unload dishwasher (am), load dishwasher (pm), sweep (pm), wipe kitchen table (pm), and dry dishes (pm).
In addition, if they want / need to earn extra money for some reason, they can request extra jobs. These are things I choose based on what needs to be done and the skill level of each child. They include: wipe baseboards (in a room or two that I choose), clean windows, vacuum, clean doors, clean doorknobs, wipe cupboard fronts, vacuum the couches, clean window sills, sweep the porch / patio, clean out the car, wipe down the mudroom, take out the small trash cans and empty into the larger one, clean mirrors, etc.
My kids are 6, 6, 4, and 3 so these jobs work for us. You can (obviously) adjust your jobs to fit the ages and abilities of your kids.
Other Benefits From the Store and Chore System
This pretend money chore system has so many hidden benefits! We’ve been doing this part of our summer system for a few years now and when we are consistent with it, I love it!
It is a built in discipline system as well. If someone does something in appropriate (like throwing a fit when they have to come inside), I simply ask them to pay me $1. On the reverse, if I see someone do something exceptional (such as sharing a treat with their sibling), I quietly give them an extra $1.
Choice Have Consequences
The system also teaches the principle of choices and consequences. If a child spends all their money very quickly on computer time, they may have to sit upstairs by themselves while their siblings watch a movie. If they choose not to do their chores one day, they likely won’t get much screen time the next day. That can be tough, but is such a good lesson for them!
This system also provides an opportunity for true generosity because it provides true ownership. My kids will often (somewhat surprisingly) pay for their sibling to have some screen time when they notice they are out of money. That is their choice, their money and therefore their experience. I love the realness of that!
This system teaches responsibility. If they lose or misplace their money, too bad. No money, no screen time. This has happened more than once and resulted in quite a few tears, but I’d rather have them learn it with pretend money and screen time than with real money and a mortgage.
The system also teaches the principle of saving vs spending. It is interesting that some of my kids are naturally savers. They see that $40 movie night and they start working toward it. Others struggle and can’t ever seem to earn the movie night. I’m glad they are struggling with that at young ages instead of when they actually start earning a real paycheck.
Read more about our summer system here: Stress-Less Family Summer System