Allowance and Chores: Easy to Use List of Chores & Pay by Age

Are you wrestling with the idea of paying your kids an allowance for doing chores?

Over and over again research tells us that kids need to do chores in order to grow into successful adults. 

But statisticians aren’t living in the trenches with overscheduled kids and parents on tight schedules. 

Here’s a stat that might surprise most researchers: 98.3% of the time it’s easier to just clean your child’s bedroom instead of making them do it themselves. (Disclaimer: this statistic is derived from a loose compilation of personal frustration and mom friends’ tearful confessions.) 

But as we all tell our kids one thousand times a day, just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. We have compiled an easy-to-use list of chores and pay or allowance by age to make it easier to shoehorn these valuable lessons into your everyday lives in the trenches. 

Table of Contents

Guidance for Allowance and Chores

If you are looking for some guidance on how to combine allowance and chores, you have come to the right place.

Many parents struggle with how to deal with which chores should trigger an allowance and which ones just meet basic good citizen requirements.

There are two schools of thought that go something like this.

  1. There are parents with understandable expectations. “Everyone in a home has to contribute to its cleanliness, and my child should do basic chores without pay.”
  2. Then there are parents who would do anything to stop stepping on legos. “If paying my child to clean their room means that their room is actually clean, then make yourself at home in my wallet.”

And of course, like most things in life, most of us fall somewhere in between. 

Should I Pay My Child to Do Chores

The short answer is that yes, you should pay your child to do chores.

Financial habits are set by age 7.

Teaching your kids the cause and effect of effort = value is an important early life lesson. The amount of allowance and the number of chores are completely negotiable, but it’s hard to go wrong rewarding your child for behaviors that will make them successful later in life.

Children see mom or dad or both going off to work every day. Their astute little minds can process that this takes some level of sacrifice and that their parents aren’t doing it for free. Kids can’t go off to earn money, so the way to replicate this lesson in the home is to pay them an allowance for doing chores. 

Parents can reward their children with a specific amount of money for, age-appropriate chores starting as young as 5 years old.

Suggested Allowance by Age Per Week:

  • 5 yo $1 week
  • 6 yo $2 week
  • 7 yo $3 week
  • 8 yo $5 week
  • 9 yo $5-$10 week
  • 10 yo $10-$20 week

How Much Should I Pay My Children for Chores?

This question comes up over and over again and it can seem difficult to answer; family financial circumstances can vary tremendously and what works for one family might not be feasible for another. However, how much allowance to give kids for doing chores isn’t as difficult as it might seem. The answer lies in figuring out how much allowance kids need to buy the special treats and rewards that kids want to buy with their own money. 

  • A five-year-old will likely be very happy earning a dollar to buy some candy or a dollar store toy. 
  • An eight-year-old might need five dollars to buy some trading cards. 
  • At 10 years old, kids want to get more expensive things like lego kits, so you may need to up the ante to $10-$20. 
  • And when they hit preteen to teen, a trip to the mall can cost your entire paycheck, let alone a reasonable allowance. 

The key to the chore to allowance ratio is allowing them to earn what they want in a way that is reasonable and developmentally appropriate.

Who Should Be Teaching Kids About Personal Finance?

There is so much chatter right now about “influencers.” The truth is that influencers have been around for decades.

Whether it was the most popular kid at school, a famous athlete who only wore Under Armour, or an actress who swore she maintained her youthful good looks with Oil of Olay. Influencers aren’t a new phenomenon.

What is often overlooked in the influencer discussion is the role parents play as the first influencers of their child’s behavior.

As a parent, it is your distinct pleasure to be the single most important person in your child’s life all throughout early childhood. Giving your child chores and allowance is a key way you can be an early personal finance influencer for your child.

Children look up to parents and see that parents do chores (oh so. many. chores.). They also see that parents earn money which allows the family to thrive.

Kids want to be like their parents – it’s why they raid our closets and repeat things that should not be repeated. Giving kids chores and allowance is an excellent way to capitalize on that outsized influence to teach early childhood financial lessons about work and pay. 

What Are the Different Types of Allowance and Which Type Is Best?

Not all chore and allowance systems are created equal. In my early childhood, I would have friends who talked constantly about their allowances. I never got an “allowance” in the way these kids would talk about it. 

They simply got money for existing!

Every week they received basically a kid paycheck for living and breathing.

Meanwhile, I had a list of chores I had to complete if I wanted a penny. It didn’t seem remotely fair and I asked my parents about it one day.

I can still remember the looks on their faces as I explained that my friends were getting paid to be kids and that I would like the same treatment. In fact, there were six kids in my family, and we should probably all get paid to shoot hoops and ride our bikes.

After my parents recovered from their dual shock at the existence of such a system, and their friends who had apparently instituted it, they explained in very clear and concise terms why no such chore and allowance system would exist in our home. “Because we said so.”

As much as I would like to say that explanation lacked clarity, the truth is that even in my youthful mind I understood. I watched my parental influencers work hard day in and day out to put food on the table and shoes on my feet. Even 10-year-old me understood that you don’t get paid for doing nothing. 

Structured Unconditional Allowance

What my wayward friends were describing was Unconditional Allowance.

This is a sum of money they received weekly or monthly without condition.

It may seem like a great deal in childhood, but this is a recipe for disaster in adulthood.

If there is one complaint we hear over and over again from parents, it’s that kids seem to be getting more and more entitled. If you would like to nip this in the bud, take our advice and never, ever pay your child for doing nothing.

This sets them up for failure later in life when they discover that their teachers expect them to earn their grades, their peers expect them to earn their respect, and that their bosses expect them to earn their paycheck.

In addition, this is not healthy for your child’s mental wellness. Dr. Jennifer Gatt, a respected Child Psychologist at Southwest Neuropsychology Services in Phoenix, AZ, has spent decades working in schools and with families. One of the key points she emphasizes is that achievement and depression are inversely related.

She encourages parents to give their children opportunities to be self-reliant as pathways to better mental health. Giving children allowance, without using the opportunity to encourage chores and achievement, is a wasted opportunity to enhance your child’s pride in accomplishment and mental stability.

Unstructured Unconditional Allowance

Unstructured unconditional allowance is similar to its structured cousin, and certainly no better.

This is the type of allowance given by parents when a child wants something and the parent just forks over the money.

The parent might tell themselves that it’s better than a structured paycheck for doing nothing, but in reality, it reinforces the same lessons.

Unless you want to continue to be your child’s Moneytree, which grows without water or nutrients, we suggest nipping this in the bud.

According to Forbes, 79% of parents are providing financial support to their adult children.

Parents who allow their children to see them as an unending source of free money set their family up to join the ranks of parents who are supporting their adult children to the tune of $500 billion dollars annually.

This is twice what parents are putting away for their own retirement. Before you open your wallet to pay for your child’s wants without basing that payment on chores, think twice about what message this is sending and how that will impact your family’s future. 

Earned Salaried Allowance

Now that we have dealt with the nonsense of paying for nothing, let’s move onto the two types of allowance systems where children earn money for doing chores.

The first is akin to a salaried employee – your child receives their allowance on a set schedule and you have a set of expectations they need to meet to earn this allowance.

This is an earned allowance so inherently it is better than an unearned allowance.

There are some significant drawbacks to this system that make it more appropriate for older children.

The most glaring problem is one every parent surmised the second they saw the heading: kids struggle to meet ambiguous expectations.

As such, this system might work really well for high school-aged children who have been raised with an earned allowance system, and understand parental expectations.

The best example would be a 17-year-old whose responsibilities include maintaining a clean living space, doing their own dishes and laundry, driving their siblings to school and activities, and earning good grades.

This child could very easily be paid a regular sum to accomplish these reasonable teenage chores.

It would be important for parents to conduct periodic reviews to ensure that expectations are met, and that the allowance is truly being earned.

In order to get a child to a point where this type of allowance would work, parents would have needed to start with the most fundamental and commonsense allowance system available to them: the Earned Chore Based Allowance.

Earned Chore-Based Allowance

An easy way to think of this system is the hourly employee allowance and chore method.

This is hands down, by far, unequivocally, the best way to dole out money to your children.

There are two reasons this is the best allowance system:

1. It is better for their mental health and it is better for their financial education.

As discussed above, children need to achieve and feel pride in their accomplishments. Chores and rewards are an easy way to give children the opportunities they need to engage in behaviors that lead to feelings of achievement.

Every parent who has ever seen a toddler beam with happiness and pride after putting away their toys knows this to be true. Kids are born pleasers (don’t ask me what happens to make this instinct ebb and flow throughout later adolescent years). They want to make you happy. They want to make everyone happy.

It is simple psychology 101 to make sure that the healthy behaviors that also make them happy are the ones that will help grow them into successful adults. If you want to raise mentally healthy children, give them as many ways as possible to achieve and feel good about themselves.

2. The second reason this is a superior chore and allowance system is that it reinforces good financial literacy values.

If you give children a very specific list of what they need to do, how they need to do it, and what their reward will be, you will also be giving them an early preview of life outside of the cocoon of their loving home.

Simply put, if your child understands what they need to do, how to do it well, and the compensation structure, then they will waltz into a classroom or office with a significant headstart over their unconditional allowance peers.

Age Appropriate Chores and Allowance Breakdown

We have compiled this handy chore and allowance list with age-appropriate chores and rewards for children. It is by no means exhaustive and is meant for general use. 

Every child is different and you know your child best. This is a simple baseline we’ve compiled as an easy-to-use guide. 

Add to it, subtract from it, but it is a helpful baseline of chores that our experts believe could and should be done by kids of this age.

How to Pay Allowance

It is a good idea to reward kids with allowance after they have done a certain number of chores. In the sections below we break down an appropriate number of chores children can do before they should receive their allowance. 

This is critical for ingraining an early and lasting ability to delay gratification, a hallmark of financially successful individuals. It will also save you from them asking for money or prizes after every chore, which is unsustainable.

Chores and Allowance for Children 3-5 Years Old

Children in this age group are just starting to form habits, many of which will stay with them for life. This is the best age to reinforce the fundamentals of self-care and healthy behavior.

Suggested Chores:

Dr. Jennifer Gatt recommends the following chores for these little learners. 

  • Brush teeth
  • Eat vegetables
  • Flush toilet, help parent, help with laundry (starting to put their own away), make bed, read (at first with mom and dad), stay in bed (this little issue can be the bain of exhausted parents’ existence), tidy toys, and wash hands. 

In the My First Nest Egg App, we have all of these chores pre-populated in the Preschool Expert Puzzle entitled “Hooray for You!”

Suggested Rewards:

These little ones are in the prime of their imitation stage. They are easier to influence than many older children and want so badly to make their parents happy.

When it comes to allowance, we recommend rewards and prizes instead of money. Money is too lofty of a concept to grasp for most kids in this age group.

When they’re closer to 5 they might enjoy playing with it, engaging in pretend play where they exchange it, and imitating what they see their parents doing with it.

But when it comes to rewards, this age needs more tangible gratification. For the children closer to 3, sometimes just some virtual confetti, an excited congratulations and a little happy dance are all the reward they need.

For children closer developmentally to 5, we recommend small treats and toys they have asked for. M&M’s, Kinder Eggs, matchbox cars, little dolls, and bath toys all make excellent rewards. 

How Many Chores Equal a Reward:

In the My First Nest Egg App, we track rewards with puzzles. Kids are assigned puzzles. The pictures can either be generic or parents can input something the child is trying to earn. 

For this age group, we recommend importing a picture of whatever your child is trying to earn, or using the pre-populated picture if they are just earning for the confetti and high fives. 

For this age group, the expert-recommended puzzle is four pieces. 

This is a developmentally appropriate number of pieces that they can work towards the goal without becoming discouraged (or forgetful) before they get there. 

Chores and Allowance for Children 5-6 Years Old

My First Nest Egg 6 Piece Chore Puzzle
My First Nest Egg 6 PIece Chore Reward Puzzle.

5-6 year old is such a fun age for kids. Their little minds are working overtime to absorb every morsel of knowledge surrounding them, and they are incorporating that knowledge into their day-to-day activities. They are just starting kindergarten and learning to read and do math. 

Suggested Chores:

The chores Dr. Gatt recommends include all of the preschool chores and adds additional ones now that they are a little more capable. Here is what she suggests. 

  • Brush teeth
  • Clean room
  • Clear plate
  • Eat vegetables
  • Feed pet
  • Flush toilet
  • Help parent
  • Help with laundry
  • Laundry in hamper
  • Make bed
  • Practice a Skill (this can include reading, math, a sport or instrument)
  • Read
  • Set table
  • Turn off lights
  • Wash hands

In the My First Nest Egg App we have all of these chores pre-populated in the Emerging Expert Puzzle entitled “You’re a Superstar!”

Suggested Rewards:

This age group is still a little young to be rewarded with allowance money for chores, but they’re on the cusp. The reward will depend largely on how mature your child is.

Many parents report that their six-year-olds are very, very excited to earn coins or a dollar and are excited to take their earnings for a spin at a dollar store or the candy aisle. If that is the case, we recommend paying them $1-2 for a group of chores.

Kids this age have simple wants, so pay them enough that they can either buy something small or earn an allowance 2-3 times in order to earn what they want. 

How Many Chores Equal a Reward:

Kids ages 5-7 have a slightly longer attention span, so Dr. Gatt recommends a grouping of 6 chores before earning their allowance or reward. 

Chores and Allowance for Children 6-8 Years Old

This age group spans 2nd – 3rd grade, which are years kids start to really learn to be responsible.

The chores for this age group continue to build on the younger chores, but the quality should be considerably better.

Developing a love of reading is crucial at this juncture, so you might choose to encourage that skill by counting every chapter as a completed chore.

Beds should be much neater, with pillows neatly stacked and sheets tucked. Everything they do should be done with a little more care and examined with a slightly more critical eye. 

Suggested Chores:

Dr. Gatt recommends the following chores for your 6-8-year-olds.

  • Brush teeth
  • Clean room
  • Clear table
  • Dishes
  • Feed pet
  • Help parent
  • Help with laundry
  • Homework
  • Instrument
  • Make bed
  • Make lunch
  • Practice skill
  • Read
  • Set table
  • Wash hands

In the My First Nest Egg App, we have all of these chores pre-populated in the Primary School Expert Puzzle entitled “You’re the Best!”

Suggested Rewards:

This is a great age to lean into teaching your kids about money as a reward for effort. Since the number of tasks they’re completing is increasing, as is the quality, so should the monetary reward. We recommend $2-3 dollars per chore grouping. 

How Many Chores Equal a Reward:

Attention spans continue to expand. These 6-8-year-olds can do a ten-piece puzzle before earning their allowance for the completed tasks. 

Chores and Allowance for Children 8-10 Years Old

My First Nest Egg 10 Piece Chore Puzzle
My First Nest Egg 10 Piece Chore Puzzle

Eight to ten-year-olds are getting to be really capable little humans. They should be actual household helpers, instead of just making sure they are taking care of their own responsibilities and self-care.

Suggested Chores:

Now doing laundry is less about just putting away, and more about doing some of the actual folding of the clothes.

Their rooms should not be considered “clean” unless all of their toys and clothes are organized and folded.

Dishes can include loading and unloading the dishwasher. Many ten-year-olds can be tasked with helping a parent by entertaining their siblings while a parent is home and engaged in work. 

The chores Dr. Gatt recommends for these ages are as follows.

  • Brush teeth
  • Clean bathroom
  • Clean out car
  • Clean room
  • Clear table
  • Dishes
  • Feed pet
  • Help parent
  • Help with laundry
  • Homework
  • Instrument
  • Make bed
  • Make lunch
  • Organize your stuff
  • Practice skill
  • Read
  • Set table
  • Sweep patio
  • Take out trash
  • Vacuum
  • Wash hands
  • Water plants
  • Wipe counters

In the My First Nest Egg App, we have all of these chores pre-populated in the Upper Primary School Expert Puzzle entitled “You Rock!”

Suggested Rewards:

Kids in this age group are becoming increasingly influenced by their peers. Their friends will have things – so many things – that they will “neeeeed.” We have found that these kids will frequently work for a dollar amount (we recommend $3-5 per puzzle) or a prize.

Due to peer influence, children often want specific versions of things they actually need. Designer kicks, graphic T’s, logoed backpacks, and colorful water bottles, can all be powerful motivators. 

How Many Chores Equal a Reward:

We have increased the number of chores for these kids before the allowance is doled out to 12. This is very doable in 2-3 days. 

Chores and Allowance for Children 10-12 Years Old

Once your child reaches middle school hopefully they will be getting good at being helpful household heroes. You might notice that each age group builds on the one before, but many of the tasks stay the same. You may certainly choose not to reward a “chore” whose completion has simply become so much a part of their routine that they don’t need external motivation. 

However, some 12-year-olds still need to be nagged to brush their teeth, and the consequences for not doing so with adult teeth under braces can be serious. It is all a matter of knowing your child and what they need extra motivation to accomplish. 

Suggested Chores:

Dr. Gatt encourages these chores for middle schoolers. 

  • Babysit siblings (either with a parent home or away depending on age/maturity)
  • Brush teeth
  • Clean bathroom
  • Clean out car
  • Clean room
  • Clear table
  • Dishes
  • Feed pet
  • Help parent
  • Help with laundry
  • Homework
  • Instrument
  • Make bed
  • Make lunch
  • Organize your stuff
  • Practice skill
  • Read
  • Set table
  • Sweep patio
  • Take out trash
  • Vacuum
  • Wash hands
  • Water plants
  • Wipe counters

In the My First Nest Egg App, we have all of these chores pre-populated in the Middle School Expert Puzzle entitled “You’re a Winner!”

Suggested Rewards:

Once your child reaches fourth to seventh grade, they should be highly motivated little people. Like the previous age group, they want things and should be willing to earn money to buy them.

We recommend $5-6 per chore grouping for this age. That amount of money adds up quickly and they can buy the things they want, and understand that they have to work to get what they want. 

How Many Chores Equal a Reward:

Attention spans continue to expand. These 10-12-year-olds can do a twelve-piece puzzle before earning their allowance for the completed tasks. 

What Should Kids do with their Allowance Money?

Once kids are old enough to earn a monetary allowance, they should spend, save and give it according to a budget.

They can also set goals for earning enough money to buy something more expensive and track their progress.

It’s crucial for kids to establish budgeting habits early so that it becomes habitual and they carry the ability to set and follow a budget into their adult years.


RELATED ARTICLE: The 50/30/20 Rule for Kids Allowance


Do not be afraid to let kids spend money. They cannot learn lessons unless they spend their own money and learn what was worth the price and what was not. 

Conclusion

Study after study shows that kids who do chores become more successful adults. They turn into team players – people who pitch in to get things done. These are the people employers want to hire and bosses want to promote.

Coupling allowance with chores will help your children grow into financially literate and responsible adults who will have early practice earning and managing money.

All of these good habits will be instilled while you are benefiting from a cleaner house, happier kids, and the knowledge that you are setting your children up for success.