Summer is fast approaching, and most parents are in the mad-dash scramble to organize their kids summer activities, camps and travel. But there is one crucial piece that is often missing from the younger kids' summer itinerary—a job.
When done right, a summer job can benefit even the youngest elementary school children. A "job" is a loose term at this age, and I'm not suggesting you send in an application to the local Applebee's on your 2nd graders' behalf. At this age, working refers merely to an extracurricular activity that provides a fun experience and earns a little money.
Why should young kids work?
While making money is usually the ultimate goal of a job, as a young child, it's not about the money—money is actually just an added bonus—but about the experience and lessons learned.
Having a job as a kid plants an essential seed by teaching them responsibility and the importance of a strong work ethic at a young age.
It also shows them the value of money. They may not have any problem spending your money, but they will have a whole new appreciation for the benefit of their own hard-earned money.
And while making money is not the primary goal, having money allows them to learn about basic money management in a positive and safe environment. They can use their money to practice budgeting, giving and saving. This knowledge and experience will provide them with a basic financial foundation that they can continue to build on as they get older.
One of the best parts about learning about finance while they're young? They can make mistakes and learn from them while there are no real consequences.
Equally as important as learning responsibility and money management, a summer job is an opportunity to introduce working in a positive light. Kids can see that that working not only provides money but can (and should) be fun, inspiring and important. As adults, we sometimes lose sight of that in the daily grind, but kids are starting with a blank canvas. If we can show them that they can make money from something they love, it will encourage them to pursue their passions as an adult.
What is a good first job for a kid?
Fun is the most important word! This should be a positive experience for your child, not something they dread or view as a punishment. Identify things they love to do and help them figure out how they could turn it into a "job."
Here are the top 10 summer jobs for your young child to earn some money, learn some crucial lessons and have fun.
1. Car wash
Have your child and some of their neighborhood friends set up a car wash in your driveway, or a safe spot near your house.
2. Lemonade/baked goods stand
This can be any type of seasonally appropriate treat: hot chocolate for winter, cookies (anytime!) or drinks and popsicles on warm days.
3. Sell food
Along the same lines, if your child loves to cook, they can sell jams, sandwiches, soups, etc. to friends and neighbors.
4. Yard work
Yard work is a great way for your child to spend a day outside and get some exercise. While a lawn mower is probably too much for your young child to handle, they can offer to help rake the neighbor's leaves, garden, or weed.
5. Dog-walking or pet-sitting
This can be a fun activity for a child who loves animals, however, it requires supervision from a parent when entering someone's home, especially with strange dogs. If you have a friend traveling who needs their cat fed or dog walked, plan to bring your child over and stay there with them while they work.
Again, an activity that should be supervised by a parent, but when a friend or neighbor is out of town, your child can offer to water plants and pick up mail.
7. Childcare or parent's helper
Babysitting is one of the first jobs many kids will have. At the elementary school age, they are too young to babysit alone, however, they can be a parent's helper. There are plenty of parents who are at home with kids, but need to get work done, do laundry, or (gasp!) have a moment to themselves. These parents may pay to have your child come over while they are home to help with their kids. This can involve playing, reading and some light supervision.
8. Party help
Anyone who has recently been to a kid's birthday party knows that it is chaos. Older kids can provide huge assistance by managing the activities and crafts, helping with the younger kids and giving out the birthday cake.
9. Sell a product
If your child's passion is making jewelry, they may love the idea of making and selling custom jewelry. Same thing with paintings, bookmarks, cross-stitch or any type of craft.
10. Entrepreneurial pursuits
Let them create their own business. Kids have an incredibly unique way of seeing the world and problem-solving. Ask them what kind of business they want to start, based on what they love to do. You never know, maybe you have the next tech giant or world-renowned chef on your hands!
Even if it's not something they will immediately make money from, always encourage them to find new ways to follow their passions: write a cookbook, create doll clothing, or start a band.
Not only will a summer job benefit your young child, but let's face it—it's a real win for us parents as well. We shell out hundreds (even thousands) for camps to occupy our kids during those long summer days. A summer job is not only a free activity, it may even be profitable!
Plus, you can feel good that your child is learning essential life lessons and skills while they are doing something they enjoy. eWin, win, win.