Saturday 25 January 2014

The Sunday Parenting Party - pocket money for pre-schoolers?

(Goblin is 4 years old)

Over the past 4 years I've got into a habit that with the wonder of hindsight I can see was bad parenting 101. I buy Goblin toys on nearly every outing. The toys he likes are the little match box cars. They cost about 96p and keep him quiet in the trolley while I'm shopping. With this miracle distraction I can head off all sorts of tantrums. So you can see why for a while I thought this was a solid parenting plan. 

But of course now Goblin has come to expect a toy every time we go anywhere. And our toy collection is getting ridiculous. Hublet and I both decided it was time to cut back and start saying no. But we didn't want to just make him go cold turkey. It didn't seem fair and we wanted him to have the chance of being able to get a toy once in a while. 

We could have just left it to whether we felt like buying him a toy, but that felt a bit arbitrary. We could have tied it to good behaviour, but I'd like to teach him that good behaviour is about more than just rewards.  So we decided to introduce pocket money.

I have no idea how much pocket money to give to a 4 year old. I guess some would probably say none, and others would say lots. When I was young I got 10p to spend on sweets, but 10p these days wouldn't go very far. I want Goblin to be able to buy something more than once a year! 
So I thought about what Goblin was likely want to buy - small metal vehicles which cost between £1 to £5. I knew I didn't want to give Goblin £5 every week. That wouldn't teach him anything because he would be able to buy a toy a week. And I also knew that I wanted him to be able to see an end in sight so that saving up was a real experience with an achievable reward at the end.

So we settled on £2 a week. That would mean it would take at least two weeks to earn enough money to buy one thing. As we do lots of trips Goblin would have to make decisions about what he was going spend his money on, foregoing some things to save for others. 

We did discussed whether we should link his pocket money to good behaviour but decided against it. One lesson at a time. I want this to be about him making choices about what he wants and then having the patience to save for it. Good budgeting skills are an essential element of life.

We started his pocket money in the first week of 2014. Last weekend after a two week wait and having to make a difficult choice not to buy a toy in the gift ship at the museum earlier in the week, Goblin had enough money to buy a space plane he had seen in the super market. He was so excited about being able to purchase it himself. I think that made the toy more special. He has now decided to save for a tractor that is £15. I explained that it would take 8 weeks to save up for, but so far he is determined to do just that. It will be interesting to see if he can do it. 

Do you give your kids pocket money? How much do you give and have you attached any conditions to it? I'd love to know how others deal with this. 

Taming the Goblin

Some links I enjoyed from last weeks party included
Raising a self reliant child: the value of service projects ~ The Good Long Road
Choose to Model Slow ~ Play Activities
When Someone Hurts Your Child: teaching them to stand up for themselves ~ Mommy for real
What you need to know about adopting a toddler ~Africa to America 
(I am on holiday next week and won't be posting so if you want to link up next weekend please visit one of the co-hosts below)
Welcome to The Sunday Parenting Party, hosted by Dirt and Boogers, Play Activities, Crayon Freckles, Taming the Goblin, The Golden Gleam, Prickly Mom, and The Tao of Poop. The SPP is place for readers to find ideas on nurturing, educating, and caring for children, as well as honest posts about the stresses of being a parent or caregiver. Links to reviews and giveaways are welcome as long as they are relevant to the topic. All parenting philosophies are welcome with one exception: please do not link to posts promoting physical discipline, as this is something we would feel uncomfortable having on our blogs. (P.S. By linking up you agree that your post and photos are Pinterest, Sulia, G+ and FB friendly. We will be showcasing ideas on The Sunday Parenting Party Pinterest board.)


  1. Just at the stage of thinking about pocket money. I am trying to be hard line post Christmas about anything she wants having to come out of her own piggy bank of money she's been given. The only thing I am flexing on is a new game for every level of her reading program she completes ... that's about 4 weeks effort so hopefully encourages some sense of deferred gratification.

  2. Our son is 4 and we just started thinking about giving him money so he could learn how to save up. For his birthday, I asked the grandparents if they could give him a small gift certificate. He loved going to the store to pick out a toy and budget according to the amount on the certificate.

  3. We're just getting into this too, Monko (I know I say this about everything, but I have a post half-written about it). We started giving our boys $3 a week (that converts to 1.81 pounds according to Google), with the option of doing extra chores for extra money. I've found that especially with Bug (6), it brings up opportunities to count out change and show him how things equal other things (five one-dollar-bills is the same as a $5 bill, four quarters is the same as a dollar bill, etc.). The downside is that he usually blows it right away on in-app purchases. :) I think he's learning, though.

  4. Thanks so much for featuring my post on teaching service to kids and its value. I was completely thinking of my 4 year-old when I read your post! I have done a similar thing with those matchbox cars in the past. Now, I try to just keep a set (since we have 2 boys) in the car that can easily be pulled out and handed out whenever we get somewhere. This is helpful, too, because then the cars seem a little bit like "new" toys since they don't get to play with them all of the time. We haven't introduced a standard pocket money practice yet, but we often will give our 4 year-old $1 when we go to the swap meet, which is a giant outdoor sale with vendors of all types -- some with new stuff and some with used stuff. $1 often gets him 2, sometimes 3, matchbox cars/small toys. This allows him to pick one for himself and one for his little brother. He also received counting jar for Christmas from the grandparents that adds up his piggy bank money when he adds coins. We did tell him that he could spend a certain amount of that money on something for himself, and he recently picked out a Mario (Super Mario Brothers) shirt at a store.


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