Kids, Chores and Pocket Money

Author: Naomi Liddell

Recently, at the dinner table, Gavin and Ethan were playing a game where they decided to be pirates. They talked about all the things they would do as pirates together and then Gavin said “What about Mum, who would she be?”. Ethan’s response was “She would be the lady who cleans the ship”. I stood up and left the table. It’s the first time I have ever been angry at something my 5 year old has said (bare in mind I’ve been angry at plenty of things he’s done in the past, but never really something he’s said). I know at first glance it may seem a bit irrational to get angry, but I have always wanted my boys to grow up with a healthy relationship towards women and this, felt like a step in the wrong direction. Team this with a few other incidents and we realised that his general assumption was that Mum cleans and we should sometimes ‘help her’. Obviously, this was not Ethan’s fault, but ours so we set about trying to course correct. 
I was really uncomfortable at the thought of Ethan seeing me as the cleaning lady in the house. Gavin did a great job of explaining to him that we all live in the house and make the messes so it’s not my job solely to clean up after everyone. We also agreed to stop using the words ‘Help Mum’ as if it were a charitable task to contribute to the running the house (something I was guilty of too – “Come and help me clean up your playdough”). The idea was to encourage him – and his little brother eventually – to take responsibility and contribute to the housework. And we’ve found a genius way to do this, which has also been a sanity saver for me.

Before I delve into what’s working for us I should also point out that this was devised in order to resolve another issue we were having. The constant begging for screen time. Ethan would wake up and ask to watch TV or play Minecraft every single day. It was the first question I was greeted with when he came home from school and at night he would ask when he would get screen time the next day. I was getting frustrated at constantly assessing whether he’d had enough or if it was a good time for screen time. And it must have been hugely frustrating for him to constantly hear me say “We’ll see”. That old chestnut. 
After a hunt about the internet I found Chore Sticks. And since we’ve implemented them, I have not looked back. The idea is that you buy a pack of lollipop sticks and write an age-appropriate chore on each stick. Then you have two pots (we have £2 toothbrush holders from The Range adhered to our kitchen wall – as you can see above), all of the sticks go in one and every day Ethan chooses two chore sticks. Once they’re done, he pops them in the other pot and has earned 30 mins of screen time. Super, super simple. And the whole thing cost less than a fiver.
I cannot begin to tell you how many micro stresses it has alleviated in our house. Ethan wakes up, picks two sticks and then completes his chores without a second thought. Then he banks his 30 mins screen time for after school. At weekends he still does chores but gets 1 hour of screen time for them. I no longer get quizzed on when screen time will be, he decides that for himself once his chores are done. It has gamified chores so Ethan is willingly contributing to the housework by doing tasks alone rather than ‘helping me’. We’ve also rolled pocket money into the mix.
Ethan needs to do two chores a day to get screentime and those two chores also earn him 50p. At the end of the week we count up how many chore sticks are in the done box and he gets pocket money accordingly. ie. 10 sticks = £5. Some days he’d rather be out in the street playing with his friends for longer than earn screen time, if that’s the case I’m happy to encourage it and let the chores slide. If he’s saving up for something special (currently, Minecraft Lego) then he has the choice to do more chore sticks and earn more money.
There is some debate online it seems about monetising chores for kids. Some would argue that they should be contributing to the household tasks without monetary reward and purely because they’re part of the family. However, we’re finding that Ethan is taking agency over completing his chores every day because he gets the instant gratification of screen time and also the knowledge that he’s saving towards something he wants. It’s working really, really well for us. It’s been weeks now and it hasn’t lost its shine. Tethering the tasks to something he wants every day like screen time, also makes it impossible to forget to implement. And we’ve found the physicality of moving sticks from the ‘to do’ box to the ‘done’ box is really engaging for him too. I also love the fact that the chores are predetermined so I don’t have to think about what he has to do. On that note, Ethan is 5 1/2 years old and here are some examples of the chores that he has (to give anyone interested an idea):

Examples of Chores

Empty dishwasher

Pull weeds 

Wipe kitchen counters

Clear living room floor (there are also sticks for dining room, kitchen, bedrooms etc.)

Hoover hall (there’s one for each room of the house)

Wipe bathroom sink

Mop kitchen & utility room (there’s another stick for bathroom)

Put washing away

Dust windowsills

Pair socks

Wipe door handles

Water plants

Clean up inside the car

Tidy utility room
I’ve also thrown a couple of fun ones in there like ‘Dance’ and ’10 mins extra screen time’. He pulled the latter stick recently and it may as well have been Christmas morning! 

I’d love to know if your kids complete chores at home or if this is something you would try?

Also, how do you tackle the topic of pocket money, if at all?


Naomi loves daytime baths, learning things and rock music.
(Oh and her kids. She loves them too)
Follow Naomi on Instagram @naomiliddell
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26 thoughts on “Kids, Chores and Pocket Money

  1. Naomi I LOVE this!!!!!

    I just need to store this idea in my brain as my boy is only 2 right now, but I think it great.

    I also have taken note of your comment of asking your children to “help me” tidy up…..i’m not honestly sure if I say this or say “please tidy your toys” but it’s on my radar now and I can see how the latter is more constructive for everyone.

    On a wider note, I just wanted to say I read all the articles you post here (I’m not on instagram). I don’t often comment but really enjoy them and miss the daily posts as well as the comments from other readers. I hope this might inspire other readers to comment on the article and show their interest and support is still alive too!! x

    1. Aw thanks so much for the love Sarah! It’s greatly appreciated. On the days I post my literal favourite thing to do is sit down with a cuppa and read/reply to comments. So please do pop a comment in more often. It’s nice to get to know folk reading.

      Also, Finn is only 14 months but he follows Ethan around with the duster when he’s doing his chores. Too cute. He’ll definitely be getting his own chore sticks when he’s old enough to grasp the concept!

  2. Like Sarah above, I’m a reader rather than a commenter but just wanted to say I LOVE this idea. My son is 3 and really enjoys doing bits around the house at the moment (the other day he decided the windows were dirty so cleaned them with wet tissues! Didn’t exactly make them any cleaner but so cute) will definitely store this idea away for when he is a bit older!

  3. Great post. My little boy is also 5, we don’t have the screen time issue because he’s only allowed to watch something for half an hour whilst I cook the dinner. But we have just started giving him pocket money, and I wasn’t sure whether to connect it to chores or not. When I was a child we got pocket money every week, we were expected to help drying dishes, tidying etc but that was all.
    I was surprised (and impressed!!) with some of the chores on your list for a 5 year old! With something like mopping the floor, do you let him do that without help? I would not want my little boy to be splashing water around the kitchen whilst I’m trying to make packed lunches or something!

    1. I actually found a post (I wish I could link to it now, but can’t find it again!) that talked about how kids can often handle more than we think which inspired our more grown-up looking chore list. I can say this has definitely turned out to be true for Ethan. He seems to enjoy having a specific task to do rather than just asking him to generally ‘tidy’ and I’ve been so pleasantly surprised at how well he tackles them. Sometimes I do need to go in and do a once over when he’s finished (without him seeing of course!), but it’s not about him doing it right, more just the doing it in the first place.

      As for mopping, we have a microfibre mop and direct spray Method floor cleaner. This is one of his favourite chores!

    1. Lorna I am SO into this. We had set up a Monzo account for Ethan but this seems waaaayy better. Also, invaluable for teenagers!

  4. Our daughter has just left a Montessori nursery to go to school – they all help with chores there and it sparked her interest at home too! My favourite of this is her learning to clear her own dishes after eating, which her two year old sister now copies too. It certainly gets away from that sense of Mum always clearing the table as we all do our own bit! I’ve found they love being involved in chores and given the responsibility to complete them. The eldest asked if she could hoover the other day! So my advice to others contemplating this is go for it – I think the kids will surprise you!! Lovely post. We haven’t a need for pocket money yet, but not far off so would love to hear from more people about how they tackle this too x

    1. Stephie I think I’m going to adopt this one from now on. Gav and I usually clear the table, but you’re right, that’s something they can absolutely do themselves. It’s funny how you get into a groove without thinking, eh?

      As for pocket money, when we’re out in a shop and Ethan asks for something, big or small, we take a photo of it and the price and he saves for it with his pocket money. It’s resolved the begging for toys we used to get and he also gets to prioritise what he wants to spend his hard-earned cash on.

  5. Absolutely LOVE this idea Naomi. We are definitely going to implement this in our house. We don’t struggle with the amount of screen time with Leo at the minute -his blocker goes on after half an hour and he’s pretty content with that but the chores side of things will go down well 🙂

  6. This is a great idea!! In the mornings our daughter does get some screen time, but she has jobs that need doing before it is switched on – then she can watch while eating breakfast and having her hair done!!
    I tell her that everyone in the house needs to do jobs because we’re a team, so she doesn’t get pocket money for doing chores – but currently (she’s five) she gets pocket money if she does jobs without being asked, I’m hoping this will help her build good habits!!

  7. I LOVE this idea so much Naomi! Have just forwarded to my husband to help make sure we implement it further down the line as my son is just 3. Having said that, he loves getting jobs to do – he’s a good wee duster!! – so we might not have to wait too long to get into this. Really love the odd treat stick going in your pot as well – such a cool idea!!

    1. Sarah you could even start out by giving him more age-appropriate chores like dusting and mopping? Things that they can give a bash (then you can come behind and fix up later). I think I’m going to start with Finn as soon as he can hold and wave a duster! haha

  8. I’m going to keep this in mind for my youngest. He’s getting way too much screen time at the moment because I’ve been struggling badly with my mental health and I feel awful that it means its impacting him.

    I had a system when my eldest was little which I called “super house whizz” where I wrote some chores on card, put them in a tub and he could pull one out and we’d set a timer and see if we could ‘beat’ it. He thought of it as a really fun game. Unfortunately, he is now eleven and nothing I do makes a difference to the moaning and whining about having to do anything around the house. I wish he was little again!

    1. Hi Jade, I just wanted to send a wee message to say don’t be hard on yourself, you’re doing the best for you and your little ones.

      My son gets a fair amount of screen time but my husband and I work full time and frankly it allows us to get ready to leave the house in the morning. We couldn’t do it without the occasional iPad in bed or Bing on the TV. Your son will be better overall for having a mum who has addressed her mental health for her wellbeing as well as her family’s.

      I say this as someone who has struggled (and is still struggling) with mental health issues. Hope you continue to work on your health. xx

      1. I totally concur with Marianne, Jade. Your mental health needs to be a priority. And whilst these little parenting hacks can be fun to implement, if it’s going to add extra stress to your life, rather than relieve it then now is not the time. There’s a season for everything and it sounds like you need to take the time to look after you, which in turn is the best thing you can do for your kids.

        Also “super house whizz” sounds ace!

  9. Great idea! Genuinely surprised about what five year olds are capable of – I’m so much of a perfectionist I think I’d struggle with their quality standards 😂

    Now do you have any ideas for how to make this work with 35 year old boys?!

    1. Haha Bunny the 35 year old remark made me laugh! As for the quality standards, I’d say about 80% of it isn’t up to scratch. But the principle of doing it in the first place is there. So I just quietly dip in and fix the missed spots later! Haha!

  10. That’s such an amazing idea. We don’t have kids but considering implementing it with my husband… 😀

    Also just to say i also am a reader but don’t really comment on posts and also miss the more frequent posts! 🙁


    1. Well welcome to the comments section Rachael! It would be lovely to get to know you a little better in here 🙂 xo

  11. I love this! We’re definitely at risk of cleaning and tidying been seen as mummy’s job! I’m guilty of perpetuating it as I often just do it to try to bring order to the chaos but if I need to hold my nerve and insist upon tidying up after ourselves!

    Am also wondering about branching out the sticks into ‘school chores’ as well as household ones. Reading and spelling practice for example! X

    1. Adding school chores would be a great idea Rachel! Especially during the summer holidays. I still do most of the whipping around to keep things in shape. But I don’t touch Ethan’s ‘jobs’ (well within his sight anyway) so he gets some agency over them. Also, we tend to do our ‘chores’ at the same time. So he feels like he’s contributing. Even though I do about 7 to his 1.

  12. Great idea Naomi, definitely going to try this. We’re not at a pocket money stage yet but what do you do if the thing he wants to save for is a plastic toy that will probably break in 5 minutes?! We’re trying to cut down massively on plastic (in general) but toys as well (which isn’t helped by my MiL showing him the Smyths catalogue ALL the time!) and I’m not sure how to tackle it? Lx

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