gabby_bazaar.jpgAh, summer vacation. The best two months of the school year for most kids—and a challenge for parents who may be at their wits’ end trying to figure out how to keep their children productive and occupied.

Maybe you’re not one of these. Maybe your kids are perfectly capable of finding ways to while away the hours of summer—playing games, meeting up with their friends, using the computer, or watching TV. Why not give your kids summer jobs instead? This is not only a practical reminder that money is earned, not doled out, but it helps you make sure they’re doing something productive with at least part of their time away from school. Here are seven ideas you might want to try.


HAVE THEM HELP WITH HOUSEHOLD CHORES

Kids aren’t the only ones who want to kick back and relax when the heat of summer rolls in—when temperatures rise into the upper 30s and perhaps even past 40 degrees, you’ll find yourself less and less inclined to come home from a hard day’s work just to slave over a hot stove or pick up toys your children have been playing with all day. Start a merit and reward system where your kids can get points from helping out around the house—even preschoolers can contribute by making beds, picking up messes or taking out trash, sorting laundry, or setting the table. This has the dual benefit of giving your kids a life lesson in responsibility, as this article in FamilyEducation.com discusses, and lifting some of the work from your shoulders.


HAVE OLDER KIDS TAKE CHARGE OF YOUNGER SIBLINGS


Babysitting is a time-honored way for kids to earn a little extra income. If you have a teenager, encourage him or her to earn a little extra money by taking care of younger siblings during the day while you’re at work. If you don’t have any younger kids, offer your children’s services to neighbors or your own siblings—the benefit of this is that if they’re getting paid to watch a younger cousin or the kid from next door, the money isn’t coming out of your pocket. This may also help the babysitter and the child being “sat” get to know each other better and develop a stronger relationship.


HAVE THEM DO TASKS FOR THEIR GRANDPARENTS

When you’ve got your kids comfortable with the idea of helping out at home, extend the concept to include their grandparents. If you live with your folks (or your husband’s), then this becomes a logical extension of doing their household chores, albeit with a twist: your kids can read to grandparents with ailing eyes, or teach their technophobe lola how to use email. If they live apart from your family, take the opportunity to give them all bonding time and let your kids stay over at their grandparents’ place. You can tell the doting lolo and lola to give them a “chore allowance” instead of outright gifts—this channels their tendency to spoil their grandkids into a win-win situation, giving your elderly parents some much-needed assistance, and your kids a valuable lesson in earning their keep. For more gran-friendly task ideas, check out this article on AARP.org.


HELP THEM START A BUSINESS

Do your children have an entrepreneurial mindset? What about smiles and charming chattiness that can sell anything to even the most miserly of misers? Help them set up their own business! This can be anything from selling homemade crafts (you can get ideas for them on the Internet, from sites like CraftBits.com ) or baked goods (you can bake with them on weekends or teach them no-bake recipes like the Yummy.ph recipes for chocolate-glazed cookies & cream or for oatmeal drops) to dog-walking (and they’ll get exercise along with it) to taking the business of babysitting to a larger scale and organizing a summer day care out of your home. Encourage them to get their friends to buy in as well—you can find more ideas from sites like MoneyInstructor.com. Who knows? The lessons they learn from their summer businesses may take them far in life when they have to start supporting themselves.


LET THEM HELP YOU WITH YOUR WORK

This is easy if you’re a work-from-home mom and have everything in your home office, but a bit more challenging if you’re at the office all day. However, you can get your kids to help you out by having them do basic jobs like sorting papers or files. If they know how to type, you may want to have them do some encoding on your home computer and pay them per page—this will have the added benefit of developing their typing skills and getting them used to working with technology.


LET THEM EXPERIENCE BEING IN THE WORK FORCE

Some companies—notably McDonald’s, with its annual Kiddie Crew summer program—sponsor summer programs that give kids basic “jobs” while training them to appreciate the value of hard work and letting them experience being part of a team. While some parents may be wary of these more traditional summer jobs, fearing exploitation and the early onset of job fatigue, well-planned programs designed specifically for children are a good way to let your child develop a sense of structure—and they allow interaction outside your child’s school and neighborhood groups, widening his or her circle of experience. Before settling on this course, make sure your child is willing to try it and is excited about the idea, and let him or her take an active role in the application process by filling up the forms and visiting the workplace to see what activities are involved.


SET UP A REWARD SYSTEM FOR ACHIEVING AND PURSUING GOALS YOU SET TOGETHER


This is the easiest and most basic job you can give your children, and it will help them continue learning even with the hiatus from school. You may want to make a summer book list and reward your children for each book they read from it—have a selection that is equal to and slightly above their grade level, and award them more points or money for higher-level books. Maybe you’ll want to enroll them in summer courses—arts and craft workshops, sports camps, or maybe beginner level computer courses—and reward them based on their progress. You can even set up a chart that will help you track the rewards your child earns. The most important thing here is to make sure that the goals you set are decided upon together, and that they really appeal to your children’s interests.


Will your kids appreciate being put to work during the summer? Maybe, and maybe not. It will help if you can make sure their “jobs” become quality time with family and friends or if they are more fun than work. And if their summer jobs help them learn some basic life skills and lessons, well, they may not thank you now, but they will when they’ve grown up to be responsible and well-rounded individuals any parent would be proud of.


(Photo by Cristina Cinco)

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