Quarters at Dairy Queen: Teaching Little Kids to Earn Money

Eight years ago when we started our kids on a budget we had no idea what we were doing.

We decided we wanted to teach our kids to earn money, but we really weren’t sure how it would all turn out.  So we pushed through and figured it out and, for the most part, it went really well.

But our kids were 7 & 8 years old at the time.  Since then, people have asked us how to teach younger kids to earn money.  We’ve written about that in the book and had (what we thought) were great ideas, but we really had no way to test them out.Thassa lotta qwaters!

And then our nephews were born.


A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of watching the little guys (ages 3 & 4)  for a few days while their parents were out of town.  As much as we enjoy spending time with them, we never miss an opportunity to teach.  Or in this case to test out our theories.

So, when they arrived I let them run around the house and play with their cousins for about 5 minutes before I presented them with a Treat Sheet.  I took them to the computer, pulled up the menu from Dairy Queen (which has photos, a very good thing) and had them point to something on the menu they thought they’d like to eat.  One chose a Dilly Bar, the other a Blizzard.  I showed them the Treat Sheet and explained that I would love to take them to buy that treat with their VERY OWN MONEY!


Our mom didn’t give us any money…

“But, Auntie Tracie, we don’t have any money.  Our mom didn’t give us any…”

“That’s okay!  Because I’m going to show you how you can earn the money to buy the treat!  Won’t that be fun!”

We took them out to our very weedy sandbox and handed them small buckets.

“Every time you fill up a bucket with weeds, I will give you a quarter to tape to your sheet.  When your sheet is full of quarters, then you’ll have enough money for your treat!”

They began their project with gusto.  It had rained recently and the sand was soft, the weeds had barely taken root.  It wasn’t too long until the sandbox was weeded and the Treat Sheets, hanging prominently on the refrigerator, were heavy with metal coins.

The next morning, the three-year old ran to the fridge as soon as he got up.

“Do you want some milk?” I asked.

“I need more qwaters for my sheet!” he said, pointing at his Treat Sheet.

“I guess you do, let’s find some more jobs for you to do.”

That week, the boys took out garbage, fed the dogs, swept the floor and wiped finger prints off the windows.  The Dilly Bar kid (the 4 year old) even did extra jobs to help his younger Blizzard brother when he realized the Blizzard required more quarters.  They had a ball.

On Saturday, it was time to go to DQ.  They proudly walked up and handed the very confused teenager at the counter a paper full of quarters as they placed their orders.

As we sat outside enjoying our ice cream on a beautiful day, the littlest guy said, “Auntie Tracie, can we do more jobs for qwaters next time we’re at your house?”

Lesson learned.

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