Before he heads to the mall for holiday shopping, empower your child to make some money of his own. Remind him that everyone needs help this time of year and that there’s great satisfaction in earning your own cash. You may find yourself being a chauffeur, supervisor, sales rep, or even a customer more often than usual as your child wades into the working world, but you’re helping him earn valuable experience along with his spending money.
If she's stumped for a saleable skill, suggest these options:
- Housesitting. People go away at holiday time. Watering plants, walking pets, feeding fish, taking in the mail or packages that have been delivered, checking lights, shoveling the walk, and making sure there are signs of life around the house are all things that middle schoolers can do.
- Baking. Many adults do enjoy whipping up a selection of holiday goodies, but can't find the time to do so. They also like to go to cookie parties, but sometimes feel embarrassed if they don't have homemade treats to share. Your child can prepare homemade (or even slice-and-bake) goodies to sell.
- Wrapping gifts. Some kids are great at wrapping presents, a job that can overwhelm parents, especially as the holidays get closer. If you have room in your garage or attic, your child might even offer to store the wrapped presents for special friends who have trouble hiding things from curious little eyes.
- Standing in for Santa. Here's a clever business idea: sell gift tags from Santa. Your child can make or fill out gift tags "To (child's name), From Santa," using his best handwriting. The tags may fool precocious kids who can recognize their parents' script!
- Babysitting. If your child is old enough to baby-sit, encourage her to call some of her regular clients and tell them she’s booking now for the holiday season. She can suggest shopping with a spouse, then going out to dinner, while she entertains the little ones.
- Party help. A middle schooler can be that all-important extra pair of hands when a family friend or neighbor is entertaining. He can polish silver, collect coats, pass hors d’oeuvres, do dishes during the party, and help clean up afterward.
- Visiting the elderly. Encourage your child to call a local nursing home and ask if she can give manicures, play piano, sing Christmas carols, or address holiday cards to and for the residents.
- Household chores. Cellar or attic cleanouts, reorganizing the recycling, putting CDs in order, and putting photos into albums are all tasks that kids this age can handle. Your middle schooler can do these things at home or help out at someone else's house.