Child labor laws are completely awesome — unless you’re an ambitious 12-year-old. If all you want to do is get a summer job scooping ice cream, those laws can seem horribly unfair.
For the preteen set, earning extra money can be tricky. Most traditional teen jobs are out of the question.
Don’t despair. Here are 10 money-making ideas that can give preteens the cash they need this summer.
1. Work as a ‘mommy’s helper’
In the past, middle-school-age baby sitters were the norm. Now, some hover-parents won’t even leave their middle-schoolers home alone, let alone in charge of younger children.
That means many traditional baby-sitting jobs have dried up for preteens. But there may be money to be made as a “mommy’s helper.”
These jobs are essentially baby-sitting while a parent is home. I use one to keep my little ones out of my hair while I write. Ask family and friends to see which harried parents in your area might need a helping hand.
2. Help a local senior
This was actually one of my earliest jobs. Someone in one of the houses on my paper route asked if I would come over a few times a week and sit with an elderly woman for an hour to keep her company.
I brought my homework, she told me stories about crossing Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac before there was a bridge, and I made a little money on the side.
In addition to wanting some company, seniors may need help with chores, such as loading or unloading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor or cleaning out the litter box. Put out the word to family and friends to find out who might be in need of help.
3. Open a lemonade stand
Ah, a lemonade stand. That sounds so quaint, doesn’t it?
Don’t scoff. Plenty of kids make good money running lemonade stands. There is even an organization called Lemonade Day that provides resources to help children learn the entrepreneurial skills needed to successfully run a stand.
Then, the organization works with health departments in major cities to coordinate a one-day event that doesn’t run afoul of local ordinances.
However, your preteen doesn’t need to be quite so organized to make money on a lemonade stand. At least in my area, one of the most popular ways to run a successful stand is to set it up alongside the family yard sale, or at least time it to coincide with other yard sales or events in the area.
Before you help a child set up a stand, check with your local municipality to make sure you follow any local rules.
4. Do yard work
Doing lawn work for the neighbors can be a good way to get outside while earning cash at the same time. I found that somewhere between the ages of 10 and 12, my kids were generally able to use a gas-powered push mower, trim shrubs and do reasonably well at both.
Your neighbors might be the logical first stop in finding this type of work.
5. Walk dogs
Walking other people’s dogs can introduce your child to the wonderful world of pets, especially if you aren’t quite ready for a dog of your own.
Dog size is probably the most important consideration for a preteen pursuing this money-making option. A child who is 70 pounds sopping wet probably shouldn’t walk an unruly Great Dane. Make sure you know both the owner and the dog well to make this suggestion a success.
6. Pet sit
While pet-sitting services like Rover require you to be at least 18, preteens might find work more casually in the neighborhood. Pet-sitting for vacationing neighbors is the perfect gateway job for preteens. It requires some responsibility, but it’s also low-key, with minimal opportunity for mistakes. Pet sitters usually aren’t required to do anything too strenuous. It’s often a case of refreshing the cat’s water, feeding the fish and maybe bringing in the mail.
Because pet-sitting is usually a short-term commitment, it can be a way for preteens to make money without feeling as though they’ve given up their entire summer.
7. Provide tech support
Today’s kids are hooked on technology from birth. Have them put those skills to work this summer. Some possible tech-related jobs include:
- Helping a senior set up a computer and email.
- Retouching photos and creating albums.
- Data entry, such as entering contact information.
- Setting up a blog or website for themselves or someone else.
Children who want to start their own website should only do so under the supervision of an adult who can ensure they are taking proper precautions to protect their privacy.
8. Wash cars
It may be best to wash the family car as a trial run. Then, you can critique your child’s work, offer pointers and help him or her set a fair price. After that, ask friends and neighbors if they would like their car cleaned up.
9. Work on a farm
Child labor laws prevent preteens from being employed in most situations. However, preteens can work nonhazardous jobs on some farms with a parent’s written consent.
My own stint working on a farm involved a few weeks picking strawberries. It netted me $24 and lifelong appreciation for the people who harvest fruit for a living.
10. Sell unwanted items
This final suggestion isn’t a job, but it is a way for preteens to earn money: Have them sort through clothes, books and electronics and sell what they no longer use.
Take them to a consignment store like Plato’s Closet or Once Upon a Child to sell their castoffs. Or help them consign items through the mail to online shops such as Swap.com. Electronics can be sold to online companies like Gazelle, SecondSpin and NextWorth.