When Gail Haynes’s daughters were seven and nine, she bought them each a rabbit—and ended up with a litter. The girls, Ashley and Caitlyn, sold the babies to friends and then decided to start a business. Ten years later, Ashley still runs Bunnyville, breeding and selling purebred rabbits. She’s also branched out into selling cages and supplies, and even wrote a book on how to care for rabbits.
“The girls had percentages of their money they could spend in various ways, as well as save and plan for larger purchases. They had that freedom and wanted to keep growing that ability,” says Haynes, who lives in Campbellville, Ont. A single mom who faced financial hardships because she’d never developed good money habits, Haynes vowed that she would teach her daughters about money management. But it can be tough to learn these lessons when you can’t legally get a job. Minimum age requirements differ in each province, but generally, employers are not allowed to hire children under 12.
Chloe Johnson was nine when she started wanting all the same electronic gadgets her friends had, and her parents told her she would have to earn money to buy them herself. The Red Deer, Alta., family decided Chloe would take over the job of sorting all of their bottles bound for the recycling depot. Now 11, Chloe is still in charge of this task. Her parents drive her to the store, but she has to do all the work—and gets to keep the cash. Chloe’s grandparents, who spend half the year in Nova Scotia, also hired her to weed and tend to their garden while they’re away.
“She takes great pride in it. She feels responsible,” says her mom, Tanya, who has noticed that Chloe’s conscientiousness has extended to other areas. “Her room used to be a disaster. Now she knows you need to take care of things.” These jobs are separate from Chloe’s usual (unpaid) chores, like setting the table and helping tidy the house. She has three younger sisters and is also expected to help look after them without payment.
Chloe took a babysitting course and can’t wait until she is old enough to start that job, too. While there is no legal minimum age for babysitting in Canada, children must be 11 years old to take some babysitting courses, like those at the Canadian Red Cross. Other popular tween jobs include cutting grass and shovelling snow, dog walking, delivering papers, and making and selling crafts.
Eleven-year-old Kailey Buikema from Freelton, Ont., chose baking. When her mom, Kerrie, announced she would take the whole family to Cuba but could only pay for half of each person’s trip, Kailey didn’t want to miss out. She started baking Dutch butter cake and chocolate squares at home (these were family favourites with easy, no-fail recipes). Her mom advertised to friends on Facebook, and Kailey received seven orders the first week. Throughout the summer, she earned $700 selling her treats to family members, friends, teachers and her church community. She was able to pay her way to Cuba and also bought herself an iPad mini. She still earns about $40 a month.
“She was very proud that she was able to earn that money and contribute to the trip,” says Buikema. “It also makes her more responsible for her stuff. If she loses her iPad, she’s lost $300. It’s a good way to teach the value of money.”
Haynes was so impressed with the lessons her daughters learned, she wrote a book about it, called The Lemonade Stand Millionaire: A Parents’ Guide to Encouraging the Entrepreneurial Spirit in Your Kids. “Even if it’s not long-term, the skills they learn in having their own businesses are invaluable,” she says. “They learn how to budget, to communicate with people and how to solve problems. If they do that on a small scale when they’re kids, they can take that into their future jobs, and also into life.”