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Parents creative about chores

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Question: In reference to your column on allowance: We don't tie our children's allowance to chores, but if chores are not done we fine the kids. That way we don't have to keep track of what is being done — and the kids don't like giving up money they already have.

Answer: A number of parents have told me they use some form of a fine system to make sure their kids' jobs get done. Here are a couple of other simple but effective strategies:

Choose a chore. Attach a value to each household job and let your kids select the ones they want to do. This works best if kids need or want money.

Point system. Invest in a big calendar and have your kids tally a point each time they do something helpful around the house. At the end of the week you can award, say, 10 cents a point. This works best for younger kids who do jobs that are roughly equivalent in value.

Question: What are some age-appropriate chores?

Answer: For younger children, stick with simple tasks that can become part of their daily routine, such as making their bed in the morning, clearing the table or taking out trash after dinner. Preschoolers still like helping Mom and Dad, so have them work with you to put away toys in the family room or set the table.

As kids get older, let them choose the jobs they'd like to do. And be creative: Instead of saddling them with mundane tasks that don't take much time anyway, give them bigger jobs that are more help to you and potentially more interesting.

Kitchen aides. Put your kids in charge of planning and preparing dinner once a week or breakfast on Sundays. Let them bake four dozen chocolate-chip cookies for the class Halloween party.

Water babies. Put them in charge of watering the garden, washing the car, cleaning the deck — any outside job that requires a hose.

Wardrobe masters. Make them responsible for folding and putting away — and possibly even washing — their own clothes. Trust them to pack their own suitcases for family trips. Just remind them to bring underwear.

Party planners. Anticipation is half the fun, so let them write the invitations, plan the games or put the treats in the goodie bags.

Santa's helpers. Even young kids can help trim the tree or wrap a stack of gifts. Grandma won't care if the paper is torn and the ribbon askew.

Have a question about kids and finances for Dr. Tightwad? Write to Dr. T at 1729 H St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006. Or send the good doctor an e-mail message (and any other questions for this column) to jbodnar@kiplinger.com.