At the end of the school year last year, Tucker and Cassidy pulled me into an aisle during our weekly Theisen’s trip. “Mommy, we want a drone,” Tucker said. “I have tons of money in my savings account. Can we get it?”

I’m always looking for teachable moments, so this was one I couldn’t pass up. I made them a deal that if they could use the summer to earn half the money, the other half could come out of their account.

As far as teachable moments go, I have to say, this was a good one. We spent the summer talking about sales tax, counting money, learning about percentages, adding and subtracting, and even had a small conversation about price gouging. (“No, you can’t charge Grandma 10 dollars a dozen for your eggs.”) How do a 7- and 4-year-old earn money? On a farm, it’s chores.

kids doing chores

Our boys have farm chores from the time they can understand two-step directions, usually starting at about 3 for outside chores and 18 months to 2 years for indoor chores. Our philosophy on all chores is that it’s good for the kids. It teaches responsibility and respect for our business and lifestyle, and teaches kids to be good members of their community. We like the idea that the kids are making the connection that in order to get what you want (and need) out of life that you have to work hard. And we’ve noticed that busy kids aren’t fighting or causing trouble.

I love the idea that our kids have a healthy work ethic and are always asking, “What can we do to help?” We’ve spent a lot of time trying to get the balance between “just enough” and “too much.” Tired, overworked kids and tired, overworked parents are not a match made in heaven.


Chores for the kids start out small. We’re currently working with Cooper (almost 18 months) to pick up toys in the house, and to not run out into the animal pens outside.

At 4 years old, Cassidy can feed calf starter and fill water troughs. His new favorite chore is to weigh the milk replacer for the calves on the electric scale. He can also carry bottles to the calf huts and help with bedding the calves. He loves to gather eggs and feed the dog.

kid clipping cow

Tucker, at 7 years old, has moved up in the world. He’s just starting to mix milk replacer. He was responsible for feeding the bottle goats the boys raised this spring and summer. Most of the goats have gone to market, and 10 piglets have taken their place. He’s responsible for watering and feeding them waste milk. He fills heifer grain buckets and occasionally helps bring cows in or open gates. It’s important to note that while consistency is important, we don’t expect the boys to do all of these things every day.

We’ve offered to pay the boys when they can start doing their chores consistently without reminders. Until then, they work for room and board (and sometimes special surprises). To earn extra money this summer for their drone, I’d give the kids chores (indoor and outdoor) and give them each a price. When the chores were done, they had a few dollars to add to their piggy bank. We do think it is important to incentivize hard work, but it’s also important for kids to learn initiative.

When assigning chores, we place safety above everything else. We don’t give chores where there’s a possibility that the kids could be injured. The kids don’t work in close proximity to the cows and are never with animals that are sick or injured or that have just calved (or kidded or farrowed on our funny farm).

kids and baby goats

Our next consideration is the safety of the animals. We are sure to double-check all of the chores to make sure they are done appropriately. For example, we’ve remade several bottles that were too hot or too cold, and we’ve redone other chores that weren’t up to par with a little more supervision.

The night before school started, Brandon took the boys and a Ziploc bag full of quarters and dollar bills to Theisen’s and purchased their drone. In true daddy form, they came home with a drone that was twice as much as they had budgeted, but hey, the boys worked hard, and that first trip to the store with your very own money is a special one!  end mark

Heather Moore is a dairy farming mama herself, raising three little boys with her husband, Brandon. The Moore family has a 50-cow dairy and custom feeds 800 head of beef cattle near Maquoketa, Iowa. When she is not chasing around cows and kids, you'll find her volunteering, cooking and very occasionally, sleeping.

PHOTO 1: Tucker and Cassidy cleaning out the chicken coop.

PHOTO 2: Tucker clipping udder hair.

PHOTO 3: Cassidy and Cooper taking care of the goat kids. Photos by Heather Moore.