Readers — Here’s a question I’m curious about. It’s the winter corollary to my summer query about whether any kids still mow the lawn. Weigh in! – L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: Â I do not even have children, but I was one once, so I believe that qualifies me as somewhat of an expert. I am constantly confounded these days by what I perceive as the infantilization of children.
As a kid growing up in Yonkers, N.Y., once a snow day was declared (minimum of 8-12 inches of snow for that!), we’d all meet outside with scrapers and shovels in hand, and offer to clean off cars and help dig out cars for people who had to get to work. The roads had been plowed, but they generally piled up snow against the parked cars so we really had to work to dig a wide enough trench for the car to get through. Â Oh and yes, we’d all get behind the car and help push it out into the shoveled path as well.
The commuters were usually very grateful and would toss us a few bucks, especially because they were in their work attire and we saved them the hassle. Â By lunchtime, we always had enough money to walk ourselves over to the local pizza place, buy a couple of pizzas and a pitcher of soda. After the pizza feast we’d head over to the candy store nearby and grab some treats. We shared the money evenly. Â It made us feel grown up and very proud of ourselves to earn our own money, without any help from parents. Â Not to mention the fact that we knew how to conduct ourselves in a restaurant, pay the bill, leave an appropriate tip, all without adult supervision. Â This all took place while the oldest of our group was no more than 11. The youngest was about 7.
Imagine it now? Â Wait? I hear an 11 year old can’t be left unsupervised in a library? Â Shame… – Stacey
&#feff;y neighbor hurt his back and the wife is in bad health. I sent the girls over to do his driveway and walkways yesterday after the snow. They are 9 and 6.
My son started shoveling money last year when he was 10 with his friends.
My son started shovelling snow when he was two. He insisted. I went out and got him a mini-shovel. By the time he was three, he was doing it better than I was!
Yes! My 11yr old son has been shoveling the neighbors’ walks for a couple of years now. In fact, he’ll help the neighbors before he’ll do ours, and he does it for free.
My boys, aged 9 & 11 shovel snow. They will usually split the job in half.
My kids (both age 9) shovel our snow. I help when there’s a lot of snow–we live in Minnesota–but they’re perfectly capable of doing it themselves. We’ve all helped out the neighbors a few times, though I don’t think the kids have done it by themselves.
Our next door neighbors are in their eighties. There are also two elderly sisters who live across the street. I told my son I never want to see any of these people shoveling. My 17 year old son will often shovel for them. (and so will I) I want to raise not only free range kids…but thoughtful and caring kids as well. We also try to shovel when they are not noticing. We don’t want them to feel like they need to pay us.
I live in the lower Midwest and so do not enjoy so much of the snow I experienced in my childhood. Perhaps as a result of that, I LOVE shoveling snow…and so my neighbors benefit too! My daughter just turned five and I believe that it is this enthusiasm that inspired her to pick up a small shovel after a recent ‘storm’ (a subjective term) and give it a try. She said it was hard workâ€”and it isâ€”but she also got to have fun with it. I fully intend to employ her in snow-clearing duties as the years go on.
My now 9 year old was 4 and it was -36ÂºC and so I went out to shovel on my own. I shovelled our walk and the two neighbours. I then came in to a crying boy who really wanted to shovel, so we went out and shovelled a stranger’s walk and driveway. Then we went to the park to play. He still shovels ours and the neighbours’ walks most snowfalls.
I can honestly say that no, my kids do not shovel snow. But they also have only ever experienced one snow storm and we swept if off the walk with a broom, if that could count. Our neighborhood kids between the ages of 6 and 10 have banded together to rake leaves, though there aren’t that many yet. I’m hoping they’ll figure out we’ll pay them more to pick up dog droppings instead.
We are in the country with a REALLY long driveway. My husband taught my boys 2 yrs ago (at 12y) to take the quad with the plow and do our driveway, then go to our single lady neighbor and do her drive AND shovel her walk too.
Sometimes they do, if they have time during daylight hours. Daylight hours are pretty short in the winter here, and we don’t get home until at least 6:30pm on weekdays, so . . . . Sometimes I will set it up as a weekend chore. But not regularly. (My kids are 6, though. When they get older, I will probably make them do it whenever.) (We don’t actually shovel at all. Just walk over the snow. 🙂
I should clarify that we have a snowplow come to clear our driveway in the morning. No way we’d have time to do it as part of our morning routine.
We live in Indiana and get a decent amount of snow. My kids love to shovel, and I just sent the 5-year-old out last week to shovel our driveway. A couple of years ago, when my daughter was 8, she wanted to go up and down our street and ask the neighbors if she could shovel their drives for money. A few took her up on it, and she earned a boatload of cash for an 8-year-old. However, we did inspect her work and actually made her go back and do a driveway over again. It was a good lesson in doing your best work no matter what the job.
YES! our city has a program where elderly people can sign up to get a “snow angel” who will shovel for them- I signed up our family for two houses, and my girls (11 and 8) eagerly wait for snowfall so they can walk the several blocks to our assigned houses.
Last winter my 7 year old son decided he wanted to have his own business shovelling snow. Since reading and writing are not fun to him, he asked me to make him a flyer for him to give the neighbours and in return I would get free snow shovelling for the year. I agreed and together we advertised, ” 7 year old available to shovel single car driveways, sidewalk and path/porch for $5.00″. I told my son to only do single car driveways since he was used to doing our driveway and we didn’t want him to be `hired’ for a job that was too big for him. We figured $5.00 was fair because most neighbours would hire him for the `cute’ factor and to support the entrepreneurial spirit, not really caring how much snow would get `shovelled’ for $5.00. That was if he did a good job (which I knew he would), people may be impressed, hire him again or pay him more since most companies charge $25.00 for a single driveway. Unfortunately for me, I did not get to take advantage of my free service last winter since I think we only had two snow dumpings worthy of shovelling. He did get a few customers, besides Grandma! A couple of neighbours, some we knew and some we didn’t, did hire him and he was immensely pleased.
This fall, he was eager to give his business another go (and luckily he had not invested much into it!). He asked me to update the flyer to say he was 8 now but that I would only get two free shovelling jobs (he drives a hard bargain!). We have new neighbours with two under two and they were eager to utilize his services. They paid him $20 one day because they said they were going out of town over Christmas and asked him to shovel the drive if it snowed, and to put out their recycling bins while they were gone. We often tell him with the smaller snowfalls to go shovel their driveway for free since it would only take 5 minutes and it’s a good business practice (and just nice to do-not all jobs should expect payment). He has a few neighbours who call him and Grandma too!
Our neighbourhood has a lot of children but we rarely see kids out shovelling snow (or out at all). My son has recruited his six year old sister and the two year old from next door as apprentices and the labour is always followed with some play and of course, hot chocolate.
I should have said that the first time my son had shovelled our driveway was when he was five years old. We had gone skiing for the day and it snowed all day. When we got home, the street had been ploughed but our driveway needed to be done. I asked him to start the job, and he was eager to do it, so I parked the car on the road, trudging through the snow to bring all our equipment back to the house and put away. When I was done, he was more than half way through shovelling the drive, with over 10 inches of snowfall! I asked him if I could help and he told me no, it was his job! So, I went inside, made hot chocolate, and started on dinner. After a while he came in, fell to the ground and said, “I just can’t shovel the snow from the snow plough. I tried and if I shovel it, I will die!” Considering he had already done a full day of skiing, I was amazed that he had done so much of the driveway so I told him not to worry about it. He was so sad he hadn’t finished the job but I was so proud of what he did do.
My children are only 2 and 4 years old, but they LOVE to shovel snow. I think they’re right out of their minds for enjoying it, but who am I to ruin the fun? We got kid sized shovels and they “help” my husband do it. Once a neighbor made a comment about our little guys shoveling as though I were forcing them to do child labor. I just pretended like I didn’t pick up on her snarkiness and said, “Isn’t it wonderful? A little exercise and fresh air!” Then I grinned from ear to ear and returned to shoveling with my family.
I think that anyone who follows this blog probably has kids who shovel snow (as do mine). But we have neighbors who are out there shoveling while their able-bodied teens are inside the house. I don’t understand it.
In our community, snow removal is part of the HOA (we have a shared “common” driveway with three other houses). But they don’t always get to it right away. A few Saturdays ago, my son whose chore was to pick up dog poop in the backyard that week couldn’t do his chore because of the snow and asked if he could shovel snow instead. He’s eight. I sent him outside with the shovel and he shoveled our porch and all the porches of the neighbors on our driveway and then shoveled as much of the driveway as he could manage. The next week, my other son wanted to do it, so I let him (he’s nine). My kids do plenty of household chores besides just that, and by themselves too. Even my 1-year-old clears the utensils out of the dishwasher (he absolutely LOVES to sort them into the utensil holder). I remember when I lived in Connecticut as a child (I was nine) out shoveling snow with my four brothers (my fifth brother was just a baby then), the youngest shoveling at the time being four years old. Of course, in 1986 it wasn’t as unusual for children to do such chores.
All four of my kids (12, 9, 7 and 5) shovel snow AND haul firewood inside for me. They also have all shoveled out their grandfather. I keep encouraging my oldest to make up fliers and take them around the neighborhood for shoveling and mowing but he’d rather work with Dad on his work.
I do the our drive, and a couple of elderly couples drives with the tractor. My kids shovel the walkways from drive to door.
My kids LOVE to shovel snow and clean off neighbors’ cars. We’ve only gotten snow twice this year so far, but my 5 1/2 years old kids were OUT the door in a flash. Biggest issue is making sure they don’t head out to the alley once the walkways and front sidewalk are done.
I live in a gated community in South Florida. We have a homeowners association which takes care of the lawns, and needless to say, we haven’t had too much snow. This article made me smile until I realized what great, nostalgic, free range opportunities MY kids CAN’T have 🙁 Well, there’s always walking to the bus stop/park/ice cream store down the street, but those won’t teach them the value of hard work. Child number one is stil in utero, so that leaves plenty of time for a kid-friendly business venture to come up 🙂
Yes! My boys – 6 and 9 – do lots of shoveling, and have been for some time. We often see neighbors out when we’re shoveling, so it’s a nice social event 🙂 We are encouraging them to do a little extra sidewalk work for the neighbors when they’re out – its a nice thing to do, and having found our sidewalk shoveled more than a few times, it’s a nice way to repay and pass on kindness.
Not enough snow here to shovel. We get a couple inches maybe once a year, and it goes away on its own within a few hours usually.
My kids also don’t get to mow lawns. We rent, and the homeowner uses a lawn service. But the kids do get to pull weeds, as we’ve warned the service off part of the back yard for our garden.
Most of our neighbors have snow blowers, plow attachment, etc. but our kids always volunteer to shovel our snow. In fact, the 9yo insists on shoveling even when it’s not really needed! (We’ve hardly had anything worth shoveling this year.) The youngest two (now 9 & 8) have been shoveling since they were very little, I think 2 & 4, and they treat it like play, racing to see who can finish first. I am all for it, because I HATE being out in the cold!
We don’t get snow, so no chance of shoveling here. But I’m loving your stories of kids helping out the neighbors!
My 15 year old son goes out with his friends and they shovel the snow together. They stay out for hours and have a blast. They don’t let anyone pay them because they get extra credit in social studies for volunteer service. They always come back with some fun stories, and lots of younger kids in the neighborhood join in with them.
Yes, they shovel our walk when it does snow. They are also very willing to grab a shovel and go help the neighbors when they can’t make it up the hill of our private road that doesn’t get plowed. Well, it hasn’t yet. Several of us have tractors that could do it, it just hasn’t snowed that deep since we have been here.
The comments here seem to say two things:
1.) Many people still get their “own kids” outside to shovel their own snow, and sometimes help a neighbor…
2.) Very few kids are enterprising enough to go up and down streets asking to shovel snow for money.
We live in a mid-sized city. But it’s rare to have a kid knock on our door to ask if we want our snow shoveled (or in the fall — our leaves raked). It’s VERY RARE!
Maybe I’m wrong, but I tend to think many parents just buy stuff for their kids, so the kids have no motivation to “Work” for anything.
@Steve, I’m also seeing that many commenters encourage their kids to shovel the neighbors’ walks and drives as a kind gesture. I’d be surprised if many of those kids thought it was a job they should be paid for!
Can’t say that mine does but there is not much need for her snow shoveling services in American Samoa (or Georgia). Now that you mention it, I don’t think she has ever even seen a show shovel. She loves to help, as long as that help doesn’t involve cleaning up her own messes, so I image she would if we lived in a climate that had snow to shovel.
I have never lived anywhere that it snows enough for people to have snow shovels, ie North Carolina and Hawaii. Trying to think of an equivalent… when I became old enough to go to drivers ed, I was told that I was old enough to use the riding lawn mower. (If you want to point out that I should have been doing it before then, I would point out that my dad has been to the ER no fewer than 6 times within my lifetime due to injuries he has sustained using the riding lawn mower. We are a clumsy family.) I did not get paid for it, lol. All of my neighbors had teenage children to mow their lawns or adult men who would rather do their own mowing than pay someone to do it.
Ovet here it hss become such a hassle with legal liabilities and what if an OAP stumbles it is not a job I dare entrust a child with. I literally clean the passage with a toothbrush. I, too, remember shovelling the entire footpath connecting a dozen houses as I was a kid.
Over here it has become such a hassle with legal liabilities and what if an OAP stumbles it is not a job I dare entrust a child with. I literally clean the passage with a toothbrush. I, too, remember shovelling the entire footpath connecting a dozen houses as I was a kid.
My son will be 3 in April and he helps me shovel snow. He actually started last year at 1 1/2 years old. He loves it. He has his own shovel and even though, he doesn’t always put the snow where it goes, he’s pushing it around. He loves snow and winter (which is good, because we live in Alaska). He goes outside even when it’s about 10 degrees outside and I have to bribe him to come inside.
He also helps bring in wood, sweep the floor, wash off counters, and dust. The only thing he dislikes doing is putting away his toys (probably that’s because it’s usually before bed or naptime when we do that).
When he gets older, we are going to give him responsibilities, not because we want a servant, but because he is a valuable member of our family. And if he learns his value from family, I hope he will become a valuable member of society and not a mooch like so many people these days.
Our driveways are long around here, and everyone has either a snow blower or a plow service. I usually snowblow and then the kids do the edges, walkways, etc.
Eventually the kids will be tall enough to do the snowblowing. They’re responsible enough to do it now, but too short – I’m 5’3″ and it’s a bit of a struggle even for me.
I know there are lots of kids in the neighborhood, as I see them come off the school buses, but I barely see them out and around.
Yes, the drives I do for elderly people, with my kids shoveling the walks, are down in the name of community, not payment. Though my kids see that community is a two way street. There is always coffee, hot chocolate and baked goods while we are working, and at Christmas time, without fail I usually get a case of beer or bottle, as a word of thanks, and the kids get gift cards for their effort.
Just like their Dad, the kids try to tell the couples they don’t have to, to only be told, that they know they don’t have to, just like we don’t have to take care of their snow.
Exercise, fresh air, and life lesson all in one.
When our district cut the bus service and kids were asked to walk or bike to school, I was appalled at how many folks who live on the walking route to school didn’t shovel their sidewalks.
Not my kids, though. They made up flyers and put them on mailboxes offering to shovel. They didn’t charge much (5 bucks a sidewalk) and did a few for free (elderly, sick). They now do dog walking for some of these houses and know many more neighbors who appreciated them not calling the township where they would have faced fines for not shoveling the snow. Kids are better built for shoveling anyway!
We haven’t gotten much snow in recent years but my 2-year-old insisted on helping clear snow off the car when we got some last week. I need a second plastic ice scraper so I can work on it at the same time. I suspect if we got real snow she’d help shovel if I got a small snow shovel.
She already helps sweep the living room, unload the dishwasher, and put dirty laundry in the laundry room!
SO many kids don’t have time. Instead of being kids and shoveling snow, they are running schedules that are wearying to parents. school, sports, the list is huge.
That said, I know many kids who would willingly shovel snow. Alas, we don’y live near snow. 🙁
yep, my boys shovel snow! My eldest (11) has for the last few years made flyers and rung doorbells and passed them personally to each neighbor offering his services. As a homeschooler he also has an advantage of being available most days of the week….:) He loves it when it snows and makes a decent earning!
I was talking with my wife about this about a month ago. When I was about 10, or perhaps 9, my brother and I shoveled the snow in front of our house. The lady next door, a retired single schoolteacher, would also get her walk shoveled.
Sometimes I’d lark out and wander up the block and around, looking to make a few bucks shoveling snow. It was a quick way to make 5 bucks for a kid back then. . . a very good business indeed!
I’m entirely confident this could be done today without danger.
My just turned 2 year old, always wants my snow brush when I scrape ice off the car windows. When I went to shovel snow, I offered the brush to her, and she ran right for it and went straight to daddy’s car. As I was shoveling I heard her say. “Eyes! Brush eyes!” I tuned to see that she was proudly admiring that she had brushed the headlights clear of snow.
Then she wanted to help me salt the driveway. We assembled a shaker of ice melt and she worked the driveway and front walk over for us. Now she wants the shaker every time we go out, ice & snow or not.
When her grandpa took her to the toy store, they came back with a snow shovel. He said he sort of had to buy it. She dragged it all through the store and it was scuffed up by the time she was done. I’m sort of hoping we get more snow soon so she can try it out.
We bought my son a moulded plastic snow shovel when he was 2 years old and taught him to shovel. We live in the southern end of Northern Ontario, Canada…. we get lots of snow here (I grew up in Owen Sound, Ontario Canada which is a snow belt in our province) so we ALL have shovelled snow from a very early age. My son still lives at home with us (now grown and working) and you bet he still shovels snow. On snow days when he was in high school, he shovelled out the driveway. Like I was going to let him sit on his butt and do nothing when we had work to do clearing snow. When I was my son’s age now, I still lived at home with my parents also and I was responsible for shovelling ALL of the snow.
We’re getting royally dumped on with snow as I type this and after my son and husband get home from work at 4pm, we will ALL be outside on the end of a shovel clearing this mess away.
Talk of snow shoveling seems so bizarre as I sit here at my computer in Austin, Texas and we’re set to have our third 80+ degree day in a row, with no winter-like (even by Texas standards) days on the horizon.
However, as a kid I lived in NY and from the time I was about 5 years old I was expected to help shovel snow. I LOVED it because I just generally love cold temperatures and being out in the snow anyway — I love the way it makes everything seem so quiet and peaceful.
When I was 10, my dad bought a snow blower and my services were no longer needed. Why? Because my dad was having a blast using the snow blower and didn’t want to miss out on the fun! So once he was done with our driveway, I’d take it and do neighbors driveways. I always did it for free, although I remember getting tipped a few times, and I did frequently get paid with hot chocolate!
I wish my kids could have experiences like that. Heck, I wish I could still have experiences like that!
My 4 year old son has his own shovel and he loves helping me shovel the driveway. My 2 year old daughter will be getting in on the act this year we well.
Right now my girls are almost 4 and 1, so they don’t. When they’re old enough to hold a shovel though, they most certainly will. I’m commenting to say though I think it’s great that girl and her friends used to dig cars out on snow days. We’re incredibly lucky to have a couple of neighbors with snow blowers that do our sidewalks at least (and often our driveway too) every time it snows, along with everyone else’s sidewalks on the street. I try to take them thank you treats a few times throughout winter. It just makes me happy to see a neighborhood where we all help each other out, rather than hiding and assuming the next door neighbor is an ax murderer.
We live in Minnesota. Mine (5 & 7) have helped since they could walk, but this is the first year they are able to handle a normal size snow fall(under 6 inches) on thier own. Bigger storms require my help. My 7 year old son loves to shovel snow, so he will do the whole block if there is time. Sometimes people give him a couple of bucks, and people walking by frequently compliment his work, he loves it. Thier are tons of kids in our neighborhood. My kids are on the younger side, I’d say most of the kids are in the 10/11/12 range, and I never see them helping thier parents shovel, I wonder, are they sitting inside watching TV while thier parents shovel snow? Um, yeah, that wouldn’t fly at my house.
Sounds like nice memories. It doesn’t snow where we live & my kids are too young.
In my neighborhood, yes. There was some snow while I was home on winter break and when it started a kid showed up and asked if we wanted him to shovel it. We politely declined, having just shoveled and salted, but it was nice to see kids still doing that.
My almost 4 year old was out helping this weekend for the dusting we got in NJ. I am training him for when he is old enough to take it over. We always had a couple older neighbors growing up and who we shoveled out.
This weekend was really light snow and so we also took care of it for a neighbor. She came by later and brought my wife flowers to say thanks. Flowers? Growing up my dad always got a 6pack from the neighbor. Let’s see how much shoveling those flowers get you next time (j/k)!
I can remember a salesman once asking my Dad, if he would be interested on one of the new state of the art snowblowers. He laughed, and his exact words were,”Don’t need one, that’s what he’s for.”, nodding in my direction.
It doesn’t snow where I live, but I mowed our lawn from a young age. And drove tractor and hay trucks totally by myself, starting around age 8. And I’m only in my mid-20s, so it wasn’t that long ago.
We got about 10 cms of snow today. When I picked the kids up from school, the 7 year old insisted on walking home alone in the dark (it’s only 2 blocks, but we’re starting small), and by the time I’d got home with his little sister, he’d shovelled part of our driveway before getting distracted by his snow fort. Then the neighbour with the obviously much cooler scoop shovel came out, so he asked to do her driveway instead, earning himself a dollar in the process. A rather successful Free Range evening!
My brother and I grew up in a big old Victorian house with a really long driveway that was a pain to shovel. I don’t know if shovelling the driveway helped us develop a work ethic, but honestly, the day my dad bought a snowblower was definitely a high point in our collective family life.
Edited to add: Made a mistake there–my dad didn’t buy the snowblower; he inherited it from a friend of his who already had a snowblower, but bought a new one, and therefore no longer needed the old one. Still, it was a great day. 🙂
When we got a blizzard two years ago, my son was almost 2, and did not appreciate the snow at all. Now, at almost 4, he loves the snow, but does not care so much for the shoveling. What he will do in the future remains to be seen. (Mowing the lawn is a different story, however. He is fascinated with the lawn mower.)
My kids would gladly shovel snow but they don’y get much chance. My husband shovels before the rest of us get up. If it snows while the kids are at school and my husband is at work one of our retired neighbours always comes over with his snowblower. He has done that since I had my stroke 4 years ago because he knows I have trouble walking in the snow. If there is any snow left when the kids get home they will shovel it. At 7 and 10 my kids probably do more than most of their friends around the house. They don’t usually have to be asked to help. They just start helping when I’m doing things around the house.
When my kids were very small, we hired a snow removal service (as we live Ontario, Canada) but they kept awful hours, often waking us up between 1-5 in the morning. So we asked our 12-year-old to do it. He was a skinny, little guy and wasn’t as thorough as the pros but he worked hard at it. The following summer, we also asked him to mow our lawn. We paid him very well and so when he showed up the next winter with a snowblower, my husband and I had a good laugh. We’ve since moved away from the neighborhood but wonder if he’s clearing the snow/lawn for other neighbours.
Oops. The 12yo was our neighbour’s kid not ours.
Well, they certainly come to the door offering to shovel before the snow even stops falling! I tell them I have my own kids to shovel, but these kids’ offers make me feel like a slacker.