At one of our recent super-fun live "Money Mammals" shows, a parent approached me about starting an allowance for her 5-year-old. I figured it was a good time to share the approach our family is taking as it might be helpful for others. We've just started allowance for our 4-and-a-half year old and I've begun by using David McCurrach's book, Kids' Allowances, as a guide. I like this book because it's simple, includes a survey of what parents of various age kids do r.e. allowance, cites various experts on youth financial literacy, and provides you with a structure to provide allowance for your children. The author is also experienced - he has honed his method on both his kids and grandkids. And he's not "preachy" or condescending, refreshing when you consider the approach of some financial self-help gurus today.
So what are we doing? We are using a three bank system (Share, Save, Spend Smart) and she's getting three dollars per week - two dollars and four quarters. Providing the money in different denominations provides us with a teaching opportunity each week (e.g. four quarters equals one dollar - and you can change up the coins each week). She is required to put two quarters into the "Share" jar (for donations) and two into the "Save" jar. At her age, we're making saving tangible by putting a picture of a savings goal on the bank so she knows that she's saving for something. She can do what she pleases with the other two dollars - put them in the "Spend Smart" jar or either of the other two (Save or Share). We are not tying our allowance to chores and we will revisit our approach at least every six months. At some point, we may consider some type of savings matching to encourage savings and I envision giving her complete control of her allowance (no mandates) in a few years.
I hope this is helpful and good luck to all parents out there. Remember, it's most important to just do something. You can't afford not to teach your kids about money.