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Lessons from a Lemonade Stand
By Kerrie McLoughlin
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When your kids ask you if they can have a lemonade stand today, do you sigh in anticipation of all the work required? Me, too, especially because I never did a lemonade stand when I was a kid. Instead, my best friend and I went door-to-door in her neighborhood attempting to sell “must-have” summer items like rocks and pamphlets. So when my kids suggested doing a lemonade stand in our yard, I first blamed television for putting the idea in their heads. I soon reluctantly agreed, and we were on our way to several whole days of fun and (don’t tell my kids this part) learning.
To start, I told the kids to hunt down a small table, folding table or stable cardboard box. Then we ran to the store for cups, ice and powdered lemonade mix. The kids made signs to put on their table and on sticks stuck in the ground. One of the kids held up a sign and yelled, “Lemonade!” to attract business.
My money-obsessed 10-year-old son started the first day by charging a big fat buck for each medium-size glass of lemonade. He actually had a few takers, but the next day he decided to charge half price and ended up earning much more. Some days the kids would put up a sign that said all the proceeds from the day would be going to a specific cause, like to a cat shelter or to the Red Cross. Those were the days I didn’t gripe about having to sit outside in the heat acting as Lemonade Stand Manager and instead beamed with pride.
As summer wore on, the kids enjoyed coming up with bigger and better ideas, like Kool-aid mixed with clear soda, and that was a hit. They looked like mini business people sitting around the dining room table discussing the next Big Idea. They started getting repeat business from people who drove down our street every day and made labels for the cups with their business name: Summer Kids Drink Stand.
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The lemonade stand was a simple venture at first glance, but when I looked a little deeper I saw it for all the lessons it taught my kids and their friends, like:
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Kids learn how to seek out a deal on cups and lemonade and to make their own ice in advance at home since they should pay Mom back for start-up business costs. They also learn about making change, counting money, measuring, dividing earnings between kids, how much to charge, record-keeping, saving for something they want and altruism (through donating their money to a specific cause or charity).
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There’s much for kids to learn about business, like the fact that there are good and bad times and days to sell lemonade (lunch and rush hour are good; neighborhood garage sales days are great; chilly days are not). They also get to meet and greet neighbors and strangers and learn patience and perseverance.
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I’m sure your kids know not to go up to a car when they don’t know who is in it, but selling lemonade helps reinforce that message and lets your child know it’s okay to tell someone “no, I’m not allowed to do that.” Your child should know to let the customer get out of their car and come to get their lemonade (it’s not a drive-through, after all!).
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I made sure the kids knew to not hold cups by the lip or stick their hand in the cup. For a little humor break, I showed them the clip from “National Lampoon’s Vacation” where the kid stirs the drink up with her bare, dirty arm and told them never to do that. When telling customers how much the lemonade was, they would say, “Fifty cents, please” and thank the customer upon receiving the money. If they got a tip, they would say an extra profuse term of gratitude.
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Bonus: your neighbors may be broke and sick of lemonade, but your kids won’t ask to borrow money from you again. At least, not until summer’s over.