Life WILL give your kids lemons from time to time. Let them learn early how to make lemonade.

We love our kids, right? We’d do just about anything to protect them and pave their path to success. But some of life’s best lessons come through failure and disappointment, and there’s no better way to fail–and to have fun doing it–than by setting up a lemonade stand.

(I realize this post is a little unseasonal in most parts of the country, but keep reading…there’s meaning in my madness.)

Managing assets

One of the ultimate purposes of education is to help us discover and develop our talents and prepare us for life in the real world. Allowing your children to occasionally work for profit from a young age helps them develop a sense of what happens in the real world. They won’t fully grasp the concepts of capitalism and free enterprise until they are much older, but just one day in a lemonade stand can teach them that you have to do more than “just add water” to make a profit. Cups cost, too. And napkins. And everything you drink yourself is a hidden expense. When they split the profits at the end of the day, they will gain new perspective on the value of a dollar!

Doing Business

Work is…well…work! When the afternoon is long and the sun is hot, we learn something about ourselves and about the importance of remaining diligent and pleasant.

We also learn that people pay for things they need and things they want, for things they can’t do and things they don’t want to do. Few people truly “need” lemonade. They may want it, but not enough to pay $1.00 for a Dixie cup. In the end, mixing lemonade is neither difficult nor bothersome. This is where the failure comes in…but also the learning. If you enjoy what you’re doing, an activity can be an entertaining hobby even if it doesn’t net a profit, but if you’re interested in making money, you have to bring something of value to people who recognize its worth.

Professionalism and Novelty

I must confess I never got to this point as a child–the point where I realized that I had some control over my own success. If no one bought my lemonade, there were things I could do to improve my situation! I could trade my old beat-up card table for a cute lemonade stand or move my operation to a busier street. I could increase appeal by adding cookies and cupcakes to my product line. Or I could give an old, worn idea a novel twist. I knew two young sisters who funded their music lessons by selling “cup cones” (fancy frosted cupcakes baked into ice cream cones) to other waiting children who came hungry from school. If it’s not the right season for lemonade, how about a booth selling hot cocoa with whipped cream and sprinkles?

I can almost guarantee that your children will realize none of these lessons now. They’ll be too busy failing at business and having fun doing it. But LATER…when they’re ready for that real world stuff…the lessons will come back to them and give them better understanding about what they like to do, what they’re good at, and what their work is worth.

Of course, any childhood business venture also means a lot of extra work for Mom and Dad. You may be tempted to tell yourself you’re too busy–that there’s too much school work to do to waste time on some silly scheme–but I’d urge you not to say no too quickly. Economics is a bona fide area where education is needed. Indulge your children in a bit of healthy failure now, and you’ll set them up for great success later!

What types of work did you try as a child, and what did you learn?