Do lemonade stands really teach kids about business?

Back in the day, there was nothing quite like setting up shop in front of your house and coaxing passersby to trade a quarter for a cool cup of lemonade, all so you could cash in at the drug store for the biggest candy bar available at the end of the day.

That treat was always the best part. But do you remember the summer activity setting fire to your inner entrepreneurial spirit? Do lemonade stands really teach kids about business?
Yes, but not without a little extra effort.

You don’t have to follow the rules

Your child’s lemonade stand doesn’t have to be your typical lemonade stand. There’s nothing wrong with letting your child fully run things, with little to no input from you, but the experience probably won’t amount to much more than another fun summer afternoon rather than an entrepreneurial catalyst.

If you want to teach your kids about small business, make an event out of the lemonade stand. Draft up a small-scale business plan, invite your friends and family using invitations or with a private Facebook event, and put up posters around town advertising their delicious lemonade. You could even make this a reoccurring event if your child’s up for it. Go as big as your child would like to go. Just make sure to let your child do the actual “work” him or herself. Your job is to make the connections between what they’re doing and running a business.

Parents play a big part
in making lessons stick

How involved you want to be in your child’s lemonade stand will play a big part in just how much they take away from the experience. That is not to say that you need to “micromanage,” so to speak, the experience to the degree that it truly becomes your lemonade stand, but you can give your input where you feel there’s a lesson to take away.

Draw parallels for your child alerting them of the similarities between their lemonade stand and what you do in the office every day. Teach them about supply (the lemonade) and demand (a hot summer day). Explain that it takes money to make money (buying the ingredients). And, lastly, make sure they understand and enjoy the fruits of their labor; when you work hard, you get a nice, big candy bar at the end of the day.

Don’t forget to make it fun!
This should not be a chore. If your kids aren’t into doing the project all day, try again next summer. No one’s going to learn anything if they’re not excited about the subject. Even if you get halfway through the process — the supplies have been purchased, your table is set up and maybe you’ve even had a customer or two — and your kids are suddenly no longer into it, don’t sweat it!

Pack up for the day and try again another time. If the point of a lemonade stand is to get your kids excited about entrepreneurship, nothing’s going to stick unless they’re actually excited. ●

Deborah Sweeney is CEO at