What happened to the classic summer lemonade stand? A card table, a hand-lettered sign, and a pitcher of something cold and refreshing for a quarter; these stands used to spring up on corners everywhere.
Adorable though they are, lemonade stands are more valuable than the few dollars they bring in. The process of setting one up can teach a child a variety of entrepreneurial skills that she can carry with her into adulthood and — dare I say? — her first business.
Schools, clubs, and even families are increasingly interested in teaching children entrepreneurship, and for good reason. That simple lemonade stand teaches independence, responsibility, collaboration, perseverance, communication, money management, and (drumroll) critical thinking!
Even if becoming a pint-sized CEO isn’t exactly in your child’s life plan, those are skills that will come in handy no matter what path she chooses. And the application of these qualities in a real-life environment is very compelling, even to reluctant or inattentive learners.
What is an entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur is, in short, a businessperson. But an entrepreneur is also a person who sees a problem and devises a solution, who thinks outside the box in order to pull resources, who organizes people, and who creates a working system to deliver that solution.
What programs are available to teach entrepreneurial skills?
There are some programs available regionally, like Venturelab in Texas, which offers hands-on programs about different industries, or the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which offers camps and classroom programs around the world. Certainly, the Boy and Girl Scouts also teach elements of entrepreneurship as well — both offer badges for this valued skill.
If you’re lucky, perhaps your city participates in the annual Lemonade Day. This is a nationwide event that provides lessons in developing small businesses so that children can open their own stands on May 3, National Lemonade Day.
Some schools may teach entrepreneurial education with curricula from BizWorld, BizKids or a similar program. You may find it helpful to talk to your child’s teacher about opportunities available through the school, such as career or business classes. Many children, however, will look to their parents to learn about these real-life skills!
What can we do at home to encourage entrepreneurial thinking?
You don’t have to start a small business to teach your child about entrepreneurship. Try some of these little things to teach your child to think like a self-starter.
Play games: Monopoly is the classic, but there are plenty of tycoon games online or offline to teach management, planning, and strategy for building a business or organization. PBS Kids has an online game called Be Your Own Boss, in which kids start a fictional dog-walking, comic book, or car washing business. Bizkids has some great options, too!
Offer a paycheck, not allowance: Ask your child to do chores in exchange for her allowance. Even better, ask her to look around and see what needs to be done, rather than telling her. Allow her to negotiate her own paycheck; this will help her determine what her skills are worth early in life.
Save: Teach your child the value of saving money by setting this rule: 50 percent goes in the bank, 50 percent in your pocket. When she saves up enough money to buy something big, she’ll be grateful!
Point out good business strategy: Look for examples of good customer service, a problem that was solved in a particularly effective or creative way, or even a good pitch on Shark Tank, and discuss it together.
How do I support her small business?
If your child is ready to open her lemonade stand (or any other kid-sized business), there are some things you should know to make it a smooth, fun learning experience, as well as a safe investment for you!
Set Reasonable Goals
Maybe your child could be the next Mark Zuckerberg, but for today, aim for something more doable. Set a limit on the resources available (money, lemons, and so on) and see what she can create. Consider making a plan to have her pay back your initial investment.
Put Your Child in the Lead
The excitement of running a business is being in charge! This means your child should use her creativity to make it happen, but also that she will deal with any issues that arise. Ask her to manage her own money, to create her own marketing, and, yes, to fix her own mistakes. It can be hard to watch her struggle, but those are the best learning opportunities.
Help Your Child Work Through Failure
While frustrating, failure is an amazing learning opportunity. Guide your child through the process of generating solutions rather than allowing her to give up right away.
Bring in Additional Resources
There are great books (for children and adults) available from Kidpreneurs, and The Best Classic Toy Award went to the Little Green Money Machine, an interactive learning system for starting a business.
Whether your child starts that lemonade stand or learns entrepreneurial skills at school or by your side, the problem-solving skills and creativity she will develop will be invaluable. Be supportive, and let your little business-person do the rest.
For further reading, check this article about what your children learn from developing money habits or on the value of critical thinking.