My six year old has recently started to figure out the whole concept of money. He is currently the proud owner of a dollar and twenty-seven cents, and always on the lookout for new ways to find money (couch cushions, anyone?) or earn it (“I want another dime, Grandma. What can I help with so you’ll give me one of yours?”).

Since he’s been fired up about the whole concept of money, it felt like the perfect time to introduce the concept of raising money for good causes, not just for ourselves. So during the two weeks before school started, I decided to gather the troops and organize a lemonade stand to raise money for a local charity.

doing the prep work

My kids had seen their neighbors down the block run a lemonade stand last fall, so I knew that they were familiar with the idea. But I wanted to make sure that they would really understand why we were doing it. So before I even introduced the idea of a lemonade stand, I sat my boys down and told them a story about a little boy who came from a family that didn’t have much money.

Of course, since my kids are small, I didn’t want to scare them. Talking about a boy their age living on the streets would have given my four-year-old nightmares, as I could predict from various conversations in the past. So instead we talked about a little boy who wanted to go to camp with his friends but couldn’t because his parents didn’t have the money to send him. A boy who wanted to have fun snacks in his lunch, but only had a sandwich and an apple each day. Surprisingly, they felt for this boy. When I told them that there really were kids out there who felt like this, they wanted to help.

I told them that maybe we could make some money to help a boy like this, describing the organization I know that gives food and money to families who need it. That’s when I brought up the lemonade stand. Because of the way that the concept was introduced, they had no doubt that the money from the stand would be going to “the little boy,” and not deposited in their piggy banks, which helped to keep their focus on why we were doing this in the first place.

getting ready

Doing anything with little kids takes time and thinking ahead; running a lemonade stand is no different. Thinking of running a stand with your kids? Make sure not to forget these tips:

Keep expectations low. As I said before, my oldest son only has $1.27 to his name, so to him, a dollar is a huge windfall. I asked my kids to guess how much they thought they would raise through the lemonade stand, and reminded them that a lot of people would drive by without stopping and that only a few would actually stop and buy the lemonade. My oldest son guessed that we’d make a dollar. His younger brother guessed four dollars – a guess that was promptly shot down as “way too much money.” When they counted the money at the end of the sale and found that we’d made $8.20, they were astounded, and were sure that the hypothetical little boy we were raising the money for would have enough for everything he needed.

Find the perfect location. You’ll want it to be in the shade, in full view of a relatively busy street. We are lucky enough to live right behind a small shopping strip, but if you live on a quiet road, consider running the stand together with a family who lives in a busier area. Alternatively, ask a kind family friend if you can use his yard for your stand. And make sure to move away any cars parked nearby so that passing drivers will have an easy view of your stand before they’re already driving past it.

Make signs! The kids loved scribbling in the lines (mostly) and were so proud to use their signs to catch the attention of passersby. Brightly colored backgrounds are perfect for catching a driver’s attention.

Go simple. While your kids might enjoy squeezing lemons, it takes a lot of lemons to make lemonade. And if, like me, you have a little mischievous toddler running around, it might be difficult to actually find time to make that much lemonade without the contents of the pantry vomiting themselves onto the floor. ‘Nuff said. So how did we make the process easier? Use lemonade powder! Yes, it’s filled with chemicals, but people don’t seem to mind – All they care about is that they got a cold drink on a hot day and were able to give their money to some adorable kiddies for a good cause.

Bring change. I completely didn’t think about this beforehand, and I was lucky enough to have a few quarters in my wallet to start off the fund, but you may not be as fortunate. We charged twenty-five cents a cup, and luckily, most people seemed to have quarters handy.

Bring ice. I forgot this too. Thanks, Grandma, for sending over a cooler bag full! After all, no one wants to drink lemonade that’s been sitting out in the sun for an hour.

Decide on a money container. You’ll want it to be easy for the kids to open and close, but with a top so that the money doesn’t all fall out. We used a shoebox.

Teach your kids the lingo. You’ll never see a cuter sight than a line of kids calling “Lemonade! Ice cold lemonade! Proceeds to char-ah-tee!” Trust me. I’ve been there.

Keep it short. If your kids start wilting in the sun and you predict that a meltdown is on the way, announce that the lemonade stand will close after the next person buys a cup. And then stick to it.

End it right. When it’s time to donate the money, consider giving it in person to someone who runs the charity or works for it. You’ll see them swell with pride as they hand over their earnings and hear firsthand how the money will help those who need it.

Running a lemonade stand definitely isn’t going to raise an adult-sized donation for charity. But if you’re hoping to raise kids who take pride in helping others, a lemonade sale might be just the right place to start.