Guest Post: What’s Wrong with This Lemonade Stand?

Hi Folks! Here’s a big chunk of a wonderful essay by my friend and fellow journalist Christopher Moore, published in the New York weekly, Our Town. I guess when life hands you lemonade…write a column:

Lemonade Stand-ing Watch by Christopher Moore

At least in my Manhattan ’hood, there are a crazy number of kids out on the sidewalks hawking cold—or at least cold-ish—beverages. The only problem: their parents are out there with them.

The overprotective parent strikes again. And these adults can dramatically change the you’re-on-your-own tradition for kids with summertime stands.

Yes, this is a case of a person without kids criticizing parents, but I’ll go ahead and do it anyway. These kids will be running my nursing home, and I want them to be capable and able to think for themselves. Anyway, if our neighbors can proudly go public with their overparenting, the rest of us surely have a right to notice.

I wasn’t having all these big thoughts the day my partner and I stopped on West End Avenue at a lemonade stand. I liked it. The two girls—my guess is they were around 9 or 10—sold us a couple of plastic cups filled with what tasted a lot more like Crystal Light than homemade lemonade. The girls took the money and delivered the beverages with a pleasant demeanor. All in all, it would have to be considered a better-than-average commercial transaction in present-day New York.

Later, lemonade stands started popping up everywhere. They felt delightfully small-town without anyone having to give up access to Lincoln Center. Seeing youngsters take to the city streets with such enthusiasm can make a tangible, positive difference in how many of us relate to our neighborhoods. With the children, though, can come some pretty conspicuous parents. Like the mom yakking on her cell phone, creating enough of a scene that the children with her seemed like accessories. Mom was there but, thanks to the cell phone, she was also not there. Our modern problem.

A few days later, there was the dad…

Read the rest right here! And follow Chris on Twitter thusly: @cmoorenyc. And, heck, contact him yourself at

37 Responses

  1. My boy just left for his second day of 4th grade a couple minutes ago. On his bicycle. Alone. Later, he will go to the playground all by himself, then bring himself home for homework, then take himself to and from martial arts, all on his own.

    Someday–and I tell him this–the kids of overprotective parents are going to be working for him… or at least trying to!

  2. To be honest I am surprised they were even ALLOWED to set up shop… surely there’s a regulation against selling beverages without a permit???

    FFS I am so over it… I wanna buy an island and go be a hermit (I now the irony!)… at least I wouldn’t have to witness this crap though. I wish my kids could have my childhood 😥

  3. My kids love having kool-aid stands. They make tons of money. I think there are so few children left who set up kool-aid stands that a lot of people stop to buy just for the nostalgia of it 🙂 At their last stand a couple of weeks ago they made over 20 bucks in a hour! Our subdivision is not that great for sales but my parents is. We drive to their subdivision and they set up on the main road near the park. I stay in the park area but a few hundred yards away. Enough that I can see them but can’t hear them. Cars stop right and left and they go up to them, talk to the people, serve them kool-aid and make change. They are learning so many skills while they do this. The first time I saw a cop car stop I was nervous we were going to be in trouble. I continued to stay back but watched what would happen. The police officers just bought some kool-aid and moved on. They even gave the kids a big tip they were excited about. They didn’t ask where their mom was, or why they were out alone (they were 6 & 8 at the time), or ask for their city permit to sell beverages! A few other cop cars stopped also, again they just bought kool-aid and left. I am so glad my kids are getting the opportunity to do things like this. There are still some sane areas in America!

  4. My kids sometimes try to set up an art stand to sell their own drawings. Only problem is that our street is too quiet, and they don’t get any inquiries. Actually, the other problem is probably that my daughter always wants the price to be $5 or so. Not exactly the price most people will pay for the crayon or marker drawings of somebody else’s kid, and I’ve explained that to her. They do set it up on their own. First time they did it, I didn’t even know until they’d been at it a while. They’d been playing out front why I dealt with my youngest, had come inside for a few things, and just gave it a try.

  5. My son is using the rainy weather to write his required back to school essay on how he spent his summer (he’s 10.) He’s writing about the skills he learned running his golf course stand.

    His summer business (run by himself, and his 3 friends) sold “found” golf balls, all sorts of beverages (his request from golfers for beer was a big NO), and random food items. He ran it with his buddies in shifts. There is great fishing on our golf course (and lots of fish stories to tell golfers, too) so they took turns fishing and selling, 2 at a time.
    I usually ran down lunch to them, when the walkie talkied me. I tried not to stick around, as the conversations the golfers had with the kids was the best part.

    My favorite sales pitches from the boys:
    “The soft pretzel is $1, but you get mustard for FREE!”
    “Have you lost your balls? Do you want to stock up?”
    “Buy a lemonade, get a golf ball as a free gift”

    I can’t make this stuff up.

  6. I had a lemonade stand as a kid and it was the best!! I’d set up every Monday/Wednesday/Friday from 3:00-5:00pm and sell lemonade from a mix and homemade cookies. I think the cookies were 15cents and the lemonade was 35cents. My mom covered my start-up costs and I paid her back out of my first earnings…no free ride for me!! Anyway, my dad rigged up a way to hang a big sturdy sign in the front yard and set up the table. It was hot, so when I didn’t have customers I’d play Barbies or read or whatever sitting on the grass under the table (it was a big table rigged from wooden pallets and a big sheet of plywood). I sold to the neighborhood kids and the ice cream truck guy mostly (the ice cream truck guy would buy a lemonade and then give me a pushup pop for free…loved that)!! I earned enough money to pay for a week of summer camp, have spending money for camp, and to help my dad out for gas to get me to the city where I had a ride to camp from. I was nine.

    Not sure how it will be when Bug is old enough for a lemonade stand. We live on a culdesac in a small neighborhood with only one entrance…so it’s pretty quiet around here. Plus, who knows how many stupid laws and regulations will be in place by then preventing him from having a fun entreprenurial venture as a kid.

  7. Some kids set one up on a corner here, so we stopped on the way the way home, mostly to support their endeavor.

    But they half filled a 6oz cup, and wanted a dollar for it, and then got snarky when my wife asked if they could maybe fill it up. We paid, but didn’t go back. I saw the stand once more, and that was it.

  8. There aren’t lemonade stands in Germany. But my son and one of his friends would pick “Mirabellen” (miniature plums) off of our tree and the one at his friend’s house. The boys would wash them, put them into Ziploc bags, and go to the pedestrian zone in town to sell them. They handed out lots of free samples to entice people to buy their mirabellen. They were also flexible about the price. If someone said that the bag full of mirabellen was too expensive, they would have the customer name his price. Each boy earned between 20 and 25 euros (about $28 to $35) on a typical August weekend. My husband and I had no part at all in their endeavor. Both kids did everything and felt great about being able to earn money through their work.

  9. I guess I am blessed. I frequently see lemonade stands in my neighborhood with nary a parent in site. My own son has had his own, in the summer heat, while I was sitting coolly inside, at least when he wasn’t coming in for this, that or the other. There’s even an organization promoting kid-sponsored lemonade stands called Lemonade Day. I’m sure some are completely kid-driven and some are largely parent-organized.

  10. The kids in the neighborhood had a stand this Summer. Ages ranged from 6-11. Our street is pretty quiet, but they did OK. The got like $2 a kid. The parents including me left them alone. Now if they were smart they would have gone to the more busy part of the subdivision, but that is fine. It kept my kids and the other kids busy for a Summer afternoon. And they were outside by themselves for the most part. I did have to cut the grass during part of it.

  11. Like most others who has commented so far, we see lemonade stands in our own neighborhoods and others I have visited that are kid run. I’m thinking the majority are kid run. Sure there will be a few who have parents helping out when they are old enough to do it on their own, but it seems in most neighborhoods it’s still a kid thing. 😉 In fact the more I travel and observe, it seems most of America IS of a free range mindset. That is, I see kids riding bikes through the neighborhood, playing at parks without adults standing next to them, riding their bikes to school on their own all the time everywhere I go. Maybe the big inner cities are the problem areas where the trend is not to let kids outside alone? Definitely there are instances of hovering out there, but in my humble opinion, it is not the widespread problem everyone on here seems to think it is. 😉

  12. @ Elizabeth I think you are right to a certain extent. There are kids all over our subdivision, they are all outside playing all the time. But there are the few kids who aren’t allowed. A friend of my daughters isn’t allowed outside of her yard, she’s almost 10! Her mom will still drive her to our house to play (a whole 7 houses or so), even when my daughter just ran over to her house to get her. The problem is that the craziness is creeping in, and will spread and get much worse over time.

  13. My daughter has always wanted a lemonade stand. She really wants to be able to earn some money. We live on a busy state highway, however, with semis and cars going at least 60 m.p.h., so a lemonade stand just wouldn’t work. She then came up with the idea to sell her shell collection. Not a pretty, straight from the depths of the Atlantic sea shell collection, but clam shells from the bottom of Lake Erie. Broken, cracked, gray Lake Erie shells. She hatched a plan to sell them to the neighbor hood kids for $1.00 each. Her sister (who has plenty of her own) was just gullible enough to buy 2 until I realized what was going on. I finally ended up buying the bucket of them, crushed and smashed, for 4.25. I thought they would make nice filler for my potted plants. What’s a kid to do?:)

  14. @Lollipoplover: Now that’s very entrepreneurial for 10 year olds. I wish people can see what we see, that kids can surprise us given the chance to be…well…kids. Sometimes they’re too smart for their own good. lol The extent for me at 10 was a lemonade stand. We never would have thought about collecting lost golf balls and selling it to golfers on the course. Luckily the course wasn’t so uptight as to run them off.

    @Elizabeth, it’s not really insanely crazy. But there are enough over protective parents out there that causes legitimate concern. Along with the media pushing “danger, danger” on us everyday, everywhere, for every little thing, it becomes more and more widespread. That for some things, it’s become the norm. ie. people thinking it’s a bad thing (so much that they call the authorities) when parents let their kids do kid things. Like go out with their friends to the park, go to school or bike ride on their own. Or that any man that smiles, or says “hi” to a child is automatically seen as a pervert or pedophile. That isn’t right or healthy.

  15. We live on a fairly busy downtown street. There are concerts in the park 2 blocks from our house every weekend. I wish you’d posted this idea in June, my kids would have made a small fortune!

  16. I’ll be the first to say that overbearing parents abound in Manhattan. however. There can be a big difference between selling lemonade in an urban setting, specifically manhattan as the author states, and in a suburban neighborhood. Maybe I’m “overprotective” but I’m not willing to let my 8 year old wander manhattan streets by himself quite yet. we might have different timelines of when that’s ok. also, my guess is if you don’t have kids yourself, (even if you do), you may not be completely accurate in estimating kids ages. maybe these kids are tall 6 year olds. people have posted about allowing their kids to have lemonade stands on their own in their suburban neighborhoods– however, it’s likely that they can look out the window and have easy access to check up on their kids once in a while. not always so in the city. maybe your apartment doesn’t face the street. or you’re on the 22nd floor, and that’s a little far away for comfort. you don’t need to be so judgemental about parents hanging out with their kids on the streets of manhattan. my guess is, being in their shoes, you’d likely do the same. isn’t the whole point of this blog to rag on those that are being judgemental of us letting our children have a little freedom? don’t be hypocrites then, by being so judgemental yourselves.

  17. I read something today about raising resilient kids that said “think about your child as a happy, healthy 35-year-old and work backward.”
    To get there, children need to take chances, make mistakes, and learn from them.
    I honestly don’t see this happening with overbearing parent standing over them while they try to sell lemonade. I can honestly say my son’s stand would suffer in sales if I were there. The whole point of a kid run stand is enjoying the kid-ness of it. The spelling mistakes on the sign. The too sour/too sweet lemonade. The KIDS!
    The have to work out their mistakes on their own. They have to get along. I almost spit out my drink the other day when I heard my son tell his friends that “pay day is on Monday”. He wanted to keep them working over the weekend!

  18. I did a lemonade stand with my kids this summer. They are 4 and don’t know how to count money so I had to be out there helping them but they helped me pour the lemonade and I had them ask the people if they wanted yellow or pink lemonade and say Thank you. Then we worked on counting money.

  19. I was talking to a parent today. She told me how she took her adopted nephew out to lunch for “Family Joining Day.” They went with an adult friend, who had never heard him play the violin. So after lunch, they went to a quiet spot at the end of the mall so he could show her on his new violin. There were some kids hanging out, my friend said they looked like gang members (wearing colors.) They listened to the 7 year old play, then when he was done (Twinkle, Twinkle) one came over and gave him $5! All were flabbergasted, and the boy said “I didn’t know I could get money for playing my violin! Maybe we should do this again some time!”

    (Not, I know entirely free range, because the intent was to play for the other adult. But the kids who were there were certainly free ranging, and were polite and considerate and very kind to boot!)

  20. They haven’t been cited for selling without a licence?

  21. I remember selling bags of oranges (12 for $1) and lemons (12 for $2) out the front of my house as a kid. Did a roaring trade on Sundays as it was opposite the church.

    I would love my kids to take a trailer around the neighbourhood selling our excess fruit and vegetables (from my market garden) when they are old enough too.

  22. My two kids (4 and 7) had a lemonade stand last month outside our home last month while I was cooking dinner. I poked my head out a few times to make sure they weren’t harassing anyone (my son yelled at a cyclist who drove by too fast), getting along (somehow the first pitcher ended up all over my daughter) and replenish any dwindling supplies (aka make more lemonade). The cops also stopped at their stand to `support local business’. We face out onto a highway so some people drove into our neighbourhood to park and buy a cup of nostalgia. My kids made about $15 in an hour and raved about it for days. They claimed they needed to do it again the next day because some people told them they had no money and would be back later (more likely they were just being polite). The kids are now planning on building a big stand out of a cardboard box with their profits to attract more customers.

  23. Oh a slightly separate (but somewhat related) note, here’s another ridiculous scenario of a Scandinavian parent in the US who’s being punished for being… well, Scandinavian.

  24. When I was a kid, I sold vegetables. It all began with a zucchini… Dad’s zucchini patch had a very high yield, and we were having zucchini for every meal. One morning, my mom told the sitter to make zucchini for dinner, “NOOO!” I wailed, and ran outside, and flagged down a passing jogger. He was reluctant, but when I explained if I didn’t sell it to him, they were going to make me eat it, he obliged and bought it for a dime.

    From then on, my friends and I harvested vegetables. “Shouldn’t I get a cut of the profits, since I planted and grew them, working in the hot sun?” “No,” I said, “Because we’re the ones selling them”. Thus, at a young age, I had a very accurate understanding of the way the agricultural industry works…

    I’ll encourage my kid to do something similar, we get a lot of bikers and walkers go by, so lemonade sounds about right.

  25. @Nicole.

    Love it.

  26. You know, I can understand the idea that leaving your kids outside “doesn’t fly” in this country, because it’s not done, people aren’t used to it, and if people do it, the cops are going to get called all the time. And frankly, lacking the culture of doing it, makes it more unsafe — you can’t count on the hundred pairs of eyes looking out for something that nobody expects to have to look out for.

    So, if a person from another culture where it’s perfectly acceptable and it isn’t in any sense “maltreatment” does it, TELL THEM THAT and tell them not to do it again.

    To nail someone for maltreatment for doing something that had no bad outcome and had neither the effect nor intent of maltreatment, is not only unjust, but a waste of the courts’ and taxpayers’ time.

  27. IOW, if I were empress of the universe, when someone came across a well-cared for looking baby left in a stroller outside a decent-looking establishment in broad daylight, and reported it, the cops would say, “Ha! Another European! I’ll find the parents and speak to them about it” and that would be the end of it. Only if the conversation with the parents gave the cops something to worry about, would it go beyond that.

  28. […] For freedom bonus points, why not let older kids man the stand without adult supervision for a while? […]

  29. […] For freedom bonus points, why not let older kids man the stand without adult supervision for a while? […]

  30. […] For freedom bonus points, why not let older kids man the stand without adult supervision for a while? […]

  31. I’ve seen a lot of lemonade stands outside apartment buildings with parents camped out in lawn chairs a little ways away. Usually reading, or talking on a cell, sure, occasionally refereeing the kids. I don’t blame them for wanting to be closer than however-many-floors-up, though it’s too bad for the children’s sense of independence that parents can’t always manage to be out of sight, too! When we had our stands as kids, my mom was always within earshot but she stayed out of our way.

    We weren’t ever really alone, just supervised from afar…seemed a reasonable approach.

  32. My two daughters is trying to have a lemonade stand, but they are finding hard to sell more than 2 glasses of lemonade per day…….and they are so dissapointed.

  33. A couple weeks ago my 11yo daughter and her best friend (who is almost 12) made a bunch of friendship bracelets and then went door to door in our neighborhood (where everyone knows just about everyone else) selling them for $1-$2 each. With a $5 donation from my almost 10yo son they made enough to buy a slushie machine from the store and then set out selling slushies, lol.

    Industrious little things. I told them they needed to set up a stand near the park where all the kids hung out, maybe a blanket in the grass with their slushies and a bunch of bracelets. They’d probably make a bundle.

  34. I live in a mid-rise building in St. Louis, and over the year or so since the eldest has been in double digits, my kids set up a lemonade/iced tea stand on the corner when there are big events in our neighborhood – or even on weekday afternoons this summer when they were just plain bored. They make the signs, go get the ice & lemons from the store, chalk the sidewalks for a block on each street. The Husband & I have coached them on sanitation & other “health & safety” issues, and one of us goes down every little while to check on them, bring up excess cash, and see if they need anything, but for the most part, they do it on their own and do it well. I wonder about people who think kids need micro-managing to do these things … maybe their kids do …

  35. You should see what it’s like here in Shenzhen, China. You have families setting up little carts by bus stops to serve commuters in the morning. I mean, you have the mother cooking noodles or something, and the children have a cart full of bottled drinks. They sell these for a few RMB (1rmb = 6.35rmb) per bowl/bottle, and the police officer ten feet away does nothing to stop them.

    Haven’t seen a Chinese version of a lemonade stand yet (tea stand?), but the parents here apparently trust their kids to manage part of their side businesses. It’s pretty refreshing to see.

    Though I’m not as fond of parents letting their infants lay around without diapers. Try to avoid those. No, not because of pervert issues, but because I want to stay out of the line of fire.

  36. I drove by a lemonade stand in our little suburban neighborhood with 3 young girls running the stand. No parent in sight. They were not texting. They were enjoying each other’s company. Being outside. They were pleasant, regular kids and the lemonade was good. The whole operation consisted of 2 chairs and a cooler. I have hope for the future.

    I drove by another lemonade stand with 4 boys, running and screaming, and 4-5 dads hanging out, looming about. The lemonade stand was a pre-fab expensive thingy that required parental assembling – and the kids weren’t interested in talking with me. They all wanted their dad’s attention.

  37. harming the charm….

    too cute, and so true.

    outsourcing their kids’ childhoods?


    Why not dress up for them on Halloween? Write their essays?
    And to the mom on the cell phone? One day your tweenie daughter will getcha back, with texted interest.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: