Can We Vote for This Guy? (Even Though He’s 9?)

Hey Readers — You want inspiration? You got it: A 9 year old Detroit boy was dismayed by the fact his local park was totally overgrown — the city could afford to mow it just twice a year. So did he stay inside playing videogames?

He set up a lemonade stand and made $3000 over the course of five days. Donated it to Parks & Rec. This video is from when he was just getting started. You’ll love it!

Help Needed: Do Kids Mow Neighbors’ Lawns Anymore?

Hey Readers — Here’s a query from reader that I’m curious about, too. Weigh in! — L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: My name is Stacey Gordon and I have noticed that I never see children doing the things that we did when we were kids.  They seem to be supervised at all times and never have any “just kid” time.  Nothing seems to be expected of them. It is as though they are treated as infants right up until the time that they are expected to wake up one day and magically become adults… without any practice.
I caught a thread in our local neighborhood Yahoo group.  Someone was asking if there were any kids that did yard work for summer as they would love to hire one.  People fired back answers. One person suggested that kids were spoiled by their parents. Recently, in this same neighborhood, someone called the police when they saw some unsupervised kids IN THEIR OWN YARDS.  My response to the thread was along the line of, “If the police are called if children are playing in their own front yard unsupervised, imagine what kind of trouble the parents would be in if they let the kids mow the lawn!” So my curiosity came from this neighborhood conversation.
As children, we would hustle for money any chance we got.  In the city of Yonkers, on those rare snow days, we’d get out and shovel and help clean off and dig out cars for the folks who had to get to work.  They were always grateful and would throw us a few bucks. In summer we would go to the local grocery store (one of many we could walk to) and stand outside and help customers carry their bags to the car for tips.    We would later pool our money and go to the local pizza joint and chip in  for an entire pizza and a pitcher of soda.  If there was money left over we went to the candy store for treats and baseball cards.  Making our own money made us feel independent and grown up.
It seems that in many locations that children are no longer able to be unsupervised while playing in their own yards. Do kids still do these things? There are no kids (a few infants maybe) in my current neighborhood so I have no way to judge. Does anyone still see children mowing yards for money anymore? By “children” I’m thinking anywhere from age 9 and up.  I recall in years past, in the suburban neighborhoods, my cousin and other kids would go door to door soliciting yard work.  Would a kid even be allowed to touch a lawn mower now, much less seek gainful employment in the neighborhood?  Is it fear on the parents’ part? Is it laziness on the kids’ side?  Are kids just spending too much time being scheduled, or playing on computers? What’s the story? – -Stacey, who writes the blog SouthGeek.

Sure, kids can use TOY lawnmowers. But what about the real thing?

A Lemonade Stand that Did NOT Cost $280? Imagine that!

Folks — I am loving your responses to the post below this one, which was about all the expensive things a parenting magazine says you need for a lemonade stand. (And the fact that the mag also calls it a “family lemonade stand,” as if kids can’t possibly be trusted to do anything on their own. ) So feel free to peruse them. Here’s one that made me cheer:

Dear Free-Range Kids: This post inspired the perfect kind of summer-fun afternoon for my girls, ages 8 and 7 and 4. And as a side-benefit, it also put an end to the fighting and whining that can drive a mom crazy during summer 🙂
The girls were over the moon excited when I asked them if they would like to make a lemonade stand!

After a quick trip to the store for lemons, cups and ice (we spent only about $7), they made some quick handmade signs on poster board that we had lying around the house. Taped one to the side of their wagon and had another one for waving in the air to attract customers. And yes, they hand-squeezed 8 lemons to make a gallon of homemade lemonade without my help.

Then they loaded it all up on their wagon and went off on their own around the corner and to the stop sign at the end of our cul de sac where they spent two hours manning their stand. They took turns waving the sign, taking the money, and pouring the lemonade. And from what they told me, they learned a lot about teamwork and good salesmanship (I wouldn’t know for sure, because I wasn’t there. I stayed home except for bringing them each a hot dog for dinner because they were too busy to come home.)

But the best part for me was the looks of excitement and pride on their faces as they gave me an account of each customer. After they counted up their money, they planned a shopping trip to buy what they need so they can do it again tomorrow. Ended up with $24 profit!

I think the spontaneity and independence they were able to show by planning and preparing and selling all on their own is what made this, “The most excellent day ever,” to quote my 7 year old.  – Erin