a peek inside the fishbowl

03 Aug, 2006

The business of being a kid

Posted by andrea in: Easy ways to make kids happy

Whenever I see a kid with a lemonade stand in the neighborhood I make a big point of paying a visit. It’s always a good deal (I recently bought some at FIVE CENTS a glass. How crazy is that?), and no matter how much change I have jingling in my pocket I always seem to have enough to buy three cups and leave a generous tip.

I love everything about lemonade stands: the smiles, the kids, the home-made signage… It might be served to you on an upturned cardboard box or a two-by-four across two milk crates. The cups might be styrofoam or Dixie cups or maybe you have to drink it on the spot because the cups weren’t the “take out” variety.

It practically transports me back to my youth. Do you remember what it’s like to set it all up and then sit anxiously, waiting for the customers to come? Should I call out or just let them come? How much money am I going to make? What should I do with all those extra nickels and dimes?

The excitement of it all makes my heart flutter and so I do my best to frequent these kind of residential lemonade establishments. They are as fleeting as youth and deserve our attention.

That is why I am sad to report that I saw a Sesame Street brand lemonade stand set for sale at Loblaws the other day.

What a killjoy.

I admit, I was in a hurry and didn’t stop to look very closely. But on preview it looked like what you think: a bright little table with signage and Sesame Street characters to help your kid shlep their koolaid or lemony brew. Don’t get me wrong, I like Sesame Street. And I would rather see a Sesame Street themed stand than, say Bratz. Ha. Bratz are the sluttiest-looking toy in the history of toy design … and having Bratz on a street corner might not go over well in a nice residential neighborhood.

I digress.

Creative play is slowly taking second seat to what’s now commonly referred to as “screen time.” In other words, TV and computers. No wonder kids are getting fat and their imaginations are failing.

Toy designers are doing all the imagining. Sure, buy your kids a pre-made lemonade stand, pre-decorated with smiling a Cookie Monster and our beloved Bert and Ernie! It’s easy and convenient! Easy to set up! Fashioned in colourful molded plastic… it’s kid-friendly too! Spills are easily mopped up! No sharp corners on which they can hurt themselves! (Batteries not included, of course.)

Buy it, and you bypass the fun part of a Canadian rite-of-passage … the planning and effort involved creating those wonderful (and mostly misspelled) signs, and the stands that were so often scavenged from ordinary items around the house – cardboard and plywood and paint or crayons.

The lemonade stand is a wonderful concept. Let kids build it and see what unfolds.

Sure, the ready-to-use version is convenient. And it can be used more than once. But this, and items like it, are eroding the imaginations of a whole generation. And that’s something we need to worry about, isn’t it?

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (15) and Sarah (13). I am the editor of the Kitchissippi Times, Capital Parent Newspaper, and a regular contributor to MediaSmarts.ca. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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