Creating Real Life Learning Experiences

Creating Real Life Learning Experiences

Joey from Made by Joey is with us today to share some great tips for creating real world experiences that nurture compassion as well as other important habits of heart and mind.


Last summer our children decided that they wanted to earn some money of their own during an upcoming family garage sale. A lemonade stand was voted the most exciting prospect, so they immediately began the planning process by making lists of their ideas.


As parents we also had a mental “checklist” that we went through to determine if this was going to be a safe and rewarding learning experience for them.

  • Were they old enough to safely sit at the end of our driveway all day? (or as it turned out, all weekend!)
  • Were they comfortable to politely speak to neighbors (and people they did not know)?
  • Were they able to add up the orders and give correct change to their customers?


The kids composed a list of what they thought they would need for their stand – lemonade, cups, cookies, table, chairs, toy cash register, box of small toys for sale and a big sign!   We then sat down to review their list and talk about the other things that they would need to run a stand of this kind.

We talked about display and making their stand appealing to their customers. Adding a bright table cloth to the table, plates and tongs to display the cookies, napkins to serve the cookies, a bucket to collect the used cups and napkins and balloons to attract drivers-by.

Creating Real Life Learning Experiences


We also discussed (and held practice runs) of adding up customer’s orders and giving correct change. As a back up their toy cash register was a calculator so they could use that if they got stuck.


We put together a small float of change and recorded the amount to later be subtracted from the gross earnings.


We briefly explained that the products they wanted to sell, first had to be purchased from the store so we kept the receipt and subtracted that amount from the gross earnings as well.


We then calculated how much they should sell the lemonade and cookies for in order to cover the costs of the products.


Safety rules was another topic that I wanted to have clearly understood. They were to always stay together (even though we were close by and checking on them throughout the day) and to not leave their cash box unattended. We told them that they could close the stand whenever they were tired and that the money they earned they could spend any way they liked.


This led to more discussion about what to do with the money that they earned. My daughter decided that she wanted to help animals with some of her money so they both agreed that half of the proceeds from the stand would go to the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals(SPCA). She wanted her customers to know that their purchases were helping animals so she made a sign for the table explaining their intentions. (this was very well received by the neighbors often resulting in additional contributions “for the sake of the animals”)


The experience was tremendously successful on so many levels, they were able to:

  • Utilize their planning skills
  • Practice their math and money skills
  • Practice their written and oral communication skills
  • Develop a sense of independence
  • Develop a sense of responsibility
  • Feel as though they were making a contribution to the community


This summer they hosted the “second annual lemonade stand“. The information learned the previous year was recalled and the set up and running of the stand was accomplished with very little help from the adults. It was another successful learning experience for the kids and they were very proud to be able to present the SPCA with another donation this year!


Has your child participated in an event that they benefited from? If so, what did you feel they learned from the experience?



Joey Van Oort enjoys coming up with new and exciting ways to unleash her inner creativity. As a longtime stay-at-home / work-from-home mom, she’s here to share her artistic inspiration and ideas with others all over the world. When she’s not elbow-deep in an artistic endeavor, she enjoys blogging at Made By Joey about her family’s creative lifestyle in Western Canada, where she lives with her husband and two children.



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  1. This is great! We just helped our 6-year-old have his first lemonade stand a few weeks ago and, just like yours, he decided to donate the money to an animal rescue group. But for us, it was a bit closer to home, since we also foster dogs for this rescue group too. This is actually our “real life learning experience,” one we chose thoughtfully as a family and specifically with our young boys in mind…and it has been amazing. My boys see how sick and frightened the dogs are who come to us, they have learned to care for them, to be gentle as they earn the dogs’ trust, and how to say good-bye when the dogs find their new families, even though it might break our hearts every single time.

  2. What a great thing to do! I love how you helped the kids to really think about everything that would be needed yo run the stall. Lots of valuable lessons, and good fun too no doubt.

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