By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published May 31, 2011 at 4:04 PM

Like so many things, most children tap into the concept of a lemonade stand through osmosis or television. Around the age of 4, 5 or 6, some kids want to earn their own money, and consequently, ask if the sale of lemonade – or Kool-Aid – can serve as their first business venture.

It is believed that lemonade stands have been around since the mid-1800s and that originally adults were as likely as kids to sell the sweet drink. Fast forward a century, and in 1979, the computer game Lemonade Stand, which teaches kids how to generate revenue via sales from a cyber lemonade stand, was introduced by Apple.

Today, lemonade stands seem to be as popular as ever with young children, but usually they have some sort of a twist. Modern lemonade stands often offer free lemonade – donations accepted, of course – because technically, a person needs a temporary restaurant license to vend on the street. There was, in fact, a case last summer in which a 7-year-old girl selling lemonade in Oregon was threatened with a $500 fine.

Melissa Tempel's daughters, along with a friend, decided to set up a free lemonade stand last summer. The Riverwest Co-op, 733 E. Clarke St., gave them permission to sell in front of their store. The girls made a "Free Lemonade" sign but also set out a donation cup.

"People were so generous. They gave $1 for a small glass, or more," says Tempel.

The girls made $40 – each received $13 and the extra dollar went to the third girl's mom because she bought the cups. (The lemonade was donated by a grandfather.) But according to Tempel, the non-financial lessons learned at a lemonade stand are even more valuable.

"It's important for kids to talk to people they don't know so that they can get used to what 'normal' and appropriate conversation with adults is," says Tempel. "Lemonade stands are a great way for kids to get to know neighbors and gain a sense of community and learn how a business works."

Janet Schiff's son is 10 years old and has operated a free Kool-Aid stand six times. Schiff says her son was inspired by astrologer Rob Brezny who stands at freeway exit ramps and hands out money instead of asking for it.

Schiff says her son receives tips as well and that most people are grateful and surprised by the concept.

"However, our postman, when offered his free cup of Kool-Aid said, 'Nothing's free!' and refused a cup on a scorching summer day," says Schiff.

Adults should monitor a child-run lemonade stand at all times. Also, setting up shop at a location with a lot of foot or car traffic is key. Ngoc Le lives on a bustling Cudahy block which she believes will be ideal for her 4-year-old's lemonade stand this summer.

"We have a corner house, so we are hoping to capitalize on our location; get them from both sides of the street," she says, laughing.

Karen Parr lives in Riverwest and she plans to take the lemonade stand concept one step further by offering a "LemonArt" stand along with her two children and a few friends. The LemonArt stand is a lemonade stand that asks for a piece of art – made right at the stand – in exchange for a cup of lemonade.

"The price of a lemonade is a piece of art," says Parr. "We provide the supplies and lemonade, you bring the creativity. It could be a drawing, a poem, a rap, a sculpture, a dance."

The art is then displayed on or near the LemonArt stand, so it becomes a little street gallery, as well.

"Kids get to interact with 'customers' by encouraging them to find a way to express their creativity. And they get to see people think / act creatively, on the spot. It opens up the possibilities of what art can be and where it can be made. This exchange is worth so much more than 50 cents," says Parr.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.