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When my 9-year-old son announced he wanted to do a bake sale, I was hesitant. The idea was perfect for him. For a long time he has said he wants to be a cook when he grows up and own a restaurant (a couple of days a week; during the other days he will invent things). I also knew that he had been wanting to find some ways to make extra money, but there had to be better ways. I think my wife felt the same way. But where I suggested other jobs he could do for money, my wife offered support by helping him put together a list of items he would like to bake, establish prices, and make and distribute a flier to neighbors he knew.

The bake sale was perfect. It was a lot of work. It went well, and my son made some money. More important, he learned skills and gained confidence.

When our first customer (our next door neighbor) came to order baked goods, my son froze up. He wasn't sure what to say or what to do. I'm not sure he spoke even one word during the whole visit. But after our neighbor left, my son commented, "I'm going to have to learn to talk to people if I'm going to have a restaurant. I'll do better next time." And he did do better. When people would call to place an order, we would pass the phone to him. He responded clearly and with an air of maturity and responsibility. When he delivered some goods late, he apologized politely. I was impressed.

In this project, my son didn't just learn how to speak to people with confidence. He also learned about pricing and costs. He did some intense math. He polished his cooking skills. He learned about customer service. He learned responsibility. One evening, when he was finishing up a batch of pretzels, he said, "I'm so exhausted." I smiled. He was exhausted, but I could see his growing confidence and sense of accomplishment.

This learning activity was worth all the time and effort he put in it (and the time and effort we made to support him).