This weekend our neighborhood hosted its annual garage sale.  Our three children were overcome with excitement about the notion of making money by selling their own stuff.

For the few years we’ve been telling the kids that in order to have something new, they must give or sell what they no longer use or have out grown.  This weekend it was our kiddos who took the initiative to dig through their rooms and play area to find items they would trade for cash. And they did!

To my great surprise, Mighty Might, our 6-year-old, decided on her own to sell her plastic kitchen and dishware pieces.  Oh, this was painful for me.  My heart tugged, and I suggested she wait until next year – when we move. No, she said, “I’m too big for it now that I am six.”  Can she really be that big already, I asked myself.  Normally I have been waiting with great inner longing for the kids to reach the next independent milestone, like potty training, feeding one’s self, playing nicely with others and reading. But to give up the center of our daughter’s make believe play is to let go of a very sacred era in all of our lives.  Transitions come more naturally to children!

Emotional attachment set aside, my husband and I do declare on a daily basis “we have too much stuff – we spend too much time managing our stuff – our kids need to take better care of their stuff (or get rid of it).”  Logically, the kid’s desire to trade toys for cash is a good thing.  Yet it was still more of a stretch than I thought.

Our three whippersnappers received an introduction to economics they didn’t expect. With an expectation to an outcome of cold green cash, they were invested – and genuinely cared about their garage sale.  They set everything up (I was at a scrapbooking date!) at the end of our drive way. The children priced everything in an organized manner – and had small items in boxes. They brought their change out for cash along with comfortable chairs. The kids enthusiastically talked with the potential customers, a.k.a. our neighbors, who came by, too.  When they weren’t getting the traffic or purchases they expected to receive, they were challenged to be patient, like a good business person.  They were challenged to think about the value of the items to others – and how to help the shoppers get what they wanted.

Although our young entrepreneurs didn’t earn the big bucks they had set out for, they did gain a whole lot more.  For one, we interacted with our community in a cheerful, relaxed way.  They had to practice the skills of selection, organizing, pricing, communication, math, service, and patience!  As it turns out, their garage sale was the best teacher of supply and demand they could have ever had.  In the end, they had a cleaner room for it, too!

Yes, as a parent, the garage sale experience was so valuable that I will encourage it on a yearly basis.  Much like a good cleanse, the benefits of the effort are long- lasting. Who knows, maybe they’ll make a more money in the future, too!