3 Creative Ways Kids Can Safely Make Money During the Pandemic

This image shows three different photos: a dog with a treat on his nose, lemons and a child putting basil in a potted plant. These are ways kids can make money safely during the pandemic: make your own pick your own herb garden, a lemonade stand and making dog treats.
Getty Images

Ask most people to name ways younger kids make money, and the top answers are likely to be “lemonade stand” and “bake sale.”

These enterprising ventures are rites of passage for pre-teens, who have set up stands on front yards and sidewalks for decades, charming passersby with hand painted signs and eager smiles.

Now, though, due to concerns about the pandemic, pop-up stands selling slice-and-bake cookies or cups of lukewarm lemonade have become extinct in most neighborhoods.

But those aren’t the only ways children can earn some pocket money while getting an early education in the concepts of marketing, customer service and turning a profit. Here are a few ways children with time on their hands, masks on their faces and an entrepreneurial spirit can learn first-hand the value of making your own money.

Pick-Your-Own Herb Garden

Walker Willis, of St. Petersburg, Florida, devised a socially-distanced way to make money several years before anyone had even heard of COVID-19. Willis, who is now 19, planted herbs in pots next to his back steps, then invited neighbors to come pick their own.

“I’ve always loved gardening. My grandmother instilled that in me,” he said, adding that he used to grow herbs just for his family. But then a neighbor got involved.

“[A neighbor] saw the herbs and called and asked if she could pick some rosemary for her dinner,” Willis said. “I said, ‘Sure come over and get whatever you want.’ Then she said, ‘You could probably make some money dealing your herbs.’”

Willis and his mom sent an email to their neighbors, inviting them to come by and cut whatever they wanted in exchange for a few quarters or a dollar.

“I think I had a glass jar under a turned-over flower pot to hold the money,” he said.

Walker as a child interacts with things in a garden. The second photo shows Walker behind water in Crystal River, Fla. Walker use to make money as a child selling potted herbs.
Walker Willis (as a child, left, and as a young man, right) planted herbs in pots in his backyard when he was a child. He made money by letting neighbors pick or cut the herbs they needed. They would pay him a few quarters or one dollar for the fresh herbs.

How to Get Started:

Buy plants or seeds. Herbs can grow in cool weather, but not below freezing temps. If you don’t have a small plot of land that’s accessible to friends and neighbors, create or buy containers, and plant your seeds or starters in them in some good potting soil.

Write a notice inviting neighbors and friends to come by and help themselves. Ask them to bring a plastic bag or wet paper towel to hold their herbs and keep them fresh. Explain the procedure for payment, whether it’s Venmo or the honor system of putting money in a shoe box or jar. You can also list certain hours once a week when you will actually be selling in person.

Email the invite or print, copy and distribute flyers.

You can also have a sign-in sheet asking customers to list their name and address or e-mail, so you can send a note thanking them for their support. This will increase repeat business.

Tend to your crops, and make sure to collect money once or twice a day.

What You’ll Need to Get:

  • Herbs: Live plants start around $2, while seed packets cost less than $1.
  • Pots: Plastic pots start at 50 cents. You can also use empty coffee cans or cut off the tops of empty milk or water jugs.
  • Flyers: Instead of using your own ink on your home printer, you may be better off printing one at home, then making copies at a copy center for 5 cents a page. Put two flyers on each page and cut them in half to minimize your expenses here.

Make-Your-Own Lemonade Stand

Customers respect hard work and ingenuity, and they may respond to kids who find a way to sell lemonade despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.  With this lemonade stand, customers can mix their lemonade themselves with a water bottle and individual packet of drink mix.

How to Get Started:

Set up a table holding a cooler or large bucket full of ice and bottled waters. Fill a shoe box or bowl with individual one-cup drink mixes.

Create big signs on poster board advertising a “Make-Your-Own COVID-Friendly Lemonade Stand.” Hang them on street corners and on the table or stand.

Welcome customers with hand sanitizer and ask them to get a water bottle out of the cooler, add the lemonade packet, tighten the lid, shake the bottle well, and then enjoy.

What You’ll Need to Get:

  • Bottled water: A case of 24 16-ounce bottles of water costs around $6, or 25 cents a bottle.
  • Lemonade packets: A box of 26 individual lemonade packets starts at $6, or 25 cents a pack.
  • Poster board: A 22×28-inch poster board costs around 70 cents a sheet.

Doggie Treat and Toy Stand

Dogs seem to be significantly less vulnerable to the spread of the virus, so shoppers aren’t as wary of homemade treats for Buster or Misty.

Kids can also make braided chew toys out of old T-shirts that can be washed in hot water after purchase to limit the spread of germs.

How to Get Started:

The first thing you need to do is make your products. Once you’ve made your doggie treats, put four of them in a bag and put a price tag of $1 on each bag.  You can set your own price for your chew toys, but remember to keep it reasonable.

Then put up signs around your neighborhood or post on your local neighborhood NextDoor and Facebook groups, and let your neighbors know you’re open for business!

A person gives a dog a treat.
Getty Images

To Make Doggie Treats:

The internet is full of recipes, such as this one from Cesar’s Way (as in Cesar Millan, the celebrity dog trainer).

Healthy Pumpkin Balls


  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 4 tbsp molasses
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix the pumpkin, molasses, vegetable oil and water together in a bowl.
  3. Add the whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon to the mixture and stir it until the dough softens.
  4. Scoop out small spoonfuls of dough and roll them into balls on your hands. (Wet hands work best for this.)
  5. Set the balls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and flatten with a fork.
  6. Bake them for approximately 25 minutes until the dough is hardened.

To Make a Braided Chew Toy:

Cut a T-shirt into strips 4 inches wide and 8 inches long (or longer). Cut the shirt so that each strip encompasses the front and back of the shirt for thickness.

Tie three strips together in a knot. Twist each strip, then braid the pieces together and tie a knot in the end.

Using pieces from different colored T-shirts is best because it will make the toy look more colorful and fun.

What You’ll Need to Get:

For the doggie treats:

  • Canned pumpkin: $2.50 a can
  • Flour: A 2-pound bag costs less than $2
  • Molasses: $3 a jar
  • Plastic bags: $2 for 50
  • Poster board: A 22×28-inch poster board costs around 70 cents a sheet.

For the braided chew toy:

  • Old t-shirts: Free if you already have them, about $1 if you get them from the thrift store

Katherine Snow Smith is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.