Outdoor Farmers' Markets are wonderful places for learning with the kids. I have fond memories of going to the Farmers’ Market as a kid. Every week during the growing season my mom would take my brother and me to the market to fill our bags with fresh, delicious produce.
These days I am dragging my own kids to the Farmers’ Market, hoping that my love of fresh, in season produce will rub off on them. Overtime I’ve realized that our weekly trips are more rewarding if I encourage their participation other than helping to carry the bags home. Here are five simple ways to help keep your kids engaged during your weekly trips.
Farmer's Market Activities for Kids
Keep Track of Seasonal Foods. My eldest son loves to make charts. He chooses five favorite foods: blackberries, peaches, tomatoes, broccoli, and pumpkins. He keeps track of which weeks these items are available, recording how long the growing season of each item is and when it is available. When all the blackberries are gone, he only need consult his chart to see when he can look forward to fresh berries again. I’ve noticed that this activity also fosters a sense of seasonal wonder and excitement when a favorite item finally appears on the scene.
Talk to the Farmers. I’ve found that the farmers are particularly responsive to kids’ questions. Last summer my son noticed that the peaches had strange holes near the stem area. He asked the farmer about it who told him it was probably due to the heavy spring rains. What a great way to learn how climate affects our food! If your children are shy you can help them by coming up with some questions before leaving home.
Help Plan Menus. Let kids plan a menu or a special dish based on what they see at the market. Should you make an veggie omelet with fresh eggs and zucchini? A winter stew with root vegetables and local beef? Perhaps homemade ice cream with cream from the local dairy sweetened with peaches and honey? Helping to plan meals lets kids know you value their contributions to the family.
Weigh and Pay for Produce. My son loves to pay the farmer and receive change. Help encourage a sense of independence in your children while also teaching them important practical life skills. Kids can learn how to choose ripe produce, weigh the desired amount and pay. You might just sneak in some math practice, too.
Participate in the Market’s Special Activities. Many markets hold weekly or intermittent events such as strawberry shortcake tastings or pumpkin carving contests. Some even have special art and crafts booths for children. Participating in these activities can help break up the shopping trip and add a little variety to the experience.
Weekly trips to the Farmers’ Market don’t have to be a chore, they are a great way to explore your neighborhood! The variety of sights, sounds and smells at Farmers’ Markets engage your children’s senses and are a fun way to teach kids important skills, foster curiosity about the seasons and encourage them to think about where their food comes from.