When you take your kids along for the ride to the local farmers’ market, there’s more than just good, healthy food to be found.
One of the great pleasures of spring’s arrival is the bounty of fresh foods and flavors we’ve been hungry for all winter long. Depending on where you live, the farmers’ markets in your town may be starting to open up for the season. Whether you’re parenting a picky eater or a burgeoning young foodie, a field trip to your local farmers’ market is a perfect way to support a healthy food system, celebrate healthy eating, and expand children’s palates and skills. Not only will your kids get to support the work of farmers in your community, they’ll learn where food comes from and what grows in your area (all while enjoying live music and other entertainment local markets have to offer). Here are a handful of fun ways to make the most of your market trips with kids.
1. Turn shopping into a food-filled scavenger hunt. Before you head to the farmers’ market, download these printable activities from Farmers’ Market Create-and-Play Activity Book and take the scavenger hunt list along to turn your shopping experience into a learning adventure. Accompany children as they search for foods that grow underground (say, potatoes) or foods with seeds you can eat (peas in a pod). This activity will familiarize young shoppers with the wide range of offerings — from foods and flowers to handmade goods — grown or produced in your region.
2. Meet the farmers. As you walk around the market, stop by as many different booths as you can. Encourage children to say hello to the farmers and to try free samples set out for them to taste. When you or your children encounter an unfamiliar vegetable (such as kohlrabi or fennel), ask the farmer how he or she likes to eat it or cook with it. Don’t forget to introduce your children to the dairy farmers and buy butter and eggs to take home, too.
3. Eat the Rainbow. Give kids a say in what you buy! Ask them to pick out some colorful fruits and veggies to bring home. (Use the Eat a Rainbow activity sheet for a list of foods to try.) Explain that foods of different colors provide different vitamins and nutrients their bodies need. At home, have them keep track of what they eat over the course of the week by posting the sheet on the fridge.
4. Get cooking! Help your kids pick out a few recipes you can cook together using their farmers’ market finds. For kid-friendly, farm-to-table recipes, check out the salads and plant-based recipes in Cooking Class.
5. Recreate the spirit of the farmers’ market at home. For a rainy day activity, set up a creative play area modeled after a real farmers’ market. Set out pretend fruits and veggies, play money, shopping bags or baskets, and shopping lists on a table or wooden crates. Take turns pretending to be a farmer selling produce and a customer buying it. Then step back and let your little ones’ imaginations take over.
6. Cultivate young growers. Take inspiration from your farmers’ market field trip and have kids help with planting a vegetable garden in your yard or in pots and containers. You can pick up starter plants at the market or plant carrots, lettuces, and radishes from seed.
As the kids shop, play, and eat, they’ll learn important classroom and life skills, such as identifying the names of fruits and vegetables, practicing addition and subtraction, and making healthy food choices. For Farmers Market lesson plans aligned to Common Core curriculum standards, download this educator’s guide and add a learning element to your children’s farmers market adventures!