Your local farmer's is a fantastic place to find the season's freshest produce and discover some of the unique local businesses that offer goods and services in your community. Make a trip to the market a family affair — and teach your kids a few valuable lessons — with these fun ways to make farmer's markets exciting for kids.
1. Sample the bounty.
Children love samples, and farmer's markets are usually filled with them — especially if you visit on a Saturday morning. There's no whining or complaining when little mouths are full, so encourage your kids to taste all the fruits, veggies, baked goods, and local meats and cheeses that the market has to offer.
2. Issue a challenge.
Before you go, tell your kids you're holding a contest to see who can try the greatest number of new foods. A farmer's market is a great place to issue this challenge because children love food on a stick, and the chance to spear a piece of papaya or stinky cheese with a toothpick is probably all the encouragement they need to try something exotic and new.
3. Plan a picnic.
If you have a bustling market in your area, there's a good chance local vendors will have food available for purchase. Bring a blanket or some lawn chairs and plan to purchase picnic food while you're strolling through the market — and bring bubbles or a ball so the kids can play nearby.
4. Give them money to spend.
Give each child about five dollars, and encourage them to spend it wisely. You may want to set some ground rules, but you'll be amazed to see how much more they enjoy shopping when their own money is involved.
5. Have the kids plan dinner.
Can you plan tonight's dinner with just the food you're buying from the market? Your kids probably can. Ask them to create a menu based on what you've purchased, and then invite them into the kitchen to help you prepare the meal. One suggestion: Homemade Strawberry Shortcake is even more delicious when made with the season's freshest berries.
6. Talk with the farmers.
One of the neatest things about a farmer's market is the opportunity to learn where your food comes from. Most farmers take great pride in the bounty their farms produce and love to share their experiences, so encourage your kids to ask questions. They'll enjoy the trip a lot more if their minds are engaged by the task at hand.
7. Create a scavenger hunt.
Have a little family fun by creating (or just downloading) a Farmer's Market Scavenger Hunt. What's the biggest vegetable you can find? How many farms in your county are selling produce at the market today? The questions to ask are endless — and adults should participate too!
8. Educate yourself.
If you can't tell the difference between kale and collard greens, you can't explain it to your kids. Everyone will have more fun if you educate yourself on various fruits and vegetables you're likely to see and get some great ideas for fresh, kid-friendly recipes from a book like At the Farmer's Market with Kids.
9. Time it right.
Don't visit at noon on a hot summer day if your kids tend to melt in the heat, or right before mealtime when everyone is hungry (and less likely to behave well). Your kids might also enjoy the trip more if you shop on a quiet weekday when they don't have to battle crowds of adults for the chance to see what the market has to offer.
10. Keep the momentum going.
If you find a farmer you like, plan a family field trip to visit his farm. Continue shopping with some of the local vendors whose goods you discover. Explore more whole food recipes at your family dinner table. No matter how you do it, work with your kids to sustain the healthier lifestyle that the farmer's market represents. Some day, they will thank you.