Your Kids Will Love Their Veggies When You Visit a Farmers' Market

Chow on 04.29.11
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Image Credit: Owen Franken/CORBIS

For foodie parents, the experience of taking your kids to the farmers' market is unbeatable.  They learn about what foods can be grown locally, sustainable farming practices, the value of food, and they have a blast at the same time.  Since spring is upon us, most seasonal markets are now open for business offering a variety of fruits, veggies, dairy and meat foods, baked goods and breads, and sometimes even beer and wine (for adults only, of course).  Many markets have an eyeful of colorful farm stands, playgrounds, buskers or bands playing, and sometimes even tasting events. (If you're not already an afficianado, check out Blythe's great piece over at TreeHugger about 5 strategies for getting the most from your farmers' market.)

Shopping and buying your food at a farmers' market can help improve the nutrition of your family too. Many of the farmers harvest their produce the morning of the market so you will be getting the freshest and ripest foods possible. This also means that the food will taste, look, and smell the best and these foods will be higher in nutrients like phytochemicals which can protect against certain cancers.  Even your picky eaters will try new foods when they are able to pick them out from the farm stand.

Even though my husband and I have a large backyard garden at our house, we still love our weekly farmer's markets outings.   Our daughter, Lilia, is 19 months old and is already familiar with the experience. We talk to her about what foods are at the stands and of course, allow her to sample the goods. And she loves being the center of attention among all the shoppers. (I have no idea where she gets it from.)

Baby at Farmers Market

Image Credit: Jenni Grover- Lilia sampling a fresh organic strawberry at our local farmers' market.

But shopping and eating are just part of the fun. With a little preparation, you can turn any trip to the farmers market into a fun, educational experience. In some places you can even find programs that put kids in charge of organizing their own farmers' market!

While Lilia's still a little too young for most of these, here are some of my favorite farmers' market activities to share with your family.

Kids Activities for the Farmer's Market

1. Create a local meal: As you are strolling around the farmers' market, pick up a variety of ingredients to make a mostly local meal. (Most of us cannot get salt and olive oil from the market, of course) Have the kids help make the meal and recap where each ingredient came from.

2. Plan a scavenger hunt: Before heading out, create a scavenger hunt for different foods or sights at your local market. As you shop, your kids can keep busy searching for the foods, objects, and farmers on their lists.

3. Give your kids some cash: Let your child purchase the food and exchange money with the farmer. This will enhance their math skills and teach them the monetary value of food. It will also build their confidence in social interaction with adults.

4. Find and purchase an unusual fruit or veggie: Have your kids help you find some produce that you would normally never have in the house. Buy it, take it home, and have the kids help cook it for dinner. This is a great way to get your family to try a variety of different foods.

5. Farmer questionnaire: Help your kids create a list of fun questions to ask some of the farmers. What time did they wake up that morning? How many animals do they have?  Or how long does it take a tomato to grow?

Ultimately healthy eating, and healthy shopping, is not just about fueling up or providing the "correct" mix of nutrients for your family. It's an opportunity to reconnect both with the food you eat, and the people who grow it. The more you can engage your kids in the full range of pleasures of selecting, buying, prepairing and cooking real, sustainable food, the better equipped they'll be to make wise food choices in the future. The fact that you'll be helping to secure a better future for their community and the planet is just icing on the organic carrot cake!

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