Learn Healthy Habits at Your Local Farmers Market

In the spring, summer, or fall, your neighborhood farmers market is a terrific place to spend a sunny day. Not only can you bond with your family over locally-grown fresh fruits and veggies (and other locally-made products– fancy soap, anyone?), the farmers market can also be a wonderful setting for teaching countless valuable lessons.

Whether you are a homeschooler or simply a parent who is always looking for teaching opportunities, these ideas will expand on your farmers market outing:

Farmers Market Tips

Before your trip, make sure you are prepared, especially if this is your first visit:

  • Prepare to spend time outdoors, which might mean putting on sunscreen or bringing a jacket, depending on the season and the weather.
  • Pack reusable shopping bags, as some vendors may not have bags available.
  • Bring cash, as the vendors might not be able to accept credit or debit cards.
  • Plan to check out non-produce goodies as well. Many vendors also sell related items, such as fresh flowers, honey, eggs, and handmade crafts.

Flavors that Change with the Seasons

Make a stop at your favorite grocery store the day before you head to the farmers market. Help the kids make a list of all the fruits and vegetables they can name in the produce department. Take the list to the farmers market with you, and check off every food you find on your list.

Ask your children why they think some produce is available at the grocery and not the farmers market. Explain that certain fruits and veggies only grow during specific seasons, and that the produce at the grocery store is often shipped in from far away, while the farmers market offers food grown near your home. Teach them some benefits of choosing local foods, such as richer flavors, increased nutrients and benefits to your local economy and environment. 

Play Walking Bingo

Keep kids of all ages engaged as you shop with this fun twist on an old favorite game: make simple bingo cards with five squares across and five squares down. Based on each child’s age and knowledge, print or draw items for them to look for at the farmers market. This can be as detailed as particular squash varieties, or as general as shapes and colors such as a red fruit, a yellow vegetable or something you eat that is a green circle.

Take the cards to an office supply store and have them laminated, or do it yourself using clear contact paper. You can back the bingo cards with thin cardboard to make them even sturdier (cut up cereal boxes work great!). Give children crayons or markers they can use to mark off their discoveries. The first one to fill in a line gets to pick a new fruit or veggie for the family to try.

Meal Planning on the Go

Involving kids in menu planning is a super way to encourage them to try different, healthy foods. Before you begin shopping, ask them to help you pick some new foods you can try during the coming week. Challenge them to discover one item each for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack. Aim for items they have never tasted. At the very least, try to choose a variety that is new for them, such as purple string beans or orange cauliflower.

Ask them what they could swap for the items picked to make a healthier meal. For instance, could they have a fresh bowl of cherries instead of a cookie? How about broccoli with cheese sauce instead of mac and cheese? Explain that they don’t have to give up their favorite comfort foods altogether, but that even exchanging foods a few times a week will help them become stronger, faster, and healthier than they already are.

Guess How It Grows

Even young children may realize that fruits and vegetables come from the ground, but do they know that carrots grow under the ground, that raspberries grow on bushes, or that beans grow on stalks? Look through and talk about the different produce that you buy, and ask for their best guesses on how the fruits and vegetables are grown. If the vendor is not busy, ask her if she would explain how she planted, grew, and harvested the items.

Take it a step further and ask your kids if they would like to plant something at home. If so, choose something they will eat that grows well in your area and help them create a small garden in your yard. Alternatively, start a compact container garden, which is ideal even if you don’t have much space. This way, your kids can experience the farm-to-table process close up.

After the Visit

Keep the learning going even after you go home:

  • Set up a tasting party by making a tray of sliced, diced, and chopped fruits and vegetables.
  • Ask kids if they can remember the names of the produce you purchased.
  • Create a survey, asking each child to list his or her favorites in order from first to last, and then create a chart showing which items were hits and which were misses.
  • Look up recipes together to learn a new way to prepare an old favorite fruit or veggie.

 How do you turn a trip to the local farmer’s market into an educational experience? Share with us!

Tags : education   life lessons   health   activities   outings   

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