Hello and welcome to Farmer's Market Friday! I want to tell you why I love taking my kids to the farmers market and why they love going so much. To start, the farmers market is a fun, relaxed place where kids can touch, smell, and ask questions. No one usually seems to be in a big hurry, there are pleasant smells and pretty things to look at, and people are generally pretty pleasant (I mean what really is there to be unpleasant about at a farmers market?).
If your kids love to ask "why" - and what kid doesn't - then why not take them to a place where you can take a few extra minutes and indulge, teach and encourage them at the same time. One of the biggest favors in life that I think my parents and grandparents did for me was explaining to me the "why"s in life. So many people I know grew up as kids not knowing where things came from, how much work it took to get the food on the table, how hard their parents worked for their money and how fast it disappeared. As much as I know I often drove my parents nuts with my quest to learn more (and they often laugh now as my kids torture me with endless questions), my mom has often said that is the other side to raising self-sufficient adults who are independent thinkers.
There are a million life lessons that kids can learn from a young age and by involving kids in decision-making and understanding the mechanics of everyday life in an age-appropriate way, they build confidence in themselves and their ability to do these things as they get older. Vendors at farmers markets are usually pretty kid-friendly and some are kids themselves. I see a lot of farm families hosting booths and 4-H youths who are running booths with the help of their parents. If you visit the farmers market frequently or it is in your own community, you might just be surprised at who you see there - we have run into kids from our daughter's class, families from our daycare, longtime family friends, teachers, etc. And often the vendors will explain to the kids their favorite way to cook a new food or some little story that goes with it - you might just learn a new trick yourself. It can be amusing to watch your 4-year-old decide they want to try a new vegetable because so-and-so's mom grew it and said it tastes yummy...
With little kids, explain what different objects and plants are as you go from booth to booth. Ask them what you could do/make with an item. Ask them simple math questions they can add on their fingers like "we need to get a peach for each person in our family so its fair - how many peaches do we need to get?". Tell them before hand which specific items you are looking for and have them keep an eye out for those items. Explain to them how to pick the freshest produce (although its usually not a big issue at farmers markets where the produce is usually top quality) and then let them pick which one looks the best. Take reusable shopping bags and let them carry the items that won't break or bruise. Have them practice their "please"s and "thank you"s and "excuse me"s with vendors. Encourage them to select a new kind of produce that they have never tried before - something that appeals to them. My kids have purchased and eaten things from the farmers market they never would have tried if I had just put it on the table in front of them.
For older kids, all of the above applies but you can also give them additional responsibilities. Give them a reusable shopping bag and have them carry some of the items. Give them a couple of dollars to "manage" or let them bring some of their own saved money for a special purchase in case they see something. Let them select the produce and conduct the transaction with the vendor - make sure you pay attention and help them out if they get stuck. Ask them to think about what items could be good for snacks, lunches and incorporated in the week's dinner menu. Ask them some harder math questions like letting them know your budget and asking them to keep track of how much you have left to spend throughout the trip. Ask them to add the costs of multiple item purchases from a single vendor. Ask them to pick up business cards of vendors when they see them if its a farmers market you visit frequently so you can remember who had the items you liked the best. If they see something they want that is just for them and not for the family, make a deal that you will buy them that item in exchange for a specific chore or project. And if you have a sulky older kid, you might get a laugh reading the lesson a veteran gave my daughter last year - some lessons are priceless!
Thanks for visiting and stop back next Friday as we make a stop at another farmers market! If you like what you see, enter farmers market in the search box for other Farmers Market Friday posts and grab my button on the right to spread the word!