Going to farmers markets on a regular basis puts fresh, seasonal produce at kids’ eye level. They start to notice that foods vary week by week and learn what’s in season. This offers an opportunity to discuss why they won’t see a watermelon in January, and helps create family traditions like making peach pie in July.
Farmers markets introduce kids to healthy new foods and support local farmers. Instead of just taking kids along for the ride with electronics in hand, turn a visit to the farmers market into an educational field trip. This community experience helps children learn where food comes from, reinforces important social skills and offers fun math practice. Here are more ways to inspire learning.
1. Eat a Rainbow
Look for fruits and veggies in all the colors of the rainbow and try buying one of each color. This can be a lesson (and a good reminder to parents) about the importance of eating fresh, unprocessed foods. Eating each color of the rainbow provides different (and much-needed) vitamins and antioxidants to keep bodies and minds healthy and strong.
2. To Market to Market
Let your child be in charge of a small purchase. Being responsible to hold the money and choose an item to buy will help build confidence and decision-making skills. It’s also an opportunity for kids to use the scale, estimate total cost, and count the money and change.
3. Practice Communication
I’ve taught my kids to say please and thank you, but in this age of overabundant screen time, an essential missing skill for many kids is everyday conversation with adults. The farmers market gives them practice using eye contact, projecting their voices and asking meaningful questions. Asking a farmer questions such as “Why are these carrots purple?” helps kids feel a connection to those who grow the food and helps them gain understanding of where it comes from. Bonus: Teaching kids to ask questions that begin with “How” or “Why” encourages them to use analytical and evaluative skills.
4. One Potato, Two Potato
The littlest market-goers can take part in learning fun with counting practice. As they put pieces of fruit on the scale or in the bag, have them count each one aloud.
5. I Do Like Green Eggs and Ham!
Tech-savvy kids can use online resources to research what’s in season and find seasonal recipes that the family will enjoy. Meal planning and cooking provides buy-in when it’s time to eat dinner, especially when trying new foods. Don’t pass up free samples when shopping at the farmers market. They’re a great test to see if your family might like something new. Cooking together introduces key math concepts like measuring and fractions—and it’s just plain fun.
6. It’s Easy Being Green
Explain to your children how shopping at local farmers markets benefits the environment. Buying local means less gas to transport items for faraway places. Organic produce means no pesticides harmed the air or water to grow the crop. Dollars spent here contribute to the farmers' livelihood and build a sense of community. Find a full list of San Diego County farmers markets at www.sdfarmbureau.org/BuyLocal/Farmers-Markets.php.
Cherie Gough is a freelance writer and former teacher who grew up on a local chicken ranch.