A trip to the farmers' market can be an educational, entertaining, interactive outing for the whole family. Activities before, en route and after will nurture children's understanding of food types, menu planning, finances and food production. On-site enjoyments may include fresh baking and juices, produce, fresh-cut flowers, handmade crafts, and even clowns, musicians or face painters. It's a visit that is rich in possibilities regardless of the time of year, so don't wait until July for this outing!
Preliminary planning includes checking the Yellow Pages or calling the chamber of commerce or tourist information center for details about the locations and times of operations of local markets. Some are open from spring to fall and may operate on a smaller scale in the off-season in an indoor facility. Many larger markets are open year round.
What to bring
Wear layered clothing suitable for changes in the weather. Be sure to wear good walking shoes.
â€¢ Hats and sunscreen (minimum SPF 15)
â€¢ Money for purchases and donations to performers
â€¢ Day-trip diaries
â€¢ Market bags
â€¢ Paper and pencils
â€¢ Picnic and grazing food
â€¢ Refillable water containers
â€¢ Camera or video camera
â€¢ Child-safe insect repellent
â€¢ Small first-aid kit
This outing provides an opportunity for children to learn about food production, planning and enjoyment. They learn to shop for items and make purchases to carry in their homemade market bags. Purchases may then be put to use in creating deliciously fresh dishes, such as Alphabet Soup, and making table decor, such as Squash tea light centerpieces.
Before you go
Make a rainbow search grid (ages 2 to 5)
In their day-trip diaries, children can draw a grid four squares across and four down. Starting at the top left-hand corner, every second square is colored a different color. The finished grid will have two columns of colored squares next to two columns of blank squares. The grid will be used in the Rainbow search at the market.
Make a market bag (ages 2 to 5)
(Time required: 20 minutes)
Adult assistance required
â€¢ Paper grocery bag
â€¢ Child-safe scissors
â€¢ Nontoxic markers or waxed crayons
â€¢ Colored or white paper
â€¢ Grocery flyers and magazines
â€¢ Nontoxic white glue
â€¢ Masking tape
1. Cut paper bag down to 8 inches (20 cm) high.
2. Take the paper removed from the top of the bag and cut a 2 inch (5 cm) -wide strip. Fold strip in half.
3. Draw, color and cut out pictures of fruits, vegetables or other market-related items and glue to the bag.
4. To form the bag's handle, securely staple the folded strip to the center point on each side of the bag. Allow at least 2 inches (5 cm) of the handle to overlap the sides of the bag, then staple a number of times for strength. Apply a strip of masking tape to the backside of the handle for added durability.
Make a market bag (ages 6 to 10)
(Time required: 30 minutes)
Adult assistance required
â€¢ Old sheet or towel cut to 16 x 40-inch (41 x 102 cm) (adjust length to suit child's height if necessary)
â€¢ Needle and thread if hand sewing (or use a sewing machine)
â€¢ Long shoelace
â€¢ Large safety pin
1. Fold sheet or towel in half, with patterns, if any, facing in. The 20-inch (51 cm) edges form the left- and right-hand sides of the bag.
2. Hand-stitch or use a sewing machine to sew the 20-inch (51 cm) sides of the bag. Make stitches close together for added strength.
3. Fold the top of the bag down 1/4 inch (.5 cm), then fold down 1-inch(2.5 cm). Sew along the double-folded bottom edge. Leave 1/2-inch (1 cm) open at the end to feed the shoelace through.
4. Attach the safety pin to the end of the shoelace and feed it through the opening. Knot the ends of the shoelace.
5. Invert bag so that the right side of the fabric faces out. The bag is ready to carry to the market!
While en route
Guess fruit and veggie colors (ages 2 to 5)
This guessing game fills up travel time and prepares children for the Rainbow Search at the market. Children take turns naming a color and having others name fruits or vegetables of that color.
Play a fruit and vegetable guessing game (age 6 to 10)
This version of Twenty Questions uses fruits and vegetables that can typically be found at the market. One child silently decides on a specific fruit or vegetable while the others ask yes-or-no questions about the child's choice. Questions might include, "Do you taste good with sugar on top?" "Do you grow under the ground?" or "Do you like to be in a sandwich?"
When you are there
Play rainbow search (ages 2 to 5)
Children can find items on vendors' tables or carts that match the colors in the Rainbow Search Grid in their Day-Trip Diaries. Once a matching item is spotted, children can draw a picture of the food or craft in the square next to the color. If children are uncertain of item's identity, they can ask the vendor.
aMake purchases (ages 2 to 6)
Children can begin learning more about weights, measures, counting and finances if they are allotted small sums of money to make purchases. Purchases may be carried home in their market bags or eaten at the market if a facility exists to wash the food.
Do the shopping (ages 6 to 10)
Children can scout the market for the best prices of items on their shopping lists and then make purchases. Prices paid for each item can be recorded on the shopping list next to the item. The cost of their meal may tallied once all the purchases are made. Produce should be carefully stored in market bags. This exercise builds confidence and independence, and offers a basic lesson in comparative shopping.
Play alphabet search (ages 6 to 10)
Children can search for items that represent the letters of alphabet. Results re recorded in their day trip diaries. Children may compare their results after he outing. This is a good diversion if shopping is complete and adults are still browsing.
Caution: Ensure children do not wander through the market unattended.
Follow up activities
Excerpted from Let's Get Going by Candace Weisner. Copyright 2004 by Candace Weisner. Excerpted, with permission by Red Deer Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.