One of the best parts of cooking with your kids is that there are a vast number of teachable moments.
These might be literal moments, such as teaching fractions, history, and geography; or they can be more figurative moments, such as teaching appreciation for family meal time, family history, and different types of food.
In our family, we enjoy learning about local foods. Few things can beat knowing where your food came from, and how long of a trip it took to get to you!
I think it’s important to note something before we talk more about all the fun you can have with your children and local foods: eating local and fresh doesn’t have to be expensive and inaccessible.
We love all kinds of food in our house: the good stuff and the not-so-good-for-you-but-it-tastes-amazing stuff. You don’t need to be a health nut or spend tons of money to eat and appreciate local foods.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, how can you involve your kids in learning about local foods, appreciating the concept of slow food, and really taking something away from the whole experience?
You can do any number of things outlined below, at just about any age, and I bet your children won’t even look at it as work!
Visiting the Farmers’ Market
Visiting the farmers’ market is probably the easiest way to teach your children about local foods. It’s a magical place!
Depending on where you live, there are year-round markets, produce-only markets, markets that carry crafts, markets that also offer dairy, meat, and poultry, the list goes on and on. Find what’s in your area by visiting LocalHarvest.
Aside from the vast learning that can take place by just wandering around the market, there are a number of things you can do to ensure your child is involved and enjoying the experience.
Help your child prepare a market shopping list. This could be a written list if they can read and need to practice writing, or it can be a list with pictures that you create on the computer, with magazine clippings, or by drawing. This gives them specific things to look for.
Don’t want to call it a shopping list? Call it a Farmers’ Market Treasure Hunt. Let them dress the part. Have fun with it!
Older children can help plan a menu using items that can be purchased at the market.
Seeing how much of an entire menu you can actually get at the market is so much fun! There’s just something special about making an entire meal from items you purchased fresh, that day.
Your resources may vary, though, so perhaps you only have access to produce. There’s nothing wrong with that, you can still make it work.
Prepare an entree, such as Beef Ravioli Pizza Cups with Tomato Basil Salsa (these look like cupcakes-how fun is that to eat for dinner?!), and use fresh tomatoes and basil from the market for your salsa.
Prepare a side salad to accompany your dish, and then make a fresh fruit cobbler or ice cream sundae for dessert. I think most kids would love a meal like this!
Allowing your child to pay for items that are on their list can help them feel independent and encourage math skills.
Teach seasons and what’s available by utilizing this site to find out what’s available and when in your area.
Practice interacting with others by getting to know the vendors and farmers at the market. These folks are generally exceptionally friendly and love talking to little people about farming, produce, and all sorts of other things. Plus, they often enjoy giving little goodies to cute kids as well.
Have a child that’s not a fan of vegetables? Visiting a market just might be the magic pill you’ve been looking for.
It’s also important to note that your market visits don’t always have to focus on produce.
Many markets have vendors who sell baked goods, handmade crafts, meat and poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Most of us love baked goods, and things like fresh milk and eggs can be used to create your own baked goods.
Many products are available that can enhance your market experience, such as books, checklists, reusable bags, and more.
My favorites are this kit, which includes a booklet, activity cards, and a reusable shopping bag that is stored in a little strawberry pouch, and this beauty from Native Bear on Etsy, which includes a cute reusable shopping bag and a colorful icon-based shopping list.
At the Farmers’ Market with Kids: Recipes and Projects for Little Hands is a great book to keep on hand to help instill a love for local and fresh foods and farmers’ market in your children.
It profiles produce that is found at most farmers’ markets, gives tips on choosing the most ripe produce and other fun tidbits, provides kid-friendly recipes designed to utilize your market goodies. Divided by season, it’s also a great way to teach your children about eating seasonally.
And then there’s this beauty: The Little Chefs Project: A Collection of Kid-Friendly Tips, Tricks and Recipes for Fun in the Kitchen.
I helped write the chapter on teachable moments and let me tell you, there is a ton more great info in there. Be sure to check it out!
You can find even more great ideas for creating magical market visits with your kids by visiting these sites:
- Five Fun Farmers’ Market Learning Activities for Kids
- To Market, to Market, to Buy a Fresh Fig
- Heading to the Farmers’ Market with Kids
- Turn Ordinary Days into Magic
While these blog posts aren’t necessarily focused on market visits with your children, they do provide some great content on being in the kitchen with your kids, as well as a couple of really great measurement printables:
True Confessions: I am being compensated for my participation in the Little Chefs project. But, you guys know how much I love to talk about having your kids in the kitchen!