Wherever our family travels in Washington, Oregon and BC, we always visit a produce market. Almost every destination offers a farmers’ market, whether the big-city Pike Place Market or the tiny, thriving Cannon Beach Farmersâ€™ Market. In fact, we find farmers’ markets so fun that we sought them out in Paris (mmm, stanky cheese!), Provence (chickpea crepes) and Italy (fresh tomatoes).
Here are my tips for enjoying farmersâ€™ markets with kids:
- Check the marketâ€™s website before you head out the door. Use the site to pull together a scavenger hunt for in-season produce, print out maps, look for coupons or find out when a childrenâ€™s performer will be on the stage. There may even be kidsâ€™ cooking classes offered, or special seasonal events.
- Give the kids their own spending money. Â This is particularly fun if they’re going to use a foreign currency at a cross-border market. A dollar buys few honey sticks at our local market, and five dollars gives the kids plenty to work with. Eagle-eyed children may be able to spot a perfect, locally-made craft souvenir on a vendorâ€™s table.
- Give the kids a shopping tote. They’ll grown-up and responsible. They can help carry your buys or pack their own purchases. Don’t let them fill their own bags too full, or you’ll be carrying theirs as well.
- Let them choose lunch from any one of the food vendors. The beauty of the NW and BCâ€™s diverse markets? Mom orders a pesto-topped baked potato, dad dines on pierogies and the kid scarfs down pizza.
- Talk about seasonal and local produce with kids. Ask questions like, â€œWhy donâ€™t we see any bananas at this market?â€ If youâ€™re at larger markets (like Pike Place or Granville Island Market), you will see tropical and out-of-season fruits. Ask the kids whether these foods grew here â€“ and if not, how do the kids guess that they arrived? Can they help you spot the locally grown food?
- Involve the kids in weighing, counting and paying for purchases. These activities painlessly build math skills.
- Bring change for the kids to put into the buskersâ€™ tip jars and guitar cases. Enjoy the fiddlers, guitar-strummers and singers that make the market a community event.
- Challenge your child to pick out the most unusual fruit or veg. Regional growers are showing an interest in heirloom produce, and local foragers bring back unusual mushrooms and plants. What will you find today — blue potatoes? Nettles? Giant mushrooms? Purple tomatoes?
- If youâ€™re in a hotel or rental with a kitchen, ask your child to help you assemble a locally grown dinner from the market. Ask the vendors for cooking tips and pair-with suggestions. Make sure you choose at least one dish your child can help prep, whether chopping fruit for fruit salad or snapping off green bean tips.
- Keep a watchful eye on the kids, and talk about what to do if you get lost. With bustling pedestrian traffic, itâ€™s easy to lose sight of your kids. Many parents either hold hands, put children in carriers, a stroller or a pull-wagon.
Do you have any tips that work for your family? Leave them below.