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1: I Spy Fruits and Veggies
This simple game will occupy kids while you pick and choose your farm fresh veggies. All it takes is a little prep work: create a simple checklist of veggies, fruits, and herbs to spy as you shop (if the items on the list are things youre hoping to buy, even better). Make sure to bring along a marker or crayon for your kids to check off as they go. For younger children, use photos or clip art to illustrate. For preschool-aged kids, start with common finds such as cucumbers, corn, peaches, and plums. For older kids, make it challenging with less recognizable foods like ground cherries, okra, eggplant, or currants. As your kids work their way around the market searching for their fruits and vegetables, youll have an easier time finding what you need.
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2: The Search for Mutant Veggies
In this hunt to find odd-looking vegetables or fruits, kids will explore the market with a new set of eyes. Youll be amazed at what theyll find on a good day, from conjoined-twin carrots to eggplant with strange (and sometimes inappropriate) appendages. If they dont discover something totally mutant, there are plenty of hybrids that will provide some entertainment. Just keep a look out for peculiar shapes or unusual colors in ordinary fruits and vegetables, like candy cane-striped beets, yellow watermelons, or purple cauliflowers. Be sure to bring some of your finds home and discover how these misfits, which most grocery stores toss, taste just the same as their perfect counterparts — maybe even a tad bit better!
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3: Chef of the Day
Theres little or no cooking experience required to be crowned Chef of the Day. And this honor may go further than you think in getting kids to have fun at the farmers market. Give your chef the freedom to select meats, cheeses, and fresh fruits and vegetables to create their signature meal at home. (You may want to discuss a budget in advance so that things to dont get out of hand.) For young children, a meal can be as simple as a colorful fruit salad or veggie kabob, while tweens or teens may enjoy devising something more elaborate, with several courses. This is an ideal opportunity to teach your kids about shopping and cooking with local and fresh ingredients.
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4: Instant Picnic
Pack a blanket and cooler for this farmers market activity. Thinking about what theyll get to eat at the end of the outing will keep kids occupied while you get your shopping done. From donuts and fresh berries to beef jerky and pickles, let the kids wander around the market, designing their picnic breakfast or lunch. Youll be filling up your bags with ingredients for the week as they work by your side on an instant picnic. Decide together where youd like to have your al fresco meal and once the shoppings done, head over to your spot, spread out, and eat together.
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5: Get to Know your Farmer
Calling young journalists! Have kids discover where their food comes from by talking to farmers themselves. At home, work with your kids to create a series of questions to ask your local farmer. The next time you go to the market, they can bring their notebook and conduct a mini-interview. Simple queries like, What time do you have to get up in the morning? to more complicated questions like, What does it mean to be organic? help your kids focus on what theyd like to learn. Whether its about growing, storing, or cooking, their curiosity will guide the interview. Note: If your market gets crowded, you may want to arrange a less busy time in advance with the farmer.
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6: Fairy Tale Fun
Literature and vegetables? Thats right. Surprisingly, many childrens books feature our favorite fruits and vegetables. Think bean seeds in Jack & the Beanstalk, apples in Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, and pumpkins in Cinderella. Writers have always been intrigued with fruits and veggies, finding whimsical ways to incorporate them into their stories. Before you head to the farmers market, clock in some reading time with the kids. Select a book with a fruit or vegetable as the star, read it together, and then head out to shop. Keep your eyes open for that vegetable or fruit, with a gentle reminder of the story you just read. Here are a few more books to keep in mind for the younger kids: Blueberries for Sal, Jamberry, Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick Pears, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
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7: Chores Can Be Fun
We all hope to teach our kids to pitch in around the house, but its a lot easier when the chores are fun. And when they help in the kitchen, the reward is often pretty tasty. Next time youre at the market, let your kids pick foods with chores in mind. Easy tasks include husking corn, snapping beans, shelling peas, and pitting cherries. Back home, get them to work, showing how fun it can be. Or try letting the kids choose to give some veggies a bath. Fill the sink with water and let them wash and scrub vegetables. With wet hands and splashing water, theyll feel proud to help and will learn about safe ways to handle foods.
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8: Cook with Your Kids
Head out to the farmers market with your kids with the goal of making something together at home. You can decide in advance what you want to make or let the days finds inspire — its up to you! Cooking with your kids allows for quality time together. As one of you chops, the other can stir. Easy and rewarding favorites include dill pickles, homemade ice pops, and fruit smoothies. You can even decide on a different food to make each week. Kids will be much more eager to join you at the market knowing they will be allowed to cook with you later.
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9: Cook, Paint with, and Eat Your Fruits & Veggies
Young artists and scientists will enjoy this vibrant project, which uses the natural dyes found in everyday vegetables. Use beets, spinach, carrots, onions, berries, and red cabbage to create colorful dyes, just like the pioneers did before the use of synthetic paints. Let your children come to the market with you to select a few fruits or veggies to create their own tints. Simply slow-cook each vegetable in a saucepan with a small amount of water until the water changes color and watch your kids amazement as they create a palette of colors. Make sure to remove the vegetables from the water and reserve for eating — a little salt or butter will do the trick!
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10: Play With Your Veggies
Inspired by the book Play with your Food by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, this entertaining activity is an all-time favorite for kids (and adults). Although the fun will start at the market, it will continue for hours back at home as your children create whimsical characters out of common fruits and vegetables, like pears, cherries, eggplant, or okra. Let your kids select a certain number of fruits or veggies while you get your shopping done at the market. Instruct them to look before they pick, imagining eyes, legs or hair for their own insect, alien, what-have-you. At home, use simple tools such as a paring knife, and spices, cloves or mustard seeds to transform your fruits and veggies into creatures. Once youve admired your creations for a day or two, make sure not to waste them — just chop them up and make a stew or chili.
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