9 Ways to Teach Your Toddler the Five Senses at the Local Farmers Market

We are very fortunate that we live within walking distance of our city’s farmers market. I love to shop at the market for many reasons: supporting local farmers, shopping in-season, buying fresh, local produce and other food products, and building relationships with some of the vendors that I buy from.

I also love to take my kids to the market with me. I can teach them about where their food comes from and when fresh fruits and vegetables are in season, they can meet the farmers, I can help them explore new foods, and they can learn that the best foods don’t come in colorful packages from the grocery store.

There are a lot of great learning experiences for toddlers at the farmers market, and lots of opportunities for them to explore their five senses. Toddlers learn so much through everyday experiences and activities because they are so curious and aware of their surroundings and environment.

Here are nine ways you can teach your toddler about their five senses by visiting your local farmers market:

  • What’s That Sound? 1 of 9
    What's That Sound?
    As you walk into the market, encourage your toddler to be aware of not just what they can see, but also what they hear around them. Ask them to listen carefully and tell you what sounds they hear. You'll probably be surprised at the things they hear that you didn't even notice! Playing sound games can help to develop early listening skills, which are important for academic success later in life!
  • What Do You See? 2 of 9
    What Do You See?
    It's also great to ask your toddler open-ended questions like, "What do you see?" Get down on your toddler's level, and try to see things the way they do. Things look much different from a toddler's point of view. Ask them about shapes, letters or numbers that they might see. You can also work with them on counting. Toddlers thrive on learning by repetition, so you can repeat these concepts often throughout your visits to the market.
  • Name That Color 3 of 9
    Name That Color
    While purchasing different produce, play the "Name that Color" game with your toddler. Ask them to tell you the colors of the different fruits and vegetables that you are buying. Or, if they are still learning their colors, you can name a color, and ask them to find something that matches that color.
  • What Do You Smell? 4 of 9
    What Do You Smell?
    As you walk through the market, ask your toddler to tell you if they smell anything. At this age, it may be hard for a toddler to describe what something smells like, but they can often tell you what they smell. (My kids always pick up on the freshly popped popcorn as we pass the popcorn vendor!) They can also smell different flowers and plants at the market this time of year, as well as the different smells of fresh produce. Ask them to find something that smells good, and something that smells bad to help to begin to teach them about differentiating between smells.
  • Try a Taste 5 of 9
    Try a Taste
    Many times a farmer or vendor will let your child taste a piece of fruit or vegetable that you are going to buy. If they don't offer, don't be afraid to ask for your child! Encourage your child to taste something new that they haven't had before, or let them pick what they would like to taste from the variety in front of them. Ask them how it tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, etc. And then offer them something that tastes different, so they can begin to learn the different tastes of fruits and veggies. Often kids may try something new if they get to choose, rather than when they're served it on their plate at dinner time.
  • How Does It Feel? 6 of 9
    How Does It Feel?
    Encourage your toddler to explore the different things they see by gently touching and feeling them. Ask them to describe how it feels or give them options that can help them to express themselves like, "Is it hard, or soft?" My son was really intrigued by the squirrel corn, and we talked about how it was hard and dried out so the squirrels could eat it, but the corn on the cob that we eat is soft when it's cooked.
  • Enjoy a Tasty Treat 7 of 9
    Enjoy a Tasty Treat
    We often get some kind of treat while at the market, whether it's a small piece of candy, a small cookie, or just a piece of fruit. I want my kids to build good associations with going to the farmers market and I have no problem with offering them a little treat to encourage their love of the market. And if you're lucky and get to know the farmers like we do, they will often offer you some of their goodies. This week, our favorite farmer gave us a strawberry lemonade cupcake that my son thoroughly enjoyed!
  • Find Something New 8 of 9
    Find Something New
    Encourage your toddler to find something in the market that they're unfamiliar with, and then help them to explore it using all their different senses. What color is it? What shape is it? What does it smell like? How does it feel? This is a great way to teach young children about using their different senses to discover and learn about new things in their environment. It can also help to teach them about different kinds of fruits, vegetables, and other foods. I'm sure many of us have seen the Jamie Oliver clip of elementary children who don't know what basic vegetables, like a tomato or cauliflower, are. I think it's important to raise children who know how to pick out healthy foods, and teach them where those foods come from.
  • Talk to a Farmer 9 of 9
    Talk to a Farmer
    This one can be for you as your child listens, or for your toddler if they aren't too shy. Ask the vendors questions about the food that they sell. How does it grow — on trees or in the ground? How do they know when it's ready to be picked? How do they raise their animals? This isn't just a good lesson for your children, it's important for you as well in helping you find farmers and vendors whose practices you agree with and who you can feel good buying food from.

Emily writes about green and natural living at Live Renewed.
Follow Emily on Facebook and Twitter for updates!

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