A local farmers' market can be a wonderland of sorts. Not only is there much to see and experience, but there’s also a lot to learn for both children and adults. From the visual appeal of colorful flowers and vegetables to the sensory smells of the freshly harvested produce and grains to the variety of flavors with cheeses and baked goods to sample, there’s something for everybody. For parents of preschoolers, the farmers' market is an excellent opportunity to teach children about local food, different types of farming, fruit and vegetable seasons, and so much more.
The Gardner School teaches students about the importance of planting and growing seeds, in addition to several cooking enrichment activities that help our students understand the farm to table process. From learning centers in our classrooms that focus on kitchens, food prep, and grocery shopping to class activities that focus on planting seeds and watching them grow, students at The Gardner School get a lot of hands-on learning experience on the topics of basic agriculture, the food production cycle, and food preparation.
Lauren Honea, Director at The Gardner School of Midtown (Nashville), says, “Our students planted a butterfly garden at school, and they have enjoyed watching the plants grow from tiny seeds into beautiful foliage.” Students at our Midtown location even planted some vegetable seeds in the school’s garden area recently, and the school chef incorporated the harvested produce into menu items so that the students could experience the vegetables they took part in planting.
To compliment these efforts, we put together a list of farmers' market activities for preschoolers to learn and explore with their families. We hope this is helpful as you venture into your neighborhood and community farmers' markets during the summer season.
Food and Plant Identification
In the classroom, preschoolers are learning colors, shapes, textures, and other important ways to identify the things of our world. With the simple beauty displayed on the stands at a farmers' market, it’s a great opportunity to teach and quiz children about fruit and vegetable identification. Even more, farmers' markets also have flowers, herbs, and multiple varieties of plants to look at and talk about with children. Not only do they get to see these items, but they can smell, touch, and sometimes even taste them!
The Value of Local Farms and Artisans
Local farms are often suppliers of produce, meats, dairy products, and even handmade artwork to grocery stores, restaurants, and other retailers. As preschoolers explore the variety of vendors at the farmers' market, talk to them about how the many products and items they’re seeing are important for not only the farmers and artists but for the stores as well. From the animals that produce the meat and eggs to the farm fields that grow crops to the local artwork and pottery, children can learn important concepts about supporting small businesses in your community. Many farmers and artisans love talking about their trade, so encourage your children to ask them questions about how they create and produce their goods.
The farmers' market is the perfect place for parents to talk to children about the importance of clean and healthy eating. From the basic food groups on display, consider walking through the farmers' market with your child to discuss the importance of a healthy and balanced diet and how it can make them stronger, smarter, and happier.
Every season is important in the farming process. As preschoolers are learning at school about the differences in seasons, the farmers' market is the perfect place to put seasons on display. The farmers' market will often only feature specific foods that can be grown or harvested at specific times of year. Talk to your child about how changes in weather patterns can help certain foods to grow and thrive at certain times of the year.
Cooking and Meal Planning
Preschoolers love to participate in the cooking and meal preparation process, so while you’re at the farmers' market, talk about buying the necessary ingredients for your upcoming meals. Allow your preschooler to pick out the best-looking produce, and take some time to examine each item with them. You can also give your child some tasks in the cooking process. Whether it’s washing produce, counting items, or stirring and mixing, they will enjoy seeing the whole process come full circle.
So, get out there and enjoy the sights, smells, tastes, and hands-on experiences of the local farmer’s market! You’ll have fun exploring together, and preschoolers will walk away with new knowledge and memories to last a lifetime.