Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Toddlers and Tomatoes: Getting kids from 0-5 involved at your local farmers market

Image credit- drgreene.com

The beginning is finally in sight of the long-awaited farmers market season. There is fresh produce abound, and as an adult (who enjoys to cook), it comes easily to be enthusiastic about attending the farmers market. Some kids on the other hand, may need a little extra encouragement to have a positive experience at the farmers market that will make them look forward to its weekly occurrence. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to get toddlers and preschoolers excited about coming along.

First 5 Del Norte encourages all parents to read, talk, and sing to their children to aid brain development and get a jump on early-literacy skills. There are simple ways to incorporate reading, talking, and singing into the farmers market experience.

1. Talk to your kids about food. Name and show different fruits and vegetables. Use words to describe their taste, touch, and smell. Talk about different colors, shapes, and sizes of produce.
2. Read a cookbook to your child, showing pictures to go along with the recipe or read a food-related story before making the trip to the local farmers market (We suggest Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert or Farmer’s Market Day by Shanda Trent).
3. Singing songs is an easy way to make fruits and vegetables more fun. Rhyming can also help to build a child’s vocabulary.

It’s also great to get the kids engaged while they’re at the market, in turn making your shopping experience pleasant and enjoyable! Children are naturally quite curious. Encourage them to ask questions to the vendors and farmers.  For example, “What is your favorite vegetable?” “Why do you like being a farmer?”

Try letting older kids carry their own reusable shopping bag and choose a few fruits and veggies they like, along with one new fruit or vegetable to try. When they feel responsible and included, they are more likely to get excited about the meal that comes from their selection. Let them become involved in the meal planning and preparation for the week. Two-year-olds can even help tear lettuce for a salad. Kids of any age can feel included by handing over the money to the farmer.

Exposure to healthy choices at a young age is an important building block for a positive lifelong relationship with food. Once kids are exposed to new things multiple times, they are more likely to try them (any even enjoy them!).  So bring your kids to all four of the local farmers markets happening in Del Norte County this summer, and maybe they’ll discover their new favorite vegetables themselves!

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