Somehow, it’s the first week of May. Spring is in full swing, the pollen count is high, afternoons are spent wholly outdoors, and full day farmer’s markets are back! The girls and I are elated that we can spend a whole morning at the market now — gathering our shares and perusing the local goods.
We love our markets. However, wrangling two girls under the age of 3 at a crowded, humid market does present its challenges. Here are a few things that I do with my girls to help Miss Moo, Miss Roo, AND Mommy enjoy the day.
A Child’s Camera
Mr. E. Bunny was very kind this year and brought Moo a very durable child’s camera. She is in love with it and now carries it with us to the market every weekend. It’s great for several reasons:
- It teaches her responsibility for her own possessions and give her a sense of pride in having the privileged of carrying it with us.
- It is an effective tool to help her refocus when something distracts her from staying with us. I use it to ask something like “Moo can you find a head of lettuce and take a picture for us?” She is ecstatic to find it and snap a shot.
- It is a great tool for teaching her how to see things in perspective by showing her how to actually get what she wants to photograph in the screen before pressing the shutter.
- It gives ME a new perspective on what the market looks like to her. It’s easy to forget that the perspective of a child is very different and in many ways much more interesting.
- It gives her a product. Today I am planning on making a “portfolio” of her images as a surprise for her. Most children take great pride in being able to show others what they have made and helps them continue their interests when their pride is shared by the adults they love.
- It gives us great images that we’ll cherish in the years to come.
Let Them Help
As a mother, I want to keep my kids safe as well as foster their independence. I struggle with this most in public. I feel like I always end up with one of the girls melting down or allowing the gift of independence to infringe upon others. It was through our trips to the farmer’s markets that I learned to stop allowing my fears to hold us back. I began to understand that the more I let Moo help, the more we all enjoyed our adventures at the market. Here are a few things we have successfully enjoyed.
- Let them help you with their siblings. Moo loves to push Roo in the stroller now that she has the height and the strength to manage it mostly on her own. She feels important because she is helping me and being independent. She also learned that she can store her camera in the basket under the bottom when she is tired of carrying it.
- Make a list of what you are buying, complete with pictures.I have been using this method at the grocery store for months and it never occurred to me to use it at the market until recently. We make our list into an Eye-Spy type game and we both love the joy and giggles we get from finding the goodies on our list. You can expand this idea once the list is accomplished by finding all the colors of the rainbow, letters, and so on.
- Let them help you buy your goodies. Moo LOVES to help pick up the items we are buying and show them to the venders/farmers we purchase from each weekend.
- Trust your kids.When she says she can do it, she can. Kids this age are really honest when they can’t handle something, particularly in public.
Family Friendly Markets – Do Your Research
Living on the outskirts of a city, we have several markets to choose from during the market season. I encourage you to do you research, both on the web and in person. Not all markets are the same. Some markets are small and intimate while others are large, bustling communities. Some plan activities for children, offer a playground, and welcome small visitors, both two legged and four legged. Some are shaded. Some are in local parks. All of them are great in their own way.
Today marked opening day in our area and the market closest to us offered a petting zoo. We took advantage of that opportunity. Next week we will return to the market a little further away to visit our favorite farmers and play on the playground. The great thing about all markets is their diversity and the fluidity they offer you to come and go as your schedule allows. A quick Google search can point you in the direction of your closest markets, provide you a list of vendors, and help you plan your outing.
Let Them EAT!!
My favorite part of our farmer’s market is all of the delicious food! It is very important to explore all the vendors to get a feel for what is available. Ask questions about what they grow and make. If they don’t have something that suits your needs, ask if they know someone that does. Most of the bakers at our market can always answer allergy questions and point us to gluten free alternatives, even if that means sending us to another vendor. Remember that they are all there for the same reasons and they want to help you and build relationships.
Introduce your children to the foods that are new to them. Let them eat a strawberry while you walk to the next vendor. Let them taste the spinach leaf when they ask what it tastes like. Eat your goods while they are fresh and stop to have a snack. (I must confess that we do eat the “junk”of the local sourdough donuts right out of the fryer.) Grab a freshly squeezed lemonade and some gorgeous flowers for your table.
But most importantly, GO TO THE FARMER’S MARKET! Don’t let the idea wrangling your children deter you from this great family experience. Trust yourself and your kids – and have fun.