How do you get your kids to be so good about eating fresh fruits and vegetables?
I sure do get that question a lot. And while I think a lot of their acceptance of fresh food starts with how food is introduced while they are very young, I think my girls have a respect for garden produce because they get to be a part of pick out the food for the week.
It is absolutely possible to get kids super excited about eating real food when they get to be a part of the process. Here are a few things to keep in mind this growing season.
Getting Kids Excited about Farmers Markets
- Before you head out to the market, talk with your kids about what season it is, and what you may find at the market. Get them onto the computer and have them search out your region for what is in season when. Then have them help you with making a list of things you need for the week. Let them pick one thing they have already tried to put on the list. Then let them pick one thing new to try. Kids are more likely to eat “their” vegetable or fruit at the dinner table.
- Make sure the kids are wearing comfortable shoes and clothing to go. Get them into play clothes that fit the temperature, and rain boots or tennis shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. Some of our markets have a bit of a walk from where you can park, so if you have toddlers and/or babies, bring your baby carrier and/or strollers in case. This year I will be babywearing an 8 month old and bringing a single stroller to help carry all the goods. My 3 year old can ride in the stroller if she gets tired on the way back to the car that way too.
- Let the kids have their own re-useable bags to carry at the market. When you get to the table with “their” vegetable pick, show them how to pick one out and let them give it to the farmer to weigh, let them hand the farmer the money, and let them carry it.
- Let the kids ask for a taste. Most farmers are more than willing to let you sample their pride and joy. Especially if that means a sale for them.
- Every once and a while let them pick out something fun. Let them visit one of the flower vendors and pick something out for the kitchen table. If there is a natural soap maker, let them pick out a bar of soap for the tub. Sometimes I’ll let them pick out a canned jam or salsa from one of the Amish farmers. I usually steer clear of any “treats” or breads as I’m kinda picky on ingredients (not *everything* at the farmer’s market is “healthy.”), but we do have one vender than makes really great gluten free and soaked granola that I splurge on a few times during the summer.
- In the beginning of the growing season, let them pick out one garden starter plant. Even if you live somewhere small, or don’t have a garden, you can still grow a tomato plant in a pot. Let them pick out their own starter to tend themselves. Don’t underestimate age. My 2 year old tended her own cherry tomato plant with some guidance.
Getting Kids Excited about CSAs
- If you are blessed enough to live in an area that offers a CSA this is such a great opportunity to teach your kids about eating with the seasons for your region. Hop on the computer and find your area and what is special about each growing season. THIS is a great site to find a CSA near you.
- Make every CSA box a game. You are more than likely going to get something that you are not familiar with from time to time. Don’t let them see that questioning on your face. Get excited about trying something new. It will rub off on them. If you have no idea what a certain veggie or fruit is, look it up. Get them on the computer and look up recipes and ways to use it. If all else fails I always say – make a stir fry or soup. Because everything tastes great sautéed in butter, right?.
- When you get your CSA box sit down as a family and plan out what you are going to do with it. You get the main control for the week per your budget, but let them pick out a meal or two.
- Let them do the food prep and cooking as appropriate for their age. And don’t underestimate what they can do. My 5 year old blows me away with her understanding and abilities in the kitchen. Let them help. Does it take more time at first? YEP. But before you know it you will have some incredible kitchen help. My 5 year old can completely wash veggies by herself, tear a salad, and I can trust her to stir a pot of soup appropriately and safely. Every kid is different – but you have to start somewhere.
Getting Kids Excited about U-Pick
- We are beyond thankful to live in an area with plenty of U-Pick farms available. From strawberries in June to apples and pumpkins in October, we keep pretty busy each month with one or two seasonal produce options to glean from. Get excited about getting a bigger abundance for much less cost.
- U Picks are another great way to teach kids about seasonal eating. Hop on the computer and plan out your summer picking. Keep in mind each year may be different within a couple weeks or so depending on how your spring warmed up. I found THIS website very helpful in finding U Picks in our area.
- Do not go the very first day, or even the very first week, of picking for a particular season. You will probably be disappointed at the picking being minimal. My experience has been, wait a week or 2 and the harvest will be easier to pick from for kids because there is just more. With the exception of cherries (whose season is only about a week long anyway.), I fight the urge to go right away, and wait it out until the picking is really good.
- Dress the kids comfy and in clothes you don’t mind getting messy. Of course they are gonna shove a strawberry or 2 in their mouths and it is gonna drip everywhere. Let them. I promise it is so worth the smiles on their faces. Despite the heat, sandals are never a good option as they will be in the dust, mud, dirt, and long grasses.
- Bring your own containers. I pick large quantities (as in when we blueberry pick I am coming home with at least 60lbs of berries), so I have large containers. BUT I have small buckets or fruit boxes that the girls can carry themselves. Let them feel like they are helping.
- Show them how to pick. Don’t underestimate what they understand. My middle girl was 2 last summer and absolutely understood to pick the red strawberries versus the green ones, and the blue berries versus the white ones after she was shown how. Show them the flower buds that will become the fruit and show them how they get ripe.
- Let them taste. That is part of the fun. Yes if you have super little ones yet you are gonna have a blueberry mess in their diapers later that day. It’s ok – they will be fine.
- Don’t overstay your welcome. Don’t make it a drag. I go in with big plans, but with little ones my girls’ age, about an hour is all they can handle. We do what we can in their time frame of fun and come back another day if we have to. I was (very) pregnant last summer (as in 39 weeks when we blueberry picked.), and I didn’t want to do multiple trips, so I made our picking on the weekends so my husband could come along and help. I was pretty surprised at how much my then 4 year old could pick actually – she was a big help.
- Show them what to do with your haul. Have them help clean, sort, and freeze. Let them help you can, jam, and dehydrate. YES it takes a little more time. They will feel a part of it all if you let them do a little. It is so worth it.