Connecting kids with nature doesn't only mean you need to hit up a trail, take a hike through the woods or splash in a lake. A great way to get kids outside in the summer and early fall is to take them to a pick your own fruit or vegetable farm. This not only gets them outside, but it builds a strong foundation for beginning to understand where some of our food comes from.
Developing Your Child's Food Literacy
Food and nature are interdependent; you cannot have one without the other. Right now there is a lot of talk about food and how it is being produced, what chemicals may or may not be involved if there are GMOs (genetically modified organisms), etc. These conversations are all very real and very important, but food as a topic isn't new. It is something that each and every person on this planet shares in common and always has. This is a profound thought on some levels and a very basic one on others. Making healthy food choices has a lot to do with food knowledge. The sooner you teach kids about the foods they eat, the more knowledge you are empowering them with.
Children are sensory learners, they need to experience it to understand it. In a world driven by technology and modernity, it is difficult to find avenues for allowing children to simply experience things for what they are. Taking children to pick your own farms is one way to facilitate this type of learning. The key is to do it more than once. With each visit, you strengthen your child’s understanding of where food comes from by building upon each learning experience.
Pick Your Own Again & Again!
The first time is a novelty, a new and exciting experience; revel in the pure happiness it brings. The sheer joy of picking the berries or plucking the apples is the first step in building a positive relationship between kids and nature. There is learning happening here too. Knowing which ones are ripe and ready to pick, and which ones to leave for another day is a valuable skill. The next level of learning takes place when you visit a second and third time. With the familiarity of a previous visit, you can dialogue more freely about what's going on in these fields. The conversations you have with your children will vary greatly depending on their age and stage. Try to focus on two or three at most so that you don’t take the joy out of the experience by overwhelming them. This is why it is so important to make several trips instead of one excursion. The most important thing in all of this is that kids are having fun while connecting with nature. Learning is the positive side effect.
Questions To Get Your Child Talking
There are limitless possibilities!
- Which ones should we pick? Which ones do we leave for another day?
- What different colours do you see?
- Are there lots of *pumpkins* or only a few?
- How many *beans* are in our basket?
- Who planted all these *strawberries*?
- Where do *apples* come from?
- What are seeds? How do they grow? What do they need?
- How many different kinds do you see?
- What is a farmer? Do they work alone?
- Why are all the *trees* planted in rows?
- Where do the *raspberries* get their water from?
- Why can we only pick one kind of *fruit* at a time?
* the asterisk denotes interchangeable terms based on what is being picked*
Find A Pick Your Own Farm
There are great websites for locating farms all over Canada. They outline the types of crops available and the picking season timeline. This too is an important learning curve for connecting with nature. The window of time when your favourite fruits and vegetables are available may be short-lived, so be sure to take advantage early on. One of the most important lessons that can be taught at a pick-your-own farm is to give thanks to at least one staff member for their hard work. This helps bring the concept of the experience full circle.
Have your children ever experienced a pick your own farm? How was the experience?
Plus, a cinnamon apples campfire recipe!
This post was originally published in August, 2013. We brought it back because we love picking our own apples!