7 Ways to Turn Your Next Trip to the Farmers Market into a Treasure Hunt

7 Ways to Turn Your Next Trip to the Farmers Market into a Treasure Hunt

Inspired by my three-year-old's interest in finding treasures, I created a Farmers Market Treasure Hunt for my two young boys. Transforming this otherwise typical outing into an adventure seemed like a perfect way to plant the seeds that could bloom into a lifelong interest in healthy eating. Well, a mom can dream. If nothing else, it would be a fun family event. Although my boys are still little, I believe it's never too early to start teaching about the "treasure" of fresh foods, where they come from, and how they provide us with energy, or as I tell my boys, give us "power to play."

The treasure hunt consisted of 12 items, mostly fruits and veggies that we would find together during our Saturday morning adventure. The list included a mix of their favorite summertime foods along with some new items to discover. A few other fun finds were added to the list, including live music and of course a dog, since my one-year-old squeals with delight whenever he spots a furry friend.

We headed out to the Boulder Farmers Market early in the morning. Wheeling around my two little ones in a wagon, we came prepared with all of our farmers market essentials: our own bags, picnic blanket, cash and of course of list of treasures to discover. We started on our list: watermelon, beets, kale, iced coffee (for mom) and began crossing each one off the list. The treasure hunt provided the perfect platform to engage and educate my kids about new foods and healthy eating.

We smelled, touched and tasted new items like peapods and green beans. Using simple words and phrases, such as "eating from the rainbow" and engaging all of their senses like smelling herbs and flowers, helps our little ones to connect the dots. Because my boys are young, it's challenging to introduce them to new foods, especially vegetables. This adventure sparked their interest and curiosity in new flavors far beyond our regular dinnertime.

We carefully selected our purchases, a few fruits and a bag of spinach to make green smoothies later in the day. One of our favorite finds at the farmers market was Luna, a friendly Basset Hound who was generous with "kisses" (we were able to cross "doggy" off our list).

And of course every good adventure should be celebrated with music and dancing. We ended our adventure by splashing in the Boulder Creek, making mud castles and enjoying an impromptu picnic. Our morning was bursting with fun, flavor and family—a perfect way to celebrate summer.

Based on our experience, here are seven easy steps to transform a farmers market trip into a treasure hunt:

1. Create your own treasure hunting list with a kid-friendly recipe in mind

Write your list down before you head out. I added items to our treasure hunt list that we would use in green smoothies. Keep in mind you don't need to buy all of the items on your list, so don't let that limit you.

2. Arrive early

I find it far more relaxing to arrive early to get there before the crowds and while temperatures are still a bit cooler. Without a wall of people, little ones have an easier time seeing everything from strollers or wagons. If the market is less crowded, you can also encourage your kids to talk to the farmers and ask questions.

3. Show and share your enthusiasm

If you are excited about all of the beautiful, fresh foods, your kids will be, too. By turning the trip into a treasure hunt (or even a game of "I spy"), kids will be more engaged and eager to learn.

4. Teach kids about their treasures

Once you have your little ones attention, you can teach them about the treasures. Engage their senses: explain what different foods are, taste samples, let your little one pick out the apples or peaches and feel the different texture. Take your time and let the little ones enjoy the sights and sounds. Teach kids to eat from the rainbow: red strawberries, orange carrots, yellow peppers, etc. Your kids will view healthy foods in a new way.

5. Explain where food comes from

Encourage kids to ask questions to the farmers about the foods they find. Take time to explain where each item comes from.

6. Plan for a picnic

Reward your little ones for a job well done with a post treasure hunt picnic. It's a fun way to sample some of the healthy treats. Ask your kids what their favorite treasure was and about the best part of their morning.

7. Cook with your cuties

Have your little one help you prepare the foods once you get home. They are far more likely to eat that healthy dish if they had a hand in it.

Work-from-home mom of two boys, Dana, is an employee wellness manager, yoga teacher, personal trainer and wellness coach. You can follow Dana on her blog, Sandbox Meditations, focusing on staying sane, healthy and mindful through kids and chaos, where you learn to find the OM, in your hOMe.

Photo credit: Dana

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