It’s summertime and school is out! The weather is great and the days are long. Moms, dads, babysitters, and grandparents are all looking for something fun to do with the wound up kiddos in their lives. It’s time to get ready for extra little visitors at your farmers’ market.
This time of year farmers’ market managers are likely receiving requests from community members who want to shop the market and keep their kids entertained. It’s easy to get caught up in requests for bounce houses and pony rides and cotton candy. But, repeat after me: “my farmers’ market is not a carnival!”
If you operate a farm-forward, grocery store in the street for your community, don’t make major changes in the focus of your market. Your loyal, year-round shoppers expect the experience they’ve come to know and love week after week. They have their shopping lists and their reusable bags, and they don’t want to have to dodge the face-painting line to get their sweet summer corn and eggplant.
Don’t get me wrong — as a mother, I always appreciate some kid-friendly elements! Bring on a few cookie vendors, fun music, and snack sized cups or baskets of fresh fruits. But I don’t want to feel like I am at the county fair when I’m grocery shopping! The key is balance.
Here are a few other clever ideas to entertain kids at your market without changing its main purpose.
Summertime Market Scavenger Hunt
Create a scavenger hunt with items to find around the market. Heirloom Tomatoes, 1 point. Green Smoothie, 1 point. Farmer in overalls, 2 points! You get the idea… Scavenger hunts give the kids something to do while they tag along as mom and dad shop.
This is a fun game for kids of all ages and can be adapted depending on what is in season or what your market offers. Add in specific elements of your market. Farmer Rosie of Cherry Creek Farm with her signature cowboy boots, 3 points! Kids can mark off each item as they see it, or pick up items from participating vendors or farmers. Pick up a Carrot Stick at Rodney’s Farm, 1 point.
Print out the scavenger hunt lists to pick up at your market welcome booth. You can even up the ante by asking farms or vendors if they would like to choose some small free items for kids to collect as they move through the market. Or you can offer a small prize when the kids turn in their completed lists at the welcome booth. A few “market bucks” or coupon for a small cookie from a generous vendor would go over great!
Temporary tattoos, stickers, small reusable bags
Walking through the farmers’ market can give even the most disciplined shopper a case of the “gimmies”! One way to keep younger shoppers happy is to give them a little freebie. By giving out a little souvenir, parents can pick up groceries without having to treat their kids to something at every booth.
Last year for National Farmers’ Market Week, The Farmers’ Market Coalition sent out stacks of I <3 Farmers’ Markets tattoos. They were a huge hit with the kids at our market! Ask parents to snap a photo of their tattooed kiddo at the market and share with their friends. You can randomly select a post and give them a few moments of fame with a re-post on your market Instagram or Facebook page.
Stock your welcome booth with other freebies like fruit and veggie stickers or bookmarks. If your market has the resources, small reusable shopping bags for the kids to fill with healthy snacks would make a great summertime souvenir.
Kid-friendly music and chef demos
Be careful not to abruptly switch all of your market’s entertainment into a show for children. Doing so can turn off your other customers who may not want to hear “Old Macdonald” on repeat as they stock up on their weekly groceries, or enjoy lunch at your market with a friend. Find the balance between “kid-friendly entertainment” and “just for kids”. Think less The Wiggles, and more a local band who can play fun kid songs in a folksy way that won’t make your other shoppers back away slowly.
Simple chef demos can also be a great way to entertain younger farmers’ market shoppers. Invite a local chef to teach a simple dish like guacamole or fruit salad. Include kids in the farmers’ market experience and get them excited about food.
Adding some kid-friendly elements a great way to keep parents visiting your market during the summer months. It’s also an investment in the future – kids grow up and eventually have to buy their own groceries! Just keep in mind your regular customers who come every week to shop, not to ride the ferris wheel. Keep the focus on the fresh delicious food and everyone will be happy!