As harvest time approaches and the heat of summer gives way to the cooler weather of fall, family outings and school field trips to pumpkin patches and apple orchards become more and more common. While these outings can seem like little more than entertainment at face value, there are actually some very valuable lessons that kids can learn during their visit. Here are nine of the things that your child will almost certainly learn about from a single trip to the pumpkin patch this autumn.
- The Life Cycle – Even the biggest pumpkin in the patch begins as a tiny, tiny seed, which is something that your child will learn when he visits the patch where those pumpkins grow. Most pumpkin patches and orchards that open for tours and outings also provide a guide of sorts for each group, and he will typically offer a brief explanation of the life cycle, simplified to help little ones grasp the basics.
- Agriculture and Farming Practices – Many children, especially those that live in metropolitan and urban areas, have only a faint idea of farming and how agriculture affects their own lives. Taking a trip to the pumpkin patch, where farmers actively cultivate pumpkins and other crops, can help kids gain a better understanding of the important role that farming plays in society.
- Bees and Pollination – Bees are an integral part of the pumpkin-growing process, something that kids learn when pollination is explained. In addition to the hands-on science lesson, kids can also learn that bees are more than just scary, stinging insects, and that they actually play an important role in our ecosystem.
- Weights and Measures –Pumpkins are usually sold by weight, something that your child will be able to learn when he purchases his own pumpkin for carving or painting. Parents or caregivers that are determined to help kids learn as much as possible on their trip can also help children in their care measure the pumpkins they choose while teaching them about circumference and units of measure.
- Buying and Selling – While they might be fun places to visit and learn, pumpkin patches are, above all else, a marketplace. Kids can get a hands-on, up-close-and-personal view of the mercantile process, the ins and outs of buying and selling, and the way that our society trades money for goods.
- Shapes and Colors – The prevailing image of a pumpkin is one that is large, round, and orange. In reality, however, they actually come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. Young children can practice their color and shape recognition skills at the patch, and older kids can learn about the dominant and recessive genes that cause these variations.
- Counting and Basic Math – Helping a youngster practice his counting skills, or basic addition and subtraction for kids that are a bit older, is greatly simplified when the objects in question are large and sport a bright orange hue.
- Halloween and Harvest Time Legends – The legends of Halloween aren’t always considered suitable for all children, depending upon their family’s belief system, however harvest legends from cultures around the world are a great way to help kids appreciate diversity and gain a larger world view than what they’re afforded in their own city. Using a trip to the pumpkin patch as a conversation starter about such subjects can ensure that your kids have a fun-filled afternoon that’s followed by an informative discussion around the dinner table.
- Farming is Hard Work! – When children have little-to-no working knowledge of farming or agriculture it’s easy for them to imagine that fruits and vegetables are produced in a factory alongside their favorite processed snacks. With a single trip to the pumpkin patch and a chance to observe the farmers there, kids can learn to appreciate the hard work that goes into every piece of fruit or vegetable that they eat.
Though the hot summer days may be fading into the cool, crisp days of fall, it’s still important to remember your child’s delicate skin before an outdoor adventure. Be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen and instruct him on proper behavior and safety to prevent any accidents or mishaps along the way. If you’re taking a self-guided tour of the pumpkin patch as a family, it might also be wise to brush up on your farming and gardening knowledge beforehand so that you can pass it along to your kids in the absence of an expert guide.