It’s always amazing to me how fascinated children are when they visit the homestead. They love the vegetable beds, the goats, the fruit trees, the chickens and, of course, the bees. (They’re stinging insects, duh).
Interested in networking with the awesomest group of future homesteaders around? Well, here’s how to host a farm tour for children! FYI, this post includes experienced advice, tutorial links and free downloads.
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If You Give a Homesteader a Tour…
Several years ago, when we moved to our acre in Utah, we decided to offer homestead tours specifically for kids. We kept them simple and short; about an hour unless the kids had lots of questions. We’d have just a few activities, depending on the season.
We’ve always been interested in and committed to community outreach. After all, we’ve learned most of what we’ve worked to know by networking with other homesteaders, gardeners, animal people, cooks, nutritionists – the list goes on and on! What would we be without community?!
Why Community Outreach is Important
Remembering that even apartment dwellers can be homesteaders, everyone has something they can share about their journey to self sufficiency. It doesn’t even matter so much if working with children isn’t your thing, or opening your garden to little feet terrifies you. The real legacy we leave behind is what we’ve shared with a child – its how we work for world peace as individuals.
Am I over stating things? I don’t really think so.
If we want the world to be a better place, then we make a difference where we are and with what we have. If what you have is a pet rabbit or a large cherry tree, then that’s what you can share. Children are like talented and resourceful sponges – they’ll drink up anything if you can make it spark their interest. And it will be that interest in the truly meaningful ways of living that will be the saving grace to an entire generation of children and, by default, an entire nation.
So, if you’re ready to make a difference in the homesteading future of a child (see, I believe in indoctrination, I just think it should be our homesteading brand of indoctrination), then here are some tips on…
How to Host a Farm Tour for Children Step by Step
The Homestead Scavenger Hunt
In order to engage the children and help them stay focused, we created a homestead scavenger hunt with about ten items on it.
- During the tour we make sure to cover all the information on the scavenger hunt and if the children are really young, we make sure to coach them a bit.
- Doing this will require you provide things to write with and something on which to write, like a clipboard.
- It’s not really that big a deal if they don’t complete them (some types just wont be interested in something so formal); it’s just and exercise to help them listen to the information you decide to share.
- This does NOT need to be fancy – just create a simple document in Word or something similar, save and print.
For clues, think of things like: “In the garden, you’ll see a bright orange glow – what is it?” Then, during the farm tour, you gently guide the children to the giant pumpkin you have growing next to your beets. They’ll be thrilled they got the clue and you can have a fun discussion on pumpkin pie and pumpkin carving, two things we all love, right?
To see one of the scavenger hunts we use – click here. Not fancy, but lots of fun.
Bait the Hook with an Activity
In the spring:
Children love to see baby chicks and goats, newly emerging seedlings and fruit tree blossoms. As the season progresses, learning how to pick tomatoes and plums can be super fun.
In the fall:
What child doesn’t love a pumpkin patch, complete with hayride. (In our case, it’s a riding mower ride with straw thrown in the trailer as Daddy drives it up and around the property)?
Hands On Learning on the Farm Tour
As I teach all ages of children, and in keeping with how I learn best, I like to teach on the farm tour as we do something with our hands.
- A great way to teach about the life cycle of a plant is to have the children plant their own seeds and take them home in a paper cup.
- A bean seedling becomes the school master and your work is done.
- You will want to consider how many kids you can handle, especially for things like visiting with possibly fragile baby animals and working with possibly fragile plants.
- I limit my tours to around ten participating children with their parents.
- Younger siblings have the slide to play on while the rest of us talk.
Homestead Work and Creativity on the Farm Tour
For the older boys:
I like to have them cut or chop or dig, especially if my husband is home to help supervise.
For the older girls:
Handling the animals, even milking the goats if I have enough grown-ups to help supervise.
Two notes here:
1) I’m very sexist on the homestead and feel there are girl jobs and boy jobs and I don’t apologize for that; I live here and I know how it works.
2) Make sure you make it clear that only supervised children are welcome to visit your homestead and emphasize supervised children because sometimes the parents get talking to each other or you and their kids set your barn on fire. Ok, back to activities.*
For the younger children:
An indoor craft is great if the weather is cool, but outdoor crafts are so much more fun, in my opinion. A fun site for educational crafts Imagine Childhood. Meagan provides monthly educational craft packets that we use and love. Click below to learn more.
Make the crafts as involved or as simple as you need to stay true to your nature and how you teach, as well as to serve the needs of your group.
Establish Rules for Your Farm Tour
Make sure you create a document for the farm tour that includes lists of rules and items they might need to bring with them like water bottles, hats and cameras. Make sure you send the homestead rules via email to the participating families before they come, if you can. I like to get an RSVP so that I can make sure I have enough supplies on hand and that’s not an unreasonable thing to request from participants.
You may also want to create a liability waiver form for the farm tour for anyone who attends to sign. I usually have attending parents sign for their minor children and have them provide a phone number and signature. I just went online and looked for typical language in legaleze and tweaked a form to suit my homestead. You can have your lawyer draw one up for you, too, if you’re cool enough to have a lawyer on retainer.
I decided early on that opening our homestead for farm tours was the best way to teach and I wanted to especially reach out to children. However, we live in a litigious society, and that’s just how it is. I’m not losing everything I’ve worked for trying to give back to the community by sharing my homestead on a farm tour only to lose it all because some crotchety, greedy idiot slips on chicken poop in my yard.
To see an example of the rule sheet we send out for our urban homestead, click here.
I would also suggest a membership in the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund – they have a “Homestead” level for people like us. To learn more, just click here.
The Bottom Line
I think, bottom line, the most important thing to share with children is your love of your homestead lifestyle; your passion will connect them to you, and through you, to the land. A child who enjoys a relationship with the earth and all it has to offer, is a happy child.
Don’t worry, you’ll do great! Especially if you serve some kind of healthy, homestead treat. Food is always a good idea.
Don’t forget to email me for that free sample from our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead! We hope the book will be of use to you, but don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what mom, author and chef Stacy Lynn Harris has to say about it:
Please share your experiences with us, if you care to, by leaving a comment on this post.