Nature makes the best classroom for children and outdoor play is critical to children's development, learning and health.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year, my husband and I are selective about the outdoor places we bring our toddler to. While she is past the oral exploratory stage of mouthing everything in sight (and despite germ and hygiene learning activities I had engaged her in), my toddler still subconsciously touches her face often when we are out. This hard to break habit means she may still be exposed to germs, which worries me.
We really didn't want to miss out on our annual raspberry picking at Remlinger Farms this year, and decided to still go for it after reading about the added safety precautions Remlinger Farms had taken on crowd control and hygiene.
Here are pictures sharing our experience this year.
We went at the start of the raspberry season, but many berries were plump and ripe already. Remlinger Farms' raspberries don't disappoint!
My toddler grew a couple more inches this year, so she could reach for more berries comfortably.
She had longer attention span and better visual discrimination, which also meant that she could focus on berry-picking for a longer time now.
What I noticed about Remlinger Farms' safety precautions:
- Acceptance of new payment mode -- credit card, and Apple pay! With Apple pay, it is touchless payment.
- Provision of hand sanitiser in addition to hand-washing station.
- Individual cardboard boxes (to be placed within wooden baskets) for berry picking. Note: Bring your own sanitising wipe to wipe down the handles of the baskets, or opt not to use the basket (simply use the box itself for berry picking).
- Farm staff wore masks or face coverings.
- Friendly counter staff directed us to an usher who assigned us to an empty row for berry picking so we could socially distance
Tips for enhanced safety:
- Wear masks of face coverings and keep 6ft distance from others, which isn't too difficult since the berry fields are vast at Remlinger Farms.
- Don gloves when touching any public surface.
- Bring own water bottles for washing and consumption of berries on the spot. If you have young children like mine, chances are they'll ask to eat the berries right off the stalk. (Sidenote: I read from Remlinger Farms' website that while their fruits aren't organic, they are grown with natural fertilisers and safe to eat from the fields.)
- Visit at off-peak timings (like first opening hour).
Prior to your visit, check here to see if Remlinger Farms is open:
I've never appreciated summer because I grew up in the tropics (perennially sunny Singapore) where summer is all year round.
But living here in Washington, United States (US), has taught me a thing or two about summer. Summer is gorgeous because the city becomes evergreen all of a sudden. Summer is delightful because the sun is out for very long hours (till nearly 10pm!) and it chases the gloom (and cold/flu bugs away). And, summer is SHORT, too short in fact!
Since this is the first summer Gwen can fully enjoy as a walking, active little toddler, we intend to maximise it by doing lots of outdoor activities. The raspberry u-pick season just started so we headed to one of the most reputable berry farms in Washington, Remlinger Farms to pick our own raspberries.
Regretfully I don't think the raspberries at Remlinger are organic and the nearest raspberry farms are too far for travel so I took precautions - brought sanitising wet wipes and will ensure little Gwen doesn't eat the picked berries before washing.
The Raspberry U-pick Experience
We chose a cloudy day to visit so we didn't have to smother Gwen in too much sunscreen or dress her too warmly in hats and long-sleeved attire. We didn't have to bring our own basket either because Remlinger Farms supplies wooden crates with a handle for all berry pickers.
It's the first time my husband and I were picking raspberries (we're truly city kids) so we didn't know what to expect and had all these questions floating about in our heads - are the raspberry plants the right height for Gwen? Are raspberries easy to pick?
It turns out that raspberry plants can reach up to an average adult's shoulder, but have low-hanging branches with raspberry fruits that my young toddler (14 months) can conveniently reach. The stems don't have thorns and the ripe raspberries can easily be eased out of their cores with the right pressure.
It took some tries before Gwen could pick her own raspberries (she either squeezed too hard so they burst before detaching from the plant or pulled at an odd angle so the raspberry refused to budge) but when she did, she was so pleased with herself.
When she got tired of picking raspberries, we passed her raspberries to collect in the crate. She was quite a little helper.
My Thoughts on Berry Picking with Young Children
- I believe a healthy attitude towards eating starts with exposing our children to the entire process of farm to table. It helps them relate to where our food comes from. Gwen signed "eating" when she first saw the raspberries on the shrubs so I definitely think she recognised the fruit and now knows where the fruit comes from from this picking experience.
- I'm excited to incorporate the freshly picked raspberries into Gwen's meals so this reinforces her learning of the full circle of food. She usually spits out raspberries when we give it to her, but I wonder how she would react with the berries she picked on her own? If it still doesn't warm her to raspberries, I will find interesting ways to introduce the fruits, probably tossing them into salads or making them into muffins which she loves.
- Picking berries is a wonderful physical activity that gets young children to practise hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. When they stretch to reach for taller berries or squat to hunt for partially hidden ones, it is a great workout for them.
- Time spent in and with nature is always precious. I hope these outdoor experiences cultivate in Gwen a lifelong appreciation for nature.
- Go berry picking in the early morning hours when the sun isn’t at its potent and full strength yet. By the time you are done your child would have worked up an appetite for lunch!
- Bring sanitising wet wipes! Mine came in handy when Gwen stumbled onto the ground and worked lots of dirt onto her hands and clothes.
- Pack a change of clothes for emergency situations (you never know with young children!)
- Bring your own storage container (with a lid) or bag to store the berries you purchase. We were given soft cardboard containers to bring the raspberries home but those didn't come with a lid. We had to drive home carefully to prevent spilling or bruising the delicate raspberries!
No regrets for driving half-hour to get there!
Find out the crop harvest and u-pick seasons for the berry farms near where you live (or on your next holiday) and plan your trip there with your little one! In fact we're eager to pick blueberries next.
Follow #gweninnature on Instagram for my chronicles of traipsing North America with a toddler and seeing nature through her eyes.
Gorgeous photos by le husband.
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.