The crisp, fall air and bright sunshine are ideal for picking apples. Take the kids and head to a local orchard for a day full of fun and delicious rewards.
Apples grow in nearly every state, and since many are cultivated on small, local farms, pick-your-own apple orchards operate within easy driving distance of most metropolitan areas. These businesses welcome families on fall days.
Plan the Day
Check websites, local newspapers and community bulletin boards to discover which orchards in your area let customers pick their own apples. Folks at the farmers' markets are likely to know where to go, too.
Check the website or call ahead to find out the hours the orchard is open. Ascertain if there are picnic grounds available -- many orchards have picnic tables or will recommend a convenient nearby park.
At the Orchard
Picking apples should be fun -- not hard work. Pick only enough for your family. If you want more apples than you and the kids can pick, the orchard will gladly sell them to you, already harvested.
Many orchards sell cider, too. Make sure it's pasteurized before buying it.
Plan the day to include time for a picnic and other activities offered by the apple orchard. Some have tractor-drawn hayrides through the farm; some have petting zoos with gentle farm animals; some give cider-making demonstrations.
At Days End
A day in the apple orchard will leave you and the children happily tired. Don't overdo the activity -- little arms not accustomed to this kind of work tire easily.
Encourage your children to try the different types of apples. Some are noticeably sweeter or tarter than others. Some are red, others are green.
Talk about how crops grow, who usually picks them, and how they get to market. This is a good way to teach children about food sources and agricultural systems.
Talk about making pie, cobblers, baked apples, and applesauce. Although raw apples are terrific lunchbox treats, they have numerous culinary uses, too. Make plans to prepare some of the apples in various ways.
A Few Reminders
Crisp, juicy apples, freshly picked, are scrumptious -- but don't let the kids eat more than a few. As good as apples may be for you, too many at one time can upset little tummies.
Although the air may be cool, the sun is still powerful. Wear sunscreen and hats to protect bare arms, necks, and faces.
Just as easily, the sun can disappear at this time of year. Bring sweatshirts or lightweight jackets in case it gets chilly.
Remember to apply insect repellent. Socks and long pants are a good idea for anyone tramping about in fields.