10 tips for berry picking with toddlers

Ted and I took the kids strawberry picking for their first time, and they had a grand time.

We went to Afton Apple Orchard in Hastings, where we pick apples every fall. Their strawberry fields are on a separate, clearly marked lot just east of the main orchard. (We invited the talented Jeff Schad along to photograph the experience.)

 Jeff immediately made friends with the girls – even our sometimes-shy Jane. After just a few minutes with him, he felt like a fun uncle tagging along. 

 Maria proved to be an industrious little picker and was quite proud of her basket.

Jane was obsessed with the goats.

And Archie chilled in my baby carrier, content as ever.

It was a lovely way to celebrate June, to play and pick and be enveloped by the vast summer sky stretching out above us.

 The fruits of our labor were considerable: the most delicious strawberries. Yum.

Strawberry season can extend till mid July but may be cut short by weather. Now is the time to go! (Find the closest U-pick farm at this site.)

Here are 10 tips for taking your toddler strawberry picking: 

1. Call before you leave or check for an online update. Hours are subject to change with unpredictable summer weather.  

2. Ditch the stroller. It will not do well in rows of berries. Carry the baby or let your new walker test her legs.

3. Prepare a sun block. You’ll be out in an open field – no shelter or shade – so plan on a hat and/or sunscreen.  

4. Wear boots or old shoes. The ground might be muddy. (Besides, rainboots look adorable on a pint-sized berry picker!)

5. BYOB. Baskets are not provided, but your child will delight in having one to carry along.

6. Pack baby wipes! It’s going to get sticky.

7. Bring cash. Some U-pick farms don’t accept plastic. And your total may come to just a few dollars.

8. Consider the timing of your visit. Morning is the ideal time to pick strawberries. In fact, Afton Apple’s hours right now (unless otherwise noted) are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Also consider going on a weekday to avoid a crowd.

9. Ask to be away from the other pickers. Your request is likely to be granted, which can make things easier for both your kiddos and the others there.  

10. Go with the flow! It’s a wide open space, allowing you to see your toddlers at all times. They may be more interested in wandering the lanes than actual picking. Enjoy the experience no matter how many strawberries land in the basket. The goal is to have fun!  

 Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and three young children in Inver Grove Heights. Write her at christina@mnparent.com.