Strawberry Picking with Your Kids Is Always Worth the Time (and the Mess!)

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Roberto Westbrook/Getty Images)

In the busy seasons of parenting, seasonal field trips — like berry picking — can seem like a heavy burden, only truly accessible to stay-at-home parents who do it largely for the photo ops. Plus, who wants to make a long drive to a farm with young kids who are destined to come home sticky, muddy, and over-tired anyway?

But motivated mostly by the produce boon, I’ve done almost every kind of u-pick experience with my two kids — from fancy orchards to honor-system blueberry fields. And I’m here to tell you that strawberry picking is the best of the bunch — and yes, it is totally worth your time and effort. Here’s why.

(Image credit: Meghan Splawn)

Why Strawberry Picking Is the Best for Little Kids

Strawberries grow close to the ground, so most u-pick strawberry patches use protective plastic to cover the ground and keep out pests and the space between rows is scattered with straw to regulate ground moisture. All of this makes strawberries easy for little kids to reach but it also makes the whole picking endeavor much tidier. There is little plucking and then dropping your prized berries as there is with blueberries. There are no thorny raspberry vines to contend with.

Also, as they turn from off-white to deep red, strawberries make their ripeness pretty obvious — meaning you’re a lot less likely to come home with a bucket full of underripe or tart berries.

Outside of the obvious berry boon (more on what to do with that later), taking your kids strawberry picking means you get to talk to them about where their food comes from outside of a grocery store. Plus, walking (or trotting) up and down the rows is a guaranteed way to wear them out just in time for naps.

(Image credit: Samantha Bolton)

Tips for Strawberry Picking with Kids

As a general guideline, you should do a bit of research before you go about the specific U-pick farms in your area — they can vary widely from commercial farms that sell other produce, honey, and ice cream, to sparse patches that work on an honor system. We prefer to go earlier in the day when it’s cooler, as most strawberry fields get full sun. Be sure to pack water and sunscreen, plus snacks.

  • Know the snacking policy before you go. I once had a farmer tell me, “If your kiddos go home hungry, that’s their own fault!” as he encouraged us to eat our fill on the field. Other U-picks have a strict no-snacking policy. If you run into the latter, bring a small container for sampling and pay for them before you get deep into the fields — that way the kids can snack on berries while they pick.
  • Bring your own containers. It is rare to find a U-pick farm that doesn’t charge for boxes or buckets to take home. Most will lend you a bucket for picking, but then you risk mushing berries moving them to a bag or box for the ride home. So bring your own buckets or baskets when possible.
  • Bring cash for berries (and for ice cream!). One of the best features of U-pick farms is their homemade treats like ice cream or hand pies. Don’t miss out on these because you didn’t bring cash.
(Image credit: Meghan Splawn)

What to Do with Your U-Pick Strawberries

Hopefully, you’ll be coming home from strawberry picking with boxes and buckets of berries. Once you’ve all eaten your fill, you’ll probably still have leftover strawberries longing to be baked or preserved. These are a few of my favorite strawberry recipes that I make with my two kids.