There are some things I never did before I became a mom, and one of them is pumpkin picking. (Or really any fruit picking, for that matter.) It just wasn't something we did when I was growing up, but now I look forward to it every year because my kids love it so much. My 4-year-old has been asking to go for the last six months. It's that much of an occasion for him.
Just like any activity with children, pumpkin picking can be stressful if you don't plan ahead. And there's one major key to our plan, which I learned from making the visit a few years in a row now: There is a best time to go.
Keep reading to find out when that is.
The Best Time to Go Pumpkin Picking with Kids
Get there at least 15 minutes before the farm even opens. You don't want to be waiting in a mile-long line because you arrived at prime picking time (spoiler alert: that's any time after the farm opens). Seriously. Everyone wants to go pumpkin picking this time of year (because this is the only time of year to go!), so you're likely going to experience crowds. And because parking is limited at most farms, if you don't get a spot on the lot, you might have to park far away and walk.
Play it safe and get there early to be the first ones in line for the hayride. You will not regret setting an early alarm that morning when you see the mile-long line on your way back to the car after a successful trip.
My trick: I even "skip" breakfast to get us all out the door a little faster. I let the kids drink a yogurt smoothie pouch in the car and then buy apple cider doughnuts to snack on while waiting in line. It's not ideal, but you only go pumpkin picking once a year, so why not?
4 More Tips for Pumpkin Picking with Kids
1. Layer up.
While it's officially fall, it doesn't always feel that way. In the early morning hours (when you get there way before the farm opens!), the kids will likely need a hoodie to stay warm. Once the sun comes out, and you're schlepping heavy pumpkins, you'll both need to peel off the layers. Plus, there are often playgrounds, hay stacks, and even jumpy castles for the kids to release some energy (see: sugary doughnuts from above), so you want to be ready when they start overheating.
2. Wear practical shoes.
It might be tempting to dress your kids in cute sandals or stylish Chucks for that perfect family photo opp among a sea of orange, but depending on the weather, it can be muddy and dusty. Everyone is better off in flat, comfy boots or sneakers. These options will make it easier to walk on the uneven terrain. And actually, a friend of mine dressed her sons in their rubber rain boots on a recent dry day as an extra precaution against ticks, so when in doubt, just wear boots.
3. Set expectations.
There are so many pumpkin choices! Massive orange gourds, stark white ones, and fun ones with bumps all over. Explain in advance that each kid can pick one and only one pumpkin each. You can even take it a step further and make it a rule that they must be able to carry their pumpkin. You know, this way they don't end up picking out a super-expensive 100-pound option,
Also, be warned: There's usually a general store filled with candy corn, caramel apples, Halloween-themed toys and even PEZ (ugh, PEZ. Why do kids always want PEZ)? It can be a bit overwhelming because there are so many options, so I always remind my kids we are there to pick a pumpkin — and that's it. Candy and toys are for another day. Maybe I seem like a buzzkill, but I did allow doughnuts for breakfast. It's all about balance.
4. Save time and energy for the extras.
Make sure to build in time for the activities that the farm provides for free, like a petting zoo, pony rides, corn mazes, or even pumpkin painting. It'll make the experience that more memorable (and worth the early wake-up time)!
Any more tips to add? Share them in the comments!