Blueberry Picking Tips for Families Visiting Pick Your Own Blueberry Farms

My kids have always loved field trips to local farms to pick things! From apples to strawberries to pumpkins to blueberries--we have been to most of our area's u-pick farms during the various seasons over the years. With blueberries in season and local farms offering some u-pick fields to visitors and pickers--it is is the perfect time to share some of our tried and true tips for picking blueberries as a family at a blueberry farm!

Fresh blueberries

Why pick blueberries? Picking blueberries is a great way to get outside, get moving--and teach kids where their food comes from! Plus--they taste great! We love blueberries by themselves as a snack, or with other fruit like in these fruit kabobs. You will often find blueberries on our breakfast menus--like in a Lemon, Blueberry & Thyme Smoothie or French Toast Sticks with Blueberry Sauce or Blueberry Oat Pancakes. Of course, blueberries also appear quite often in quick breads and desserts like blueberry cobbler or these Berries & Cream Sugar Cookie Cups. Blueberries are the perfect finger-food snack for kids! They are sweet, yummy, portable--and blueberries have a load of health benefits too. 

What are our tried and true blueberry picking tips for families visiting u-pick blueberry farms?

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Check in with the U-Pick Blueberry Farm You Plan to Visit Before your Visit. While many farms have great websites that are always loaded with up to date details and information--many do not. They may have up-to-date Facebook pages or other social media accounts--or they may simply notify their email fan-clubs or subscribers of upcoming events or seasonal changes on the farm. Bear in mind, a blueberry farm does not have unlimited supplies of fruit--so their season may be quite short if they were super busy with customers in the first days of opening! Always call ahead and get the latest details and learn the farm "rules"--and be sure to follow the farm on social media or sign up for email notifications to make sure you are aware of their latest news.

Make Sure You Know the Farm Rules.  Do you need to bring your own containers for picking and/or for transporting the berries home?  If the farm is giving one large bucket per family for picking--you will be wise to pick up some smaller buckets or containers so that each kiddo has her own container to use for collecting.  They can dump their haul into the "family" bucket when their little one gets too heavy!  Does the farm accept credit cards or cash only?  Be sure to ask about prices so that you take enough cash if it's cash only!  Is there a pet policy?  Most farms are not going to let you bring the family dog--no matter how well behaved he is! 

Take Some Time to Teach the Family About Blueberries.  I loved using themed books to get the kids excited before a new experience.  Books like Jamberry and The Berry Book are great children's books to catch little ones interest and teach them some things about blueberries before your visit. We also like to look through cookbooks or online recipes for new blueberry recipe ideas too.

Schedule your Visit to the Blueberry Farm Wisely.  We like to pick berries early in the day--as soon as the farm opens--on a weekday.  You will find that younger children (and you!) will enjoy the adventure a lot more if the weather is cooler and the farm is a little less busy with other pickers. Saturday afternoons are often very crowded--and very hot with the sun strong overhead.

Dress for Blueberry Picking.  Make sure to wear old clothes or play clothes because blueberry stains will happen.  Wear comfortable, closed toed shoes and plan to use sunscreen and even a hat since you will likely be picking berries in a sunny location for quite some time to fill a bucket--especially with kids! 

Blueberries on a bush

Have all of your Blueberry Picking Gear Packed and Ready.  I literally load all of our blueberry picking gear into a large cooler and wheel it to the car!  What is is in my blueberry picking gear stash?
  • Wet Wipes.  These are handy for quickly wiping away berry juice or random yuck that kids will encounter. 
  • Hand Sanitizer. 
  • Sunscreen and a Hat.
  • Insect Repellent.  Depending on where you live--and the farm--you may need some bug spray.
  • Water Bottles. 
  • Sturdy Containers to Transport Picked Berries Home from the Farm.  Some farms will give plastic bags as the picker's take-home-containers--and I find that transferring those bags of berries into sturdy containers or placing them in a hard sided cooler allows more berries to make it home safely and intact!
  • Small Buckets or Baskets for the Kids to Use for Picking.
  • 1 Large Berry Picking Container with a Shoulder Strap.  A container with a strap helps make the berry basket a little more manageable when wrangling little ones!
  • A Blanket or Towel and Some Activity Books & Colored Pencils.  These are necessary for the child who, inevitably, doesn't find berry picking as much fun as everyone else--and is ready to quit after about 10 minutes!
  • A Backpack or Drawstring Bag.While we are picking berries, I use a backpack to carry my wallet, phone, the wet wipes, extra sunscreen, my daughter's asthma inhaler, bug spray and some water bottles.  If necessary, a beach towel and boredom activities get stuffed in the bag too.    
Take Some Time to Teach the Family About Blueberry Picking.  Everyone knows about blueberries, they are dressed for the activity, you've planned for incidents and things like mosquitoes and ticks and you know how you are paying for the berries and how you are getting them picked and home.  Now--you need to make sure that everyone knows how to pick the blueberries!

This is a great time to ask the farm helpers for advice or a quick berry picking lesson. Essentially, look for firm berries that are not wrinkled, squishy or split open.  Make sure that the berries are blue--the ones that are still a bit pink are not quite ripe.  Be sure to teach the family how to pick the berries without breaking or damaging the plants too!  Don't forget to show everyone how to move some branches about to find hidden berry clusters that others may have missed !

Set the Expectations for your Berry Picking Adventure BEFORE you Go. Are you planning to pick pounds and pounds of berries to store away or is it just a fun nature outing with the family? If it's just a fun outing--make sure to make the blueberry picking a fun activity rather than a chore. Depending on your child's temperament and attention span--the novelty of picking berries may wear off long before the berry bucket is full! This is why we often take along a blanket or towel and some activity books just in case someone gets bored before we are finished as a group.

If you are picking berries to stash away your supply for the season--it may be best to take along an adult or two in charge of actually picking berries and another adult in charge of berry picking with the kids for fun! Another option is to just let the kids pick a small stash of blueberries for fun--and ask the farm store about pre-picked berries or even "seconds" or "jam berries" that may be discounted but still good for cooking or jam making. This way, if picking wasn't very successful--you still have berries to take home and use.

Make a Plan for the Berries Once they are Home. While blueberry picking as a family is fun--it can be pretty tiring too with little ones in tow!  Make sure that you have a plan to use or store away the blueberry stash--especially if you need to take a little time after picking before doing things with your berries!  I roughly estimate how many berries we will reasonably use over the next week--then immediately freeze the rest once we are home.  Plan to store the berries in an open container in the refrigerator as soon as possible or prepare for freezing.  Here are some tips and guides for canning, freezing, and storing fresh blueberries.

Ready for more Blueberry Adventures?  Do you have some space to grow some blueberries of your own?  I find that blueberries will even grow well in containers for smaller urban gardeners!  This is a great way to get the kids outside, learning and growing more interest in their food. We are planning to try planting blueberries in containers next spring!  

We love blueberry picking and with these tips you can have a successful blueberry picking outing with your family too!

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