Picking berries fun with kids

Berries are perfect for young children. They are the right size to pick, count, and eat. They are little but packed with vitamins and minerals. If children are wary of vegetables, try offering strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries.

For more learning activities see grandparentsteachtoo.org for books, and videos, and wnmufm.org “Learning Through the Seasons “for pod casts, live on WNMU-FM Tuesdays 4:30 and Saturdays 8:35 beginning Oct. 1.

Picking berries

When berries are in season, plan a berry picking morning and let children munch as you gather some to take home. Make little piles of berries, count them up as you put them into a bowl for a snack, and add them to school lunches. Place a bowl of berries next to plates at any meal and talk about what animals like to eat berries.

Discuss how food gets to our grocery stores and why berries are expensive. What people bring berries to market like farmers, pickers, truck drivers, packers, and grocery store employees?

Show children how to freeze hand picked or store bought berries. Spread them flat on cookie sheets so they do not touch each other and place in the freezer. When they are hard, transfer them to freezer bags and lay flat in the freezer. These easy snacks will not clump together.

Kid’s freezer jam

Children can smash some berries and add a few drops of honey for fresh jam on buttered bread or toast, mix in Greek yogurt, or dip for crackers.

Boiled homemade or store bought jam is about half sugar. Even low sugar jam has about 8 grams of sugar for every 20 grams (1tablespoon) of fruit.

Freezer jam takes only 30 minutes and can have less sugar. This jam uses pectin, a natural thickening agent found in and around plant cell walls that helps bind those cells together.

They can be kept in the freezer for a year or refrigerator for three months. Low sugar freezer jam recipes are found on premium pectin for less or no sugar needed packages in the canning aisle, surejell.com, and many other sites.

Children love to clean and help mash the berries with a fork or potato masher, turn on the food processor for quicker action, and measure ingredients exactly. Adults will need to stir boiling liquids on the stove. Recipes use fresh or frozen berries.

Some books about jam include “Blueberries for Sal” by McCloskey; “Bread and Jam for Francis” by Hoban; “The Giant Jam Sandwich” by Lord; “Pass the Jam, Jim” by Umansky; “The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry” by Woodand; “Jam and Jelly by Holly and Nellie” by Whelan.

Editor’s note: This column is penned by retired Marquette Area Public Schools teachers Iris Katers, Jean Hetrick, and Cheryl Anderegg. Esther Macalady is from Golden, Colorado. Tim Fox currently teaches at Superior Hills Elementary. It’s supported by Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, the School of Education, U.P. Children’s Museum, U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, and U.P. Parent Awareness of Michigan. Their book “Learning Through the Seasons” is available at area stores and www.grandparentsteachtoo.org. Their mission is to provide fun standards based activities that adults can do in the home to prepare children for school and a lifetime of learning and reduce the stress of child care.