Imagine rows of apple trees and baskets overflowing with juicy red fruit. Nothing says fall quite like a trip to the apple orchard, but there are a few things that make apple picking way more fun and a lot more successful when it comes to kids and family.
From what to bring to how to pick an apple (hint: there's a trick to it), these handy hacks will make your orchard experience better than ever before.
Find a Kid-Friendly Orchard Near You
Originally, the point of an apple orchard was just to grow apples (and we're all for that goal). However, a lot of orchards also specialize in an entire kid-friendly experience. If you're apple picking with your kids, go for an orchard that goes beyond rows of apple trees and offers a whole family experience.
Before you finalize your plans, look at orchards near you and choose one that has some of these great amenities kids love:
- Hayrides or wagon rides
- Cider and donuts
- Petting zoo or animals to watch
- Corn mazes
Also, consider the kind of apples your family likes and whether the orchard has those. This could affect the timing of your visit, too.
Set Some Family Apple Picking Expectations
People go apple picking for more than just ... apple picking. You might want to grab some great fall photos for Instagram (with a super cute apple picking caption) or get a bunch of apples for making sauce or pies. Maybe you just want that iconic family experience. The key here is knowing what you want and making sure everyone has the same expectations for the day.
We've all had the experience of having a seemingly simple goal and being completely stymied by a toddler in full-on meltdown mode. Little ones don't always have the same goals as everyone else in your group, so spend some time talking about what apple picking is like and how they'll act there.
Bring a Snack for the Littles
Although apple orchards tend to have some food available, there's no guarantee it's going to be what your kids want to eat. We recommend grabbing some granola bars, water or juice, and other kid-friendly snacks from home. You can hand them out as a distraction if people start to lose focus on the whole apple picking thing, too.
Word to the wise: Having snacks is a great way to keep your kids from grazing on those fallen apples under the trees. Those apples tend to attract wasps and bees, so skip them and go for the ones on the tree instead.
Dress for the Weather (and All Possibilities)
We get it. In your mind, the experience of picking apples is all about a sunny day with perfect weather. There's always the chance it will work out like that, but pack for a little weather randomness just in case.
Bring a bag with everything you'll need to keep the family comfy while you're picking. Here's what we like to include:
- Sun hats
- Rain jackets and/or umbrellas
- Sweaters or light jackets
- Bug spray and sunblock
- Hand warmers if it's chilly
Remember the All-Terrain Stroller or Pack
Carrying a baby through an orchard isn't as awesome as it sounds. We're talking uneven ground, and you'll need your hands to pick apples. If your little one likes riding in a front pack or backpack, that can be ideal.
If not (or if it's hard on your back), an all-terrain stroller is totally the way to go. As an added bonus, you can stash your gear and all your apples in the stroller basket.
Pick Off the Apple Tree the Right Way
It might seem like a simple process of reaching up and grabbing an apple, but there's actually a right way to pick. Don't shake the branch or pull super hard to get the apples off. You might not get the best fruit, and you could even damage the tree.
Instead, working from the lower outside branches (an easy reach for kids), hold an apple gently and twist as you pull. If it comes off easily in your hand, it's ripe and probably delicious. If not, leave it there to ripen and move on to another.
Wash Your Apples Before Eating Them
It might be tempting to put that apple right in your mouth after you take it off the tree (and we don't want to be the ones to tell your toddler not to). The thing is, a lot of orchards spray their fruit to keep it looking great and minimize apple-loving pests. You should wash off the spray before you take that first bite.
If you really want to eat apples right off the tree, look for an organic orchard near you. The apples might not look as picture-perfect, but they won't be sprayed.
Handle Your Apples With Care
This probably isn't news to you, but apples bruise. Place them gently in your bag or basket as you're picking and help kids do the same. When you get them home, keep them someplace cool so they stay fresh longer. That way you can enjoy apples and make apple recipes all season long.
Embrace the Family Fun
Fall family activities like farm visits and apple picking don't have to be picture-perfect. Ultimately, the most important apple picking tip of all is to relax and have fun with your family. Nothing else matters as much. Even if you end up with a few bruised apples from rough handling or a damp sweater because of a drizzle, you'll still have happy smiles and great memories. Do your best to control the variables, and then let go and embrace the family fun.