Little Locavore: 9 Green Activities for Kids in NYC

take kids to the farm

Your kid thinks vegetables grow inside a Fresh Direct delivery truck, and he might not realize that his morning orange juice actually started life on a tree. It’s time for even the tiniest New Yorkers to reconnect with their food sources. No need to consider uprooting the family to a Green Acres existence. The Big Apple is not lacking in environmentally-friendly learning opportunities. Our concrete-dominated landscapes can be a great place to raise an eco-conscious kid.

From tree planting to a farm festival, here are nine ways to grow a little locavore of your very own.

Queens Botanical Garden

When: Year round
Where: 43-50 Main Street, Flushing
Why: The museum features lots of nature-based activities for kids, including gardening demos, composting workshops with in-house nature specialists, Farmer’s Market Friday, Music in the Garden series, and more. All activities are included with the admission, a modest $4 for adults, $2 for kids 3 and over.
How to get there: Take the 7 subway to Main Street, Flushing, transfer to the  Q44 or Q20 bus, or?walk 8 blocks south to QBG.

Queens County Farm Museum

When: Open year-round, 7 days a week from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., hayrides and tours of the historic farm house on weekends only
Where: 73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Floral Park, NY
Why: The peaceful rhythms of agrarian life can be yours in Queens at this 47-acre working farm. The site includes a greenhouse, livestock, planting fields, an orchard and an herb garden. It is free of charge except during its numerous special events. May 5 is Farm Fest, a great time to bring the kids for only a $5 admission fee. You can see sheep shearing demonstrations, ride a pony and chow down on locally sourced vegetables. If the kids leave wanting to delve deeper into farm life, the Farm Museum is partnering with the Samuel Field YM-YWHA to offer a six-week summer camp program that incorporates farming and nature into its daily activities.
How to get there: E or F Train to Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike Station Q46 Bus (eastbound on Union Tpk.) to Little Neck Parkway Stop. Cross Union Turnpike and walk North on Little Neck Parkway three blocks to the museum entrance.

new york botanical gardenThe Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden

Where: New York Botanical Garden, Bronx NY
When: Open daily except Sundays, from 1:30-5:30 p.m.,until October 30, 2011.
Why: Kids and their parents can learn about plants and the natural world by taking part in hands-on gardening activities at this pocket-sized, one-and-a-half acre site. Kids can get down and dirty as they dig, weed, compost, plant, tend, and ultimately harvest. In late summer, heirloom tomatoes and an assortment of fresh herbs may tempt tiny appetites.
How to get there: Take the Metro-North Harlem local line to Botanical Garden Station. Walk across Kazimiroff Boulevard to the Garden’s Mosholu Gate entrance. By subway, take the B, D, or 4 train to Bedford Park Blvd Station. From the station exit, take the Bx 26 bus east to the Garden’s Mosholu Gate entrance. Or walk eight blocks down the hill on Bedford Park Blvd to the end (approximately 20 minutes). Turn left onto Kazimiroff Blvd and walk one block to the Mosholu Gate entrance.

Hands on on the Farm

When: Year-round
Where: Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, 630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills, Westchester
Why: Stone Barns is an 80-acre, four-season farm, whose mission is to educate people about the sources of their food, and to prepare children to steward the land that provides it. This goal is achieved with the help of a variety of educational programs. The farm activities change with the seasons, but tend towards seed planting, egg collecting and vegetable harvesting.
How to get there: Take the Metro-North Hudson line to Tarrytown. Taxis are available at the station, which is a quick ride away from the center.

MillionTreesNYC Volunteer Planting Days

When: Check the calendar for seasonal community events
Where: Locations throughout town, including Marine Park, Brooklyn and Cunningham Park, Queens.
Why: Join other environmentally–minded New Yorkers, big and small, for volunteer tree-planting activities. Participating in the city’s reforestation initiative with your child provides a terrific opportunity to work together on something that has a long-term, globally positive effect. Thousands of trees are being planted, and small fries are encouraged to join in this broad community effort.

The Alley Pond Environmental Center

When: Open seven days a week, year-round from 9a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Where: 228-06 Northern Boulevard, Douglaston, Queens
Why: The Alley Pond Environmental Center is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to teaching children and adults and to preserving Alley Pond Park’s open spaces. They are strong advocates for sustainable environmental policies and practices. Visitors can stroll the nature trails that traverse ponds, salt marshes, forests and meadows, and attend one of the many environmentally informed programs that are scheduled.
How to get there: 7 train to Main Street Flushing, where you will connect with the Q12 bus to Northern Blvd. and 223rd Street.

Greenmarkets with kidsGrand Army Plaza Greenmarket

When: Saturday from 8-4p.m, year round.
Where: Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn
Why: What better way is there for your child to understand his food than to meet the farmer who grows it? Over 600 varieties of farm-grown products are sold here. The lure of pristine produce is the main draw, but farmhouse cheeses, homemade jams and freshly baked mini-pizzas are hits too, and are sometimes available to sample. Everything sold is grown regionally, and most offerings are organic, free-range or unprocessed. It is justifiably jammed here as the day progresses, so it’s best to arrive early. This greenmarket is one of a score around the city taking part in a four-month pilot program, Compost at Greenmarket. Shoppers can drop of their collected fruit and veggie scraps, which will be transported to a compost facility to become a fertile soil amendment for local farming projects.
How to get there: 2 or 3 train to Grand Army Plaza. The open-air market is held near the Arch.

Make your own toys

When: A perfect rainy day activity
Where: At home
Why: Heather Swain’s book, Make These Toys is a how-to resource for families who would like to replace cheap, mass-marketed junk with homemade playthings. The recycler’s motto, reuse, reduce, recycle, is put to the test in Swain’s book. She gives clear directions that show you how to create toys such as a milk carton balloon boat and a cardboard tube kaleidoscope using readily available recycled goods. The book doesn’t overcomplicate, instead stressing that toy making can be a simple, stress-free family activity that doesn’t overwhelm you or the environment.

Photos: Benjamin Pitt, NYBG