Iowa State Fair: Little Hands LEARNING on the Farm

August 6, 2019

Ask someone to tell you their favorite thing about the Iowa State Fair.  I’ll bet my grandstand tickets that the answer you get includes something edible.  Probably on a stick.  

 

It’s true that corn dogs draw the masses.  But this eleven day foodfest is truly a fantastic celebration of Iowa’s people and the state’s rich agricultural heritage.  An Iowa State Fair ticket is an invitation to experience and to learn.  

 

Did you know?

  • During the fair, an average of 18 cows are milked daily in the Milking Parlor?  

  • An average 1,600 tons of manure-laden bedding is hauled away each year from the fair to be land-applied as natural fertilizer to several hundred acres of prime farm ground?  

 

Wow.  That’s a lot of stink.  It is also indicative of the vast number of farm animals that grace the stalls of the livestock barns.  

 

  • Fairgoers prepare over 65,000 entries to compete at the Iowa State Fair each year.

  • More than 40,000 ribbons, rosettes, and banners are awarded annually. 

  • Numerous competitions are held during fair time, including a Fly Tying Competition; Tall Corn Contest; Pigtail, Ponytail, Braid, Mullet & Mohawk Contest; and even a Decorated Diaper Contest.  

 

The State Fair brags the best of the best in Iowa.  While the statistics above are pretty impressive, experiencing the fair is what makes the memories.  Just ask any kid who has ever experienced Little Hands on the Farm

 

At Little Hands on the Farm, children aged 10 and younger learn about Iowa agriculture in a very real way.  This engaging exhibit allows children to do what they do best: Play. And a child that is playing is a child that is learning.  

 

Although there has been a long held belief that playing is a frivolous activity, it is quite the opposite.  Free play is fun, voluntary, imaginative, and gives children the opportunity for growth in all stages of development.  

 

At Little Hands on the Farm, children are provided an opportunity for an even more intentional form of play when adults help guide it.  The stage is set for them to learn where their food comes from and the work it takes to get that food onto their plate. All of the props are in place, so all you need to do is provide the kids and the direction to gently help them discover the answers.

 

While the child moves through her “own” farm, she will pretend to plant, grow, and harvest crops.  She will also care for livestock: collect eggs from her chickens, milk a cow, and make sure the sheep have been sheared.  Toward the end of the exhibit, she will take her farm products to the Farmer’s Market to sell, and end her journey in the Grocery Store where she can spend her hard-earned money on real products.  

 

Get in the moment; pretending you are visiting the farm.  Ask questions like, “Do you think the carrots we ate last night were grown here?” or “How do you keep Bessie so calm while you’re milking her?” or comment on how the sun probably helps the crops grow.  Providing prompts makes the role play more meaningful, and also gives you a wonderful chance to interact and have fun.

 

The Iowa State Fair starts on August 8th this year.  To plan your visit, click here for a list of kid-friendly activities.  Go eat, drink, have fun, learn, teach, and make lasting memories.  Maybe the next time someone asks you your favorite thing at the fair, your answer will be, “Learning with my child at Little Hands on the Farm.”  

 

Mentioning the pork chop-on-a-stick is entirely optional.

 

For more information on the importance of play, go to https://www.naeyc.org/resources/topics/play.

 

*Iowa State Fair statistics can be found at https://www.iowastatefair.org/about/trivia/.

 

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