So this half-term, Mumsnet teamed up with Tesco and organised Farm to Fork trails in several locations around the country, one of which was Leyton. They were open to any child aged between 4 and 11, and so the Daughter, having checked with me first, signed up The Boy to be part of it. She did check that it was okay for Boy Too to trail along in his pushchair, and was told this was fine, although I might have to carry him in the bakery (in fact, I didn't; he was allowed to stay in his pushchair).
We met up at Customer Service. There were supposed to be 7 kids, but in the event, only 5 turned up. There were two very bright children aged about 9 and 7, I think; a couple of small boys who were about 6 and 5, and my Boy, who is 4. I'm not sure how well the wide range of age and ability worked - the co-ordinator, Stacey, said that normally you have a class so everybody is at about the same stage of reading and writing. This lot ranged from total fluency, to my Boy who is only just beginning to read, and although he can write his name, it takes a very long time and much concentration!
We were taken up to a room in the back of the building, where the children were asked to put on hi-vis vests which had a picture of some vegetables or fruit on the front and "I'm learning where my food comes from" on the back. They were then given paper hats to decorate and write their names on - the Boy did write his name, but also drew a picture of a carrot and a loaf of bread, both recognisable once you knew what they were. He slightly threw everybody by insisting that black is his favourite colour, a theme he continued the rest of the day!
With their hats and high-vis vests on, the children were marched (literally) down to the main floor of the supermarket, and thus to the bakery department. There, they discussed what things go into making bread, and marked them off on their worksheets (the three youngest needed help with this), and were given some dough to knead and play with. "What", asked the eldest child, "was going to happen to the dough?" and she was told that this particular batch would be used for animal food as they hadn't washed their hands before kneading it.
They had to wash their hands afterwards, and this took a bit of time as the dough was very sticky! Meanwhile, the bakery manager had brought in some "Weirdoughs" for the children to taste - mini-doughnuts flavoured with bacon (surprisingly nice - I shared one with Boy Too, who enjoyed his half) and salt and vinegar. I passed on that, but the Boy had two! And a slice of "pizza bread" as the children christened the Mediterranean bread they were also invited to try. That was delicious, and I looked for some afterwards to buy, but they had sold out. Still, I shall look for it in our Tesco's.
Onwards, then, to the fruit and vegetable department, where between them they looked out for fruit and vegetables in all the colours of the rainbow, and the older ones were asked to look to see where they came from.
Then it was back off the shop floor, through the door marked "Staff only" ("You can only go there if you work there," as the Boy explained to his mother afterwards). We looked at the huge warehouse and then there was a visit to the cold store, which was - cold! The Boy covered himself with glory by answering, when asked what was kept in the fridge, "Yoghurt". And, indeed, yoghurt, milk, butter and ham featured prominently in the trolleys. Apparently the law requires these to be stored at no higher than 8C, but Tesco's internal regulations say they must be no higher than 5C. In any case, the temperatures were nicely below that, so that was all right.
Back upstairs (Boy Too and I used the rather claustrophobic lift, which was too badly lit for my taste, but I wasn't going to carry both him and his pushchair upstairs!) to the conference room, where the really hands-on part of the day started. First of all, the children - and the adults - were offered "Spooky Satsumas" ("They aren't spooky," said the Eldest Boy scornfully. "They're just ordinary satsumas in a special box." Poor Stacey had to agree that this was so!). After this, they were given the opportunity to decorate, with more or less help from Stacey, a cupcake and a gingerbread man.
The final act of the day was for the children to make sandwiches to take home for their lunch - basically cheese and salad, though I don't think a single child used any of the lettuce that was provided! The Boy said "I don't like salad!" but made his sandwich with tomato, cucumber and carrot, and later enjoyed it very much. The sandwiches were bagged up to take home in a goody-bag which included a banana, raisins, some recipe sheets and some stickers. And, of course, their worksheets and hats, and, best of all, a £20 Tesco voucher for the accompanying adults!
I was glad to have gone on the "trail" myself, as I was interested, but had had my doubts as to whether the Boy was really old enough to enjoy it, but in the event he did, very much, and was very full of it afterwards. I am not sure how much he will remember of what he learnt, but it was a fun outing for half-term. All the same, I think it was as well we weren't a bigger group, as it was hard enough for the co-ordinator to cope with the different ages and abilities as it was.