As a mom, I've learned that entering items into the county fair is a great motivator to help children hone their skills and develop interests. One of my daughters loves learning things just for the sake of learning. The other daughter is more of an entrepreneur, so she enjoys entering things into the fair to earn a little bit of money...and to receive verbal praise from others.
Whatever their motivation may be, I have found that when they are practicing baking something or arranging flowers or working on a sewing project, since they know it will be entered into the fair later, they are more dedicated and focused on "getting it right."
This is a great thing!
This year, Brittany made a lengthy, time-intensive baked good for the fair. She had to concentrate and focus...and she did well! I was impressed to see her thinking through each step and planning so that she could save time and eliminate extra work. She rarely had to come ask me questions. She is improving and gaining confidence in her baking skills!
Kelsi made three different baked goods. I didn't need to give her advice at all. She can bake anything and everything now; I'm pretty confident at that. I can now even trust her to bake at home while I'm away. She's that careful! I wouldn't let her fry things in hot oil while I'm away from home, but just about everything else, she does well.
1. Always, always exactly follow what the fair guidelines state for each specific contest. If they say to bring 6 uniformly shaped cookies, bring six...and make certain that they are as identical in size as you can. Also, have your child make sure that they aren't huge cookies. The judges prefer 2 to 2-1/2" sized cookies. Anything larger should be entered into the Monster Cookies section, or else it will probably be marked down for its large size.
3. Have your child bake the baked goods the same day they are to be turned in, or the night before, although the same day is better. They will taste fresher and look better. I do know a lady who enters many baked goods into the fair on one day, by placing items into the freezer as she bakes during the summer, and she does pretty well with that, but I still recommend that they be baked the same day, if possible.
4. Try to be unique in the recipes you choose. We have found that the most cookie entries are found for chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, and other popular cookies. Try gingersnap cookies or something unique and unusual. You'll have a better chance at a blue ribbon, instead of your chocolate chip cookies sitting on exhibit with 149 other chocolate chip cookie entries.
5. Have your child practice the recipe at least once before making the final fair exhibit entry. When our girls were younger, we would have them practice their baked good entries 3-4 times over the summer, before the county fair. Now that they are a little older, we have found that they usually only need to practice the recipes one time unless there is a problem.
6. Remind your child not to underbake the baked item. While the average American prefers ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookies, the fair judges won't.
If you have a judge who kindly writes comments on the back of the entry form, he or she will usually tell you that the item could have baked a little bit longer.
While this could be annoying, the judges are going by standard baking practices that have been in place for decades, so don't despair...just bake it a little bit longer than you might usually do for your own family!
7. Don't wait until the last fifteen minutes of the exhibit day to bring your child's baked item down to the fairgrounds. You may find yourself standing in a long line, or feeling frazzled because you rushed to get to the fair in time to turn in the baked item or craft. Give yourself extra time so you won't feel rushed.
8. Don't have your child enter any baked item that includes mixes, unless allowed by the rules. That means, no cake mixes, muffin mixes, commercial bread dough, etc. Sometimes, dry pudding is allowed in the baked item. You will want to check with your county fair leaders to see if they will allow minor ingredients like pudding, etc. to be added. If at all possible, make everything from scratch.
9. Help your children out by doing the dishes for them. From their perspective, their efforts at baking something new as an inexperienced baker AND cleaning up the kitchen afterward could be compared to us making the entire Thanksgiving dinner alone and then cleaning it all up by ourselves.
That is a BIG job...and I am helping my children not become totally discouraged and exhausted. They regularly do dishes after dinner, so they know how to do dishes well. But when they are baking something for the fair, I occasionally step into the kitchen and begin washing dishes and wiping countertops...just to be helpful. They notice this and appreciate it! (Who wouldn't!)
11. Begin to teach your children about being an honorable winner and an honorable loser. Explain how to react and behave when they have found out that they've won "Judge's Choice" or they don't win any ribbons at all. Both are necessary in life. We all need to learn how to be good winners and losers.
12. Realize that it will probably cost you more money for recipe ingredients or craft supplies than they will probably earn in ribbon prizes and money awards at the county fair.
At our county fair, blue ribbons earn $4 or $3; red ribbons earn $3 or $2; white ribbons earn $2 or $1.
That's not a lot of money when the ingredients for some recipes cost more than $3 and your child has practiced it three times already before making the final entry for the county fair.
That's okay! The whole point, for me as a parent, is to show them the love for cooking, baking, photography, sewing, and crafts. I don't mind if I personally come out in the red on the financial end of things...not when it comes to fair entries.
The joy of watching the smiles on their faces, seeing their confidence grow year after year, and knowing that their skills they are learning will be with them the rest of their lives...that is priceless.
Our children have learned a lot by entering items into the fair. If you have been wanting to do this with your children, but find yourself discouraged each summer with them entering nothing into the county fair, I would recommend starting out small.
During this coming school year, help your child pick out one recipe or craft idea that they might be interested in entering into next year's county fair. By starting out with one item or entry, you won't set yourself up for failure like you have in the past. Have your child bake that item once a month, trying out variations of different recipes if needed. Or, have your child spend a few minutes each week or a couple of hours each month working on that craft project or hobby.
It will pay off! You will find your child's confidence growing, and his excitement growing!
What have you done to help your children enjoy learning new tasks?
Have your children entered items into the county fair? If so, what tips can you share with us?
Hi! I'm Julieanne!
You'll find me in the kitchen
trying new Trim Healthy Mama recipes, loving God, and carrying out that love as I bless my husband and teen daughters.
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