Can I WWOOF with my kids?
WWOOF organisations around the world are often asked if it is possible to WWOOF with children and the answer is, “Yes, absolutely”. WWOOFing with children can be an incredibly rewarding experience, for everyone involved.
There are a few things you may want to think about before you set off on a WWOOF adventure with kids in tow. I have compiled the information sent to us from past members who have WWOOFed and Hosted children to come up with a few thoughts for you to mull over. Also if you search “WWOOFing with Children” you will find there is plenty of information on discussions and blogs around the world from those who have been there and done that before.
Some thoughts to consider before embarking on a WWOOF experience with your family:
*How will your kids cope with new places and people, sleeping in strange beds and eating different foods?
*How will your kids handle all the moving, and saying goodbye to dear new friends and family? If your child is not good with change then you may need to put off WWOOFing until they are at a stage where they can enjoy the experience.
*Will you need to school your children on your journey? How will you accommodate this and ensure your WWOOF duties are fulfilled.
*Farms can be dangerous places, they are not playgrounds. Your children will need a certain level of supervision, are you prepared for this part of the WWOOF exchange?
*Some hosts live in very remote areas and you cannot just pop to the shop if you run out of something. You will need to carry all of your child’s needs with you.
*Do you want your kids to get involved with the farm work(within their capabilities)? What types of experiences would you like your children to have – animal care, planting, harvesting, building? If so you need to find hosts that can provide experiences for them also.
* * * * * * * *
How Do I choose a WWOOF host?
Many WWOOF organisations have a box on each host listing which indicates whether that host can accommodate children or not This is a good place to start your shortlist. There are many reasons hosts can not take in children, such as lack of room, safety issues on the farm, no activities for a child to be involved in…please do not be offended if a host cannot take children, just understand that this place is not suitable for you and move on to the next listing.
Once you have a short list of interesting hosts who can take children contact the host as soon as possible to discuss all the elements involved when WWOOFing with children. This will help you decide where you and your family will be WWOOFing.
Important points to tell your host in your first email/phone call/letter:
*Let them know you are WWOOFing with kids and approximate dates of exchange. Check that this is suitable for the host. It may be that at certain times of year hosts are too busy, too full, or the work is not appropriate to have children around.
*The number of children you will have in tow.
*Your children’s age is helpful so hosts can gauge whether or not they have jobs your children can help with.
*Any special dietary requirements or allergies that your family may have e.g. if your child is terribly allergic to cats or horses then a farm with those animals is probably not suitable.
*What type of experience you are looking for.
Questions you should ask your host:
*Will there be other kids on the farm? This can provide important entertainment and company. But also remember that kids need time apart from one another to avoid too much fighting,whining and rivalry from occurring. Even the best of friends need time to themselves.
*How safe is the farm for children? Is it suitable for children at the age of your kids?
*What are the accomodation arrangements? Will you be sharing with other WWOOFers? Is the accommodation some distance from where work will be done?
*What type of jobs are available for my children to help with?
*What hours are you expected to work and what type of jobs will you be doing?
*What type of things are there to do in your time off or on rainy days.
*How does the host normally integrate WWOOFing families into their home and daily life?
* * * * * * * *
WWOOF is about helping the host in exchange for your food, board and experiences. If you have children with you(especially younger ones) the time you can give to your host will be limited so you need to work out an arrangement, that suits both parties, in order to accommodate this:
*Consider providing food for your children during your stay, or one meal a day for your family.
*One partner could do a longer day while the other minds kids, or you could do split shifts to cover your hours.
*Help with minding your hosts children so that your host can get on with work.
*Do a little extra around meal preparation and clean up and keeping the house tidy for your host, this will help ensure that you don’t become an added burden to your host.
Discuss these arrangements before you arrive at the farm and ensure that everyone is happy with the agreed upon arrangement.
* * * * * * * *
Once you are at the farm it will be important to set limits for your child:
*Most importantly let you kids know where it is safe to play, and any ‘out of bounds’ area. Set these up with your host.
*When is it ok(or necessary) to call you away from your work? Children need to be aware that WWOOFing is about exchange and that you and your hosts have jobs to get on with during the day.
*Let your kids know who to go to for help, or advice, food or water. Remind them that they are guests and need to be respectful of the hosts property.
*Do not expect your children to be looked after by the host or other WWOOFers there, unless previously arranged.
* * * * * * * *
Why would I want to WWOOF with my kids?
While there are a few things to consider before you head off with your kids, there are plenty of great reasons to go WWOOFing with your children:
*They will learn! There is plenty of learning to do, about new places and people, about themselves and how to get on with life, about you, their family and their place in it. They will learn about their planet, organics and sustainable living(very important for the next generation to know). It will make them more aware of their place in the cycle of life, and generally more aware of the world around them. They will learn about food, new food, growing food, enjoying food they gather themselves. Learning about animal care and how to nurture. They will learn about other cultures, traditions, and ideas. I’m sure there is more learning for kids to do while WWOOFing, these are just off the top of my head!
*You kids will make new friends as they go along. This may be a challenging experience for them at first, but it will be valuable. Whether it be on the farm, with the neighbours, at a BBQ…they will meet other kids and make news friends as they go.
*Great memories and new experiences will be had along the way. It may be that your kids have never been to the sea, planted a tree, collected eggs or played with a dog. Your kids will get the chance to do all sorts of new things, it may be kayaking in free time or milking a cow, you never know what experiences will fall in your child’s lap. Even if you are WWOOFing in your home country your family will have the opportunity to learn about and experience other cultures and ways of life. What better way to build tolerance and understanding amongst our young ones then by showing them that we are all human underneath our differences.
* * * * * * * *
Always remember that children come first. If they feel uncomfortable or unsafe it is best to gently let your host know that you need to move on. With all WWOOFing, but especially with children, it is a good idea to have an official “trial period” with your host. That way if things are not working out you can back out and no feelings are hurt. Have a ‘back-up’ place close by where you can go to so that you don’t feel trapped in an uncomfortable situation.
Be mindful of your host family’s space. It is important for every family to have a little time to themselves each day, please respect this and give your hosts(and yourselves) the space and time-out they require.
Discuss as much as you can with your host before you arrive at the farm. This way there will be less chance of misunderstandings and disappointments around your stay.
Most importantly RELAX and ENJOY the experience. Remember that all these things will shape your child for their future.
If you have WWOOFed with children or hosted WWOOFing families and would like to share your experiences, ideas, thoughts and photos then we would love to hear from you. Please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve just read some other articles that may help:
WWOOF Australia offers some practical advice on this: