Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Five Reasons Why You Should Take the Kids (or the Grandkids) to Brimfield

When I told people I was taking my tiny children with me to Brimfield, the world's largest outdoor antique flea market, most people responded the same way: amazement, consternation, and disbelief--all with a healthy undercurrent of "you're crazy." 

But I tend to take my children to things most others don't. (For instance, I almost took my four-year-old to a political dinner the other night, and didn't only because I was running late.) 

True, it is much more work to take my children to these things rather than getting a babysitter. But I believe it is all worth it. Here are my five top reasons why I think taking children, even those younger than 5, to Brimfield is actually a good idea: 

1) It's educational. Touching, seeing, and learning to respect antiques teaches children to appreciate beauty. 

Because I want my children to learn to love the outdoors, I take them on hikes. It's not always the safest thing to do, and sometimes they can't touch everything or even walk in certain places. But they can touch some things, and they can look and see and touch the beauty of the great outdoors. 

Manmade beauty, especially field upon field of antique booths, has similar qualities. Sometimes you can't touch everything, it can be a little unsafe--to the child and to the item--and you certainly can't walk everywhere.  But you can touch some things, and walk some places. Being there and seeing item after item, and discerning what is appropriate to touch, appropriate for our home, and generally beautiful, is an education for them. One I can't easily replicate with books about furniture and other items. The education of knowing how to respect things is definitely not one I can replicate with books. 

2) Free stuff. Before Saturday, children, especially those outside of strollers, are in low supply, and vendors love them. In the course of one morning, the amount of things given to my children was staggering - a guitar, pink styrofoam clogs, vintage cars, a doll, and my personal favorite, vintage noisemakers (useful for both entertainment and locating straying children). 

3) The bounty. Brimfield is brimming (pun intended) with child and baby items. These don't just include the classic antique rocking horse. Dolls, vintage cars, play items, clothes, shoes, sleds, and goat carts converted into bicycle carts. Because few bring their children or are looking for these items, they are often available at great prices. For instance, I purchased this full vintage suit and winter coat for $25.  

converted goat cart

See the pink clogs? We also got this trike for $30.
Didn't buy this kitchen set because of rust and rot, but that color!

4) No one is a stranger. I had all three children for one morning, none during the afternoon (they were with a sitter at the hotel for naps), and just my baby the second day all day in my 1954 Silvercross pram. The difference in my experience all three mini-trips was startling. Children definitely made the difference in making friends and acquaintances easily.  Everyone, it seemed, wanted to stop and chat, talk to the kids or coo at the baby. Although answering the question of whether there was a real baby in the pram for the 29th time got a tad old, I definitely had more fun that second day or the previous morning with all three than I did on my afternoon trip sans kids. 

5) The surrounding cultural and historical child-friendly experiences. Although I was technically only at Brimfield two full days, I widened the experience and fun for my children by building in an extra day of cultural and historical activities. On my way to Brimfield, I stopped by Old Sturbridge Village for a few hours. I definitely could have spent a full day (or two!), as my four and two-year-old were completely captivated by the village, animals, architecture, and living historians acting out New England rural life in the 1830s. 

We then stayed at the Trainmasters Inn and ate at the associated restaurant, Steaming Tenders, in Palmer, Mass, also within 20 minutes of Brimfield (even with traffic). For a little boy enamored with all things that go, he was in a train-filled heaven to eat and sleep (though it did not disturb us behind the thick historical walls) within the vibrations of passing trains. The Trainmaster's Inn advertises themselves as not child-friendly, but if they will rent out the suite recently occupied by their daughter as they did to us, it is perfect for children, complete with roll-away bed, a full kitchen, and train face cards to boot. Steaming Tenders, built out of a renovated train station, could not have been more accommodating or charming. Free dessert was on the house each night, the restaurant featured a full child's menu, they didn't seem to mind the mess, and the children got to blow their bellows "train whistle," not to mention be thrilled by every passing train.   

Trainmaster's Inn

Complete with carriage house and antique carriage.

Steaming Tenders - wish I got more pictures!

Before you take your littles to Brimfield in July or September, be prepared with realistic expectations: I had given myself ample time to shop, knowing that my attention would usually be focused on the children. I wanted them to have a good time, so I had to slow down and allow my son to look for the toys in every single tent or keep walking while my baby was sleeping in the pram. 

It would also be helpful to be prepared, generally, and not just with the usual snacks and diapers. I had planned to have the pram with me both days, as it has a toddler seat.  But it needed repairs the first day (Dave's auto body shop next to Steaming Tenders fixed it for free!), so I arrived at Brimfield without a stroller hoping to rent a wagon, which was readily available. It turned out to be a good strategy, and left more room in the car for booty. I also had my daughter's (antique) potty in the back of the car, and would have been helped had I taken it along. I also went with friends, which proved invaluable in keeping children occupied. Finally, I trained him on how to use them and then tucked a walk talky into my four-year-old's pocket in case he wandered too far.  

Armed with realistic expectations and appropriate preparation, taking children to Brimfield can be a wonderful, educational experience for all involved, and you might just walk away with much more than you bargained - and paid - for.

My other Brimfield Finds:
Antique Swedish Rag Rugs, $40

Cracked Antique Jadette lamp, $15 

Vintage White Bedspread, $20

1860's farmhouse table, $750

Furkin lamp, $23
Things I was tempted to buy:
OK, not really...

1920s step saver

Thai tuk-tuk

Glenwood Range

French shabby-chiced dressing table.

Oldhome 1950s Canoe, $1,500

Small Wonders:

* Gideon (4): 

-"You need to entertain me!"
-"Mom, this is unforgivable"
-[After going to Brimfield] "I'm impressed that you brought all of these new things. Thank you thank you thank you. They are so beautiful."
-[To Esther] "You didn't go to music class because mom was struggling."
-"But will you forgive me?" 
-His Primary teacher moved recently - a very sad moment for all of us. In saying goodbye, Gideon said, "I liked your class. Do you know my dad? His name is Lance Toler." 
-He has learned how to prep asparagus for roasting recently-breaking stems off at the right point, lining them up on a tray. The other morning while prepping them, he said, "There's a lot of asparagus going on"
-He's started writing notes to people who are meaningful to him - he sent an email and spelled out "Hi!" and then "Gideon" with maybe 20 emoticons to his cousin, Truman, and left his daddy a note by copying a magazine article, then writing his name on it. While operating the copier, he said, "I'm mating these."
-Gideon missed us while we were away in NYC for a conference this last weekend. He told his babysitter, "My parents need to come home and love me!"
- About Ingy, with whom he has the sweetest relationship: "She's a gorgeous baby."
- He's started to be particular about what he wears recently. Instead of fighting with him, I'll let him pick.  The other day he brought down 6 different shirts on their hangers and announced he wanted to wear all of them (and was super upset he couldn't do it all at one time.)

Esther (2 1/2):

-She's into jumping recently, to dance, off curbs and down a few stairs if I'm there to catch her. The other day she said,  "I jumped with all my might!"
- "I want popcorn popping on the apricot tree." Someone is paying attention in Nursery. 
- will insist that certain people do certain things for her and is very particular about how things are done and where they are put away. Starting to not like being dirty and needs particular things washed.
- Very goal-oriented, and needs to finish whatever task she's on before moving on to the next. If I can focus this, she's extreme helpful - putting grocery items on the conveyer belt, wiping up Ingy's high chair, setting and clearing the table.

Ingy (5 months):

- a first tooth!
- will call out to me in very distinct ways to get my attention
- knows her name
- when screaming for something, will stop (usually) when I tell her to
- when asked to say "hi," she'll verbalize something very close
- started on real food by clearly letting me know she wanted some during dinner, and hasn't looked back. Another excellent eater: she's done when my arm is tired. Currently likes tomato sauce, avocados, green drink, and food pouches. Not the biggest fan of sweet potatoes.

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