Don’t Panic Picnic Plans

Easy family picnic

Do you have this fantasy of yourself as an organized, creative mother who makes all of the recipes you pin on Pinterest and packs a balanced, organic picnic for every trip out?

Don’t panic!

As the holiday weekend approaches, chill out and realize that your kids will love anything you choose to call a picnic. Take your regular dinner outside and eat on the lawn. It’s a picnic! Take cheese and crackers to the park. That’s a picnic, too. When it is 100°F outside and you have a red air warning, spread a blanket on the floor in the living room, and call that a picnic. You don’t have to drive an hour into the wilderness with a full meal packed in a specially designed basket with matching flatware. Yes, it would be nice, but don’t worry about the details too much.

Nice to Have

A Blanket. If you have an outdoor blanket that you can spread on the lawn then easily wash afterward, you’re set. No blanket? Just choose a spot with picnic tables.

A Basket. Sure, it’s nice to have a basket with every little thing tucked into its tidy pocket. It you have it, take it. If you don’t, put some tough plates and forks into a canvas bag. The basket may be iconic, but it isn’t necessary.

Drinks. This is a must. It doesn’t have to be wine or juice or anything more than water, but bring the drinks.

Finger Foods. Clean and dry. Though not essential, its easier to picnic on foods that don’t spill or get your fingers all messy.

Room Temperature. Hold the mayo. If you are going to be outside for a while and you don’t have the basket that fits ice packs to keep everything cold, skip the foods that spoil or wilt quickly.

Cloths. Bring reusable cloths. Maybe not absolutely essential, but going anywhere with children is easier if you have a few washable cloths and a spray bottle. We use ours as napkins then unpack right into the washing machine.

Individual Portions. You don’t need portions separated at all. You could pass around one container and share, but, if you want to serve individual meals, it can save space and make serving easier if you pack each person’s food in a separate storage container that doubles as a serving container. Lightweight, stainless lunch containers for school lunch easily double as picnicware.

Games. This could be as simple as a doll or a toy car for a young child, but we like to throw in a card game. It gives us an excuse to linger in our chosen spot. Of course, you don’t need an excuse. Just linger! Go for a walk. Just consider whether your children need enough entertainment to keep them occupied while the adults eat.

Utensils. If you bring finger foods, you don’t need utensils. If you do need utensils, bring reusable. It’s just too easy not to. Super lightweight bamboo utensils don’t add much bulk or weight to your basket or bag.

As in so many situations as a parent, you soon realize that you don’t need a bunch of extra stuff made specifically for one situation. If you have a long weekend coming up and you want to go on a picnic, just grab what you have and go. It’s an adventure. Your children will have a great time.

Image © Pavel Losevsky |

7 Tips for a Successful Picnic with Kids

Mother and baby on a picnic

With holidays coming up, many of us are planning picnics. To help your children, especially very young children, have a good time, it helps to think ahead and anticipate what they will need during the day. We have a few tips for successful picnics with kids.

1. Eat Slow-burn Foods for Breakfast

If your picnic happens after a hike or a parade or some other event, make sure your children are well-feed in the morning so you don’t hear too many choruses of “I’m hungry.” Oatmeal or bean soup are day-out favorites for my children. You’ll still hear “I’m hungry,” so have a snack in your pocket.

2. Bring Sun Protection

Sunscreen, sunglasses, sun hats, long-sleeved but lightweight shirts, even a picnic umbrella (a parasol, which means “for the sun”). Bring a variety of solutions for sun protection. Prepare for the sun because it won’t take as long as you think to burn the tips of your ears, the line down the part in your hair, or the backs of your knees.

3. Bring Water

Bring water bottles with ice, and remind your children to drink in order to keep them hydrated. Bring frozen water bottles in the cooler or picnic basket to keep your food cold until you eat. Once it melts, the ice cold water will feel great after a day of being outdoors.

4. Pack Food in Bento Boxes

Make your packing container your eating container. Use a bento box or another reusable container that is wider than it is deep. This saves space and allows you to plan for any allergies or preferences for individual family members.

5. Make Finger Foods

If you want to share family style rather than having individual plates, make finger foods. Since these are easy to pick up and eat without extra plates and utensils, you will save yourself room and lost utensils. My family spreads out fruit, bread, and cheese, and calls it “The Abundant Table,” as in “Do you want the abundant table for dinner tonight?” To satisfy different likes and preferences, you could make several different kinds of dips with vegetables and pita bread for dipping.

6. Plan Games

Keep the games simple. Last weekend, we went to a family reunion that my daughter declared, “The best family reunion I’ve ever been to.” What made it so great? The games. These were games that were completely new to my children: potato sack race, egg and spoon race, wheel barrow race, one-legged race. Every game was a race involving yelling, hopping, screaming, and a lot of energetic kids. Every game was old. These were the games I played at family reunions when I was their age. And, they loved them.

7. Prepare to Clean Up

  • Bring water and a few hand towels to clean up hands before and after you eat finger foods.
  • A little natural hand cleaner can help if you have particularly dirty activities planned, though, really, what does planning have to do with it? You children’s hands and faces will be dirty, so prepare to clean them.
  • Wet wipes aren’t just for bottoms. Pack a couple dozen wet baby wipes in a bag with a few drops of essential oil.
  • Be sure to bring a reusable bag to carry home the dirties. Have a wet bag to carry the really dirties.

If you plan the picnic right, it will all go so smoothly that no one will notice the planning at all. Be prepared for your own quirky family, and have a great holiday.

Image © Ivan Mikhaylov |