Hi I’m Jen of Kitchen Counter Chronicles here for the Make and Takes Get Out and Play summer series! Summer has arrived and that means it is picnic season. Everyone loves a family picnic in the park. Eating and playing outside with a cool breeze and the birds chirping is so dreamy. We picnic a lot in the summer. Our picnic basket lives in our kitchen during the summer months, ready to be packed up at a moments notice.
The reality is that sometimes picnics don’t go according to plan. Things are forgotten. The food might be warm and melted. The idyllic park might be swarming with people. However, with a little preparation and planning a picnic can be an awesome outing for families.
7 Best Tips for Having a Fabulous Family Picnic!
1. Location, Location, Location It is truly possible to picnic anywhere. Spontaneous picnics can be a blast, however if you are planning to picnic with a group of young kids then you will want to do some advanced planning. Does the park where you are going have a play structure? Is there a wading pool or splash pad? What about a washroom…fairly important for kids (and adults). It is best to know exactly what you are getting into ahead of time. Choose your location wisely.
2. When to Picnic Setting up for a midweek picnic at your favourite park can look a whole lot different than setting up on a busy Saturday. If you are planning to picnic at a super popular spot, head out early to reserve your space. Don’t forget to eat the most important meal of the day before you head out – breakfast. If planning a midday picnic, fill up yourself and the kids with a hearty breakfast. Kids with full bellies will be much happier when they arrive at the park.
3. The Picnic Basket I picked up my favourite picnic basket at a local church bazaar – a sturdy, wicker, lidded picnic basket. However, you don’t need an actual “basket” to have a fabulous picnic. Pack up a lightweight cooler or plastic tote. It is best if your “basket” has a lid, if only to keep the critters away from the food. Towels for the splash pad can serve double duty, providing insulation in the picnic basket.
4. The Picnic Blanket Parks can be busy on sunny summer afternoons and there may or may not be any picnic benches available. Bring along at least one large blanket. The blanket can be used as a table cloth for the picnic table or on the ground providing a comfortable spot to sit and eat. Reusable felt-backed table cloths make a great water proof barrier for under a picnic blanket. Sometimes the ground can be a little damp and the table cloth will keep everyone dry.
5. Food & Drink A key part of any picnic is the food…so what to eat? Start off by packing plenty of water. Keeping the kids hydrated as they run around in the sun all day, is important. Not all parks have clean drinking water available – another thing to look for when searching for a good location. Bring plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, which are delicious ways to keep kids hydrated. It is best to steer clear of dishes that can spoil easily in the heat. Recipes that use mayonnaise, eggs and fish are not ideal for park picnics. Swap out mayonnaise based slaws and salads with oil and vinegar based vinaigrette’s – a simple switch. Keep the food cool with lots of ice packs – use frozen bottles of water and juice boxes as ice packs. As they thaw you have plenty of icy cold drinks for everyone. A few things we always pack for picnics are; a small cutting board, a sharp knife and a bottle opener. Don’t forget to bring along some small change for the obligatory trip to the store for popsicles or ice cream.
6. Clean Up Mealtime in the park is not going to be a particularly sterile environment…our cleanliness standards have to be lowered. Pack a few damp wash cloths inside a resealable bag, which can be used to clean a picnic table and little ones’ hands before (and after) eating. Bring along a few cloth napkins too. I like my napkins to do double duty – wrap a napkin around any sharp knife or any cutlery you are bringing. Don’t forget to bring along a plastic bag for any garbage you produce. It is really important to leave green spaces as clean as they were when you arrived.
7. Toys and Games It’s time to have some fun! Take advantage of all the awesome parks in your area that have cool play structures, wading pools and splash pads. Be sure to bring along a few simple toys and games for your kids too. Toys and activities that can be played with groups of kids and that invite open ended play are perfect for outdoor play. Pack along a few different sized sport balls, skipping rope, sidewalk chalk, blank paper, crayons, sand toys (which are fun in the water too) and bubbles for blowing. If your kids are older bring along a camera and send them on a colour scavenger hunt. We love building fairy houses in parks and leaving them for other kids to discover. Blank paper is perfect for taking bark rubbings. The outdoor play options are truly endless.
There are so many fabulous memories to be made at a picnic in the park. Invite a group of friends or keep it to only your family. There is nothing quite like spending the day at the park, eating and playing under the trees. With a little planning and preparing any day can be the perfect day for a family picnic.
Jen Farr is a writer and stay-at-home mom with 2 adventurous tween aged daughters. Jen shares everything that lands on their kitchen counter on her blog, Kitchen Counter Chronicles. While there you’ll discover how Jen is navigating her way through parenting tweens in our hectic, digital times. Jen also tweets at @kcchronicles and can be found on Facebook and Instagram.