Spring is finally here and that usually means that we can’t wait to get out and enjoy the warmer weather and the sunshine. Everyone loves a family picnic in the park…there’s nothing like eating and playing outside with a nice cool breeze and the birds chirping. So, get your picnic basket ready…and since sometimes picnics don’t always go as planned – a little preparation can go a long way.
- 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 bathrooms…fairly important for kids (and adults). It is best to know exactly what you are getting into ahead of time. Choose your location wisely.
- Selecting a Time: Setting up for a picnic at your favorite park during the week 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.
- The Picnic Basket: I picked up my favorite picnic basket at a local trade days market – 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.
- The Picnic Blanket: Parks can be busy on sunny afternoons and there may or may not be any picnic tables available. Bring along at least one large blanket. The blanket can be used as a tablecloth for the picnic table or on the ground providing a comfortable spot to sit and eat. Reusable felt-backed tablecloths make a great water proof barrier for under a picnic blanket. Sometimes the ground can be a little damp and the tablecloth will keep everyone dry.
- 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. 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.
- 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 washcloths 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.
- 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. The outdoor play options are truly endless.