Summer Picnics with

Looking for Something to Do? Go On a Picnic!
Summer vacation…the kids can’t wait for it to start—and parents dread its arrival. The first couple of weeks seem to take care of themselves, but after that, you may be faced with your kids looking at you with that “What can we do now, Mom?” look on their faces. At that first look, be ready: go on a picnic!

Picnics are easy—and you don’t even have to go anywhere! A couple of beach towels thrown down on the grass in the backyard is as far as you have to go.  Of course, if there is a local park handy, you can load up a couple of bike baskets and take your picnic there, don’t forget the picnic blanket. You can be a little bolder, and pack up the kids in the morning and set out for a half-day road adventure and go find someplace to picnic.

No matter where you decide to picnic, make it fun, make it an adventure—and your kids will look forward to doing it again…and again!

Keep Quick Picnic-Ready Snacks on Hand

You don’t have to preplan a picnic lunch, and you don’t have to make a special trip to the market if you keep a few of these things on hand:

  • • Peanut Butter and Jelly (the “old standby”)
  • • Pre-packaged lunch meats and cheeses (if left sealed, a package can sit in your frig for a week or more before you’ll need to use it)
  • • A package of hot dog buns in the freezer (they thaw out quickly and make easy-to-hold sandwiches)
  • • Single-serving-sized fruit cups, applesauce, pudding (I keep several in the frig, chilled and ready to go)
  • • Individual-sized bags/containers of chips, crackers, and cookies (keep a few hidden from the kids so that you always have a couple to throw in the picnic bag)
  • • 1-liter bottles of water and packets of drink mix like Kool-Aid or Crystal Lite
  • • Small bottles/jars of mustard, mayo, catsup, and relish (whatever you normally put on a sandwich)
  • This list just gets you started. Based on what you know your kids like and are willing to eat (without a fuss), you can also keep cans of tuna or chicken, containers of yogurt, blocks of cheese (for cheese and crackers), fresh fruits, granola bars, etc.

    Next time you are in the market, take a moment to look at shelf items and think about how/whether those items could serve as the basis for an easy picnic lunch (or even breakfast or dinner!).

    Think creatively! “Lunch” could be chocolate frosting smeared on graham crackers—it doesn’t necessarily have to be a nutritious meal, just a fun meal! (My mom’s favorite “surprise” picnic lunch was strawberry shortcake, and lots of it—although I do recognize that it took a little planning on her part.)

    Have the Picnic Basics Ready
    Regardless of what you’re going to throw together for lunch, you’re probably going to need a few picnic basics. If you have a picnic bag packed and ready to go, then actually going on a picnic, even if only as far as the backyard, means that all you have to do is pack the food.

    In a sturdy canvas bag, plastic milk crate, or actual picnic basket, keep items such as the following supplies on hand:
    • Paper plates and bowls, plastic utensils
    • Napkins (or a roll of paper towels)
    • Pre-moistened towelettes (wet wipes)
    • Sharp knife, pair of scissors, can opener, bottle opener
    • Salt and pepper
    • Disposable towels (Handi-Wipes are great!)
    • Sunscreen and bug spray
    • Pencil and paper
    • Travel-sized games, deck of cards, etc.

    Items like paper plates and plastic utensils are self-explanatory, but the paper and pencil might just be the handiest thing you pack. As you go on your first few picnics, make a note of anything that you wished you’d had/meant to pack. You can accumulate items as you go. Do yourself a favor and buy the items specifically to leave in the picnic bag (and get accustomed to putting them right back into the picnic bag after you wash them).

    You can also develop a short checklist of things that you need to remember to pack. Print the list and keep handy (this is especially helpful when you have to remember to get items out of the frig, or take medications, etc.). That way, if you are packing in a hurry for a spontaneous “Let’s go on a picnic, Mom!” day, you can grab the list and use it to help you remember to pack the needed items.

    You can use an old blanket, a couple of beach towels, or my preferred picnic spread: an old mattress pad! I trimmed away the gauzy material and elastic that holds the pad to the mattress and left the nicely quilted pad itself. Another idea is to go to a place where you can rent moving trucks and buy a furniture pad/blanket—this makes a great picnic or beach blanket.

    Using either the mattress pad or the furniture pad also makes it easier to shake out sand and brush off dirt. Both hold up well to multiple washings.

    Plan Picnic Activities

    There’s nothing wrong with just tossing a few snacks in a bag and heading out to the backyard just to have lunch! Everything tastes better when you eat it outside. However, you can make your impromptu picnic more enjoyable (and even educational) if you plan a few picnic activities. Why not keep your kids amused with Picnic Bingo?

    Plan a “Shoestring Adventure”

    If you’ll have the time to plan ahead and go on a one-day road adventure, think of someplace local and keep it a secret! You can even blindfold your passengers so they are surprised even if you only go to the local park!

    Have fun this summer—get outside and enjoy spending a little time with your kids!

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