A guide to hassle-free picnic with small children

A guide to hassle-free picnic with small children

Even though picnics make it on every parent’s Summer Fun list, not that many families actually do it.

 

I’m not surprised.

 

If you have tried going on a picnic with small children, you know that there is nothing easy about it.  

 
 
You have to cook, organize, pack for (what seems like) hours, get ready for spills, outfit changes, and a million other things-go-wrong scenarios., and then it rains. 
 
 
It took a few years of training and a few blunders along the way for me to learn that picnics can be easy. Now we frequently go on picnics and have lots of fun.  
 
I encourage you to take apart your idea of a picnic and put together a new, downsized and simplified version of it.  Follow my guide for a less hectic and hopefully more enjoyable picnic with small children.
 

Basket

 

There was a time when picnics were about you and a basket was more of a little accessory for your cute little summer dress.
 
 
Those days are gone for now! You need a family basket. It means something that can zip up everywhere, so food doesn’t fall out when little feet kick it over.  
 
You need to be able to carry it on a shoulder because your hands will be busy holding on to small sticky hands. Don’t forget that you also need to carry a diaper bag, a toy bag, and a picnic blanket. And probably also maneuver a stroller that keeps getting stuck in grass/sand/rocks.  
 
Or if you are like me, you might need to push a stroller with one hand, while carrying a child with another.  
 
There are lots of different models of family bags/baskets out there. Some even have wheels. This durable, convenient picnic bag is what we have.  It is lined with insulation material that keeps food relatively cool.  And it’s just the right size for our family.
 
 

Blanket

 
The best picnic blanket is washable, waterproof, has a handle or a shoulder strap, can easily attach to the stroller (and come with a built-in human helper).  The winner in my eyes is this blanket that satisfies all of the above requirements. (Except for the human helper). 
 

Picnic Check List

There is nothing more frenzy-inducing as trying to remember everything you need for a picnic on the morning of the picnic.  Sit down and make a list of everything you will need (it will improve over time as you add more things from experience) or print my list to get you started.  Laminate the list and keep it in your picnic basket. Just cross out the items as you pack them.  

 

  1. Basket
  2. Blanket
  3. Wet napkins
  4. Dry napkins
  5. Food 
  6. Water and other beverages
  7. Straws
  8. Bug spray – homemade stuff is so much better than anything you can buy at the store, but if you don’t have time for DIY buy this kind.
  9. First aid antibiotic ointment – wash the scraped knee thoroughly with water, apply the antibiotic ointment to keep infection out of the wound 
  10. Cute Band-Aids – bandaids work for everything from keeping straw attached to the bottle to fixing cranky baby with a bandaid on his nose. When you notice a little child sliding in a bad mood say, “Oh my!  It looks like your shoe needs a bandaid!”  
  11. Tweezers – can help you remove a splinter or a stinger left behind by a bee
  12. Hand sanitizer – soap and water are still the best way to remove microbes from hands, but when there is no running water a sanitizer can help. Read the truth about hand sanitizer expiration date. 
  13. Sunscreen
  14. Diaper bag
  15. Small trash bag

Food

 

I like to stick to foods that don’t need refrigeration. This means avoiding deli meats and mayo-based sandwiches and salads.  Salads are not a good choice anyway. Salads need to be eaten with utensils.  And eating salads takes a long time. My rules are: avoid glass jars, any foods that need utensils, and ice packs.  

 

Best picnic foods

  1. Granola bars –  Healthy and nutritious these homemade bars will fuel hours of outdoor fun.
  2. Banquette sandwiches – Made with just two ingredients – cream cheese and cucumbers – these sandwiches are great portable food that doesn’t need ice packs. (read: how long can cream cheese be out of the fridge
  3. Crackers and peanut butter – Two foods that were made for each other.  
  4. Fruit and yogurt – We go for hard fruits like apples, pears and bananas, and go-yogurts or kefir. Berries are also great. 
  5. Waffles and pancakes – Easy, no mess food that can be cut in long strips for convenience. And a milk box for protein. 
  6. Baby carrots and hummus – I like to transport hummus in stainless steel mini container with a leak-proof lead.
  7. Fruit and Nut energy bars – 5 minutes of prep time and 1 hour of refrigeration to get those healthy and sweet energy bars that kids love.
  8. Croissant Sandwiches – Insert mini Babybel cheese inside precut croissants when you get to the destination. 
  9. Brownies (just call them energy bites) – Easy to pack up and take with you on any adventure.  
  10. Lemon Bars (gluten-free) – They might not be your idea of healthy kid food, but they are guaranteed to increase the “wow” factor.  
  11. Peach Bars (gluten-free) – We love peaches when they are in season and can not get enough of them. 
  12. Homemade yogurt melts – You would think it will only work for your toddler, but older kids will be all over them as well. You might want to freeze them overnight, so they stay cool till you are ready for them. 
  13. Leftover pizza – Need I say more? 
And if you don’t think ants will take over the world, read this
 

Picnic Beverages

 
We don’t normally drink sugary drinks, but because I sometimes want to make picnics super special for my kids I let them make our homemade lemonade.  
  1. Homemade lemonade in 5 minutes.  Lemonade?!  That’s not easy!  Oh, yes it is! With my method.  Put a quarter of a lemon in a plastic bag with 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Seal well (very well). When you get to your destination open the bag and add a cup of water.  Zip it up leaving a small opening for a straw.  Voila homemade lemonade with no fuss. 
  2. Water
  3. Single serve kefir or portable yogurt bottles 
  4. Single serve milk cartons or milk brought in stainless steel bottles.  I like to keep our milk in this stainless steel mug.  The milk stays cool for hours. It’s also great for keeping my hot tea hot.   
 

Activities

It takes five minutes for little kids to finish eating. What’s next?  If you are lucky, your kids will find something to do with sticks and stones.  And if you are extra lucky, your picnic area has lots of nice open space to run around.  If not, use the suggestions below.

  1. Bug hunt – Grab a magnifying glass and a plastic jar, if you want to turn bug exploration into a full-blown science activity.  
  2. Leaf detectives – Kids love looking for leaves. Whoever can find the most number of different kinds of leaves is the winner. Take the leaves home, press them between the pages of a thick book and you will have wonderful craft material come fall. For the smallest kids just stuffing a bag with leaves is enough of a challenge. 
  3. Ogo Disk – Great exercise for all ages and loads of fun
  4. Homemade Bubbles  – Bubbles make for great photo ops and they are always fun entertain for the little ones.  We like to use homemade wands for extra large bubbles!  
  5. Picnic Books   – You can not find a better setting for reading picnic books than a picnic!  
  6. Two Truth One Lie or other picnic games ideas from Tesco Living 
  7. Balls – the smaller ones are even more fun than the bigger ones and easier to carry to the picnic. We like rhino skin ones
  8. Balloons
  9. Toddler activity bag – a collection of small cars, Lego bricks, and some of your toddler’s favorite small toys. 
  10. Active Listening – lie down on the blanket, close your eyes and listen to the sounds all around you. What do you hear?  
 

Extra

  1. Older siblings might like the idea of carrying their own lunch boxes, especially, if they are as cute as this one. I always welcome the idea of older kids carrying their own lunches.   
  2. If you must bring some ice packs, those car shaped ones are our favorite.  They also have a magic power of healing boo-boos on the spot.  
  3. If you want to have a theme, how about a Teddy Bear Picnic.  Invite some friends, bring your favorite teddy bears to a picnic, and sing some teddy bear songs.  
  4. And if it’s raining the day of the picnic, you can always set up a fabulous indoor picnic with those ideas from Disney Entertainment. 
 

When and Where

Most picnics do not happen because they are not scheduled. There are always one thousand things to do. Add “picnic” to your calendar and treat it as an appointment.
 
List the possible locations available to you and pick one.  Make sure that your location has restrooms nearby or bring a portable potty for kids. I have one that folds flat and fits inside my purse.  
  1. Park
  2. Forest
  3. Beach 
  4. Pool
  5. Zoo lawn 
  6. A patch of green grass behind your apartment building
  7. Your own backyard
  8. Living room picnic is a good place to start if you need to figure out the logistics
 

How to get ready for a picnic in 5 minutes

Have a picnic bag ready and filled with all the essentials from the Picnic Checklist (except food and beverages). Have a toy bag and diaper bag ready. Prepare the food the night before.  
 
In the morning, transfer the food from the fridge into the picnic bag.  Add beverages.  You are ready!  Or you can make your life easier and pick something up on the way to the picnic place.  Have fun!   
 
With a lot of practice, picnics became one of my favorite things to do with my children.  It’s a great way to enjoy nature while doing something fun together.  
 
On our last picnic, my 4-year old sighed dreamily and said, “I love this picnic … You are the best mom in the world.”  Aaah…
 

When was the last time you went on a picnic?  What are your tips for a successful picnic with small kids? 

 

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  1. […] I hope you will have better luck with finding a perfect spot for your picnic. If you are looking for picnic success tips, we have a post about it here.  […]

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