Perfect Picnics for Old-Fashioned Fun

 Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

by kelly knowlton.

The school year has ended and the seemingly endless days of summer are upon us. There are so many different activities you can plan with your charges or family that it may be difficult to choose just one. But whatever your day looks like, a picnic is sure to make it just that much more special! Old-fashioned fun like picnicking brings children and the ones they look up to together to appreciate the environment. Plus, they create amazing childhood memories and force everyone take it easy, relax, and just be a kid. If you think preparing for a picnic sounds like too much of a hassle, think again. With a little bit of planning, you can pull off a picnic to make a day with your kiddos extra memorable. Grab your sneakers, some bubbles, and of course the food, and let's go on a picnic!

Location, Location, Location

Wondering where to host your picnic? Options abound. For those days that need a little break after one too many meltdowns, just do what I sometimes do: pack up a quick lunch and go outside in the back yard. Does it get any more convenient than that?

Are you looking to leave the house completely and travel for a picnic? Don't forget your local parks. We discovered that a park one mile from our house has barbeque pits, picnic tables, slides, swings, and even a little beach to play on. Playgrounds have limitless possibilities for picnics, as well as the ocean, lakes, and zoos. State parks also offer picnic tables, shelter from the sun, and a grill to cook on. A general rule of thumb is that as long as a location is safe, has room for a blanket, and the kids can run and play, it’s perfect for a picnic.

What Do I Need for a Picnic?

This answer depends on how big of a picnic you want to have. For the simple backyard picnic, a blanket, napkins, plates, utensils, and some food is all you need. The best part about the backyard picnic? If you forget anything, you can just run inside and grab it.

Basic Picnic Considerations

For starters, unless you are having a quick backyard picnic, you are probably not going to have refrigeration. To keep our perishables cool, we use a soft-sided insulated cooler (think stylish lunchbox) and a few reusable ice packs. You probably will not have a way to warm up foods that are meant to be eaten hot either, so keep that in mind if you typically eat leftovers for lunch. Also, if you are eating on a blanket, keep in mind it may get messy. Dressings and condiments will likely end up in someone’s lap or on the blanket. For picky eaters, start off by packing their favorite brown bag lunch items, and then you can change the menu once they get used to eating on picnics.

If your picnic isn’t at home, make sure you have all your materials ready so you don’t have to pack the kids back up to get something you forgot. It’s always a good idea to have a picnic basket partially stocked and ready for action. Here’s what I have in mine:

  • An old blanket
  • A stack of reusable plates
  • A stack of napkins
  • Forks, spoons, and knives
  • Wet wipes
  • A soft-sided cooler to hold perishables
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Activity options (such as sidewalk chalk, bubbles, a small horseshoe set, soccer ball, etc.)
  • Diapers and Wipes
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray

We have a location, our bag is packed, now what do we eat? Check out some of these menu options for your perfect picnic.

Food Ideas

For the Impromptu Picnic

  • Peanut butter and jelly on whole grain bread
  • Cheese sticks and sliced veggies on the side
  • Drinking water

A Quick Picnic Play Date

  • Wrap of choice filled with ham or turkey, provolone cheese, mayo, lettuce, and tomato
  • Wrap filled with hummus, gorgonzola or feta cheese, and cucumber
  • Salad of romaine lettuce, gorgonzola cheese, Craisins, slivered almonds, and sliced strawberries. Dressing of choice to be added at picnic location.
  • Yogurt
  • Chopped fruit
  • Multigrain chips
  • Drinking water
  • Healthy brownies for a snack (see recipe at the end of the article)

Dinner Picnic with a Barbecue Pit

  • Charcoal briquettes for the barbeque pit, lighter fluid, and matches
  • Marinated chicken legs (marinade of your choice)
  • Corn on the cob still in the husk to grill
  • Fruit salad
  • Drinking water

Any of these ideas can be manipulated to suit your charge's needs. I always insist that my children drink water when we are outside. Hydration is important, especially when spending time outdoors during the summer.

The best advice over all for a picnic? Have fun with it. You don’t need to spend a month planning it out for it to be full of laughter and memories.

Picnic-Friendly Healthy Brownies

Build up the anticipation of your picnic by baking a batch of these ah-mazing brownies before you pack your basket.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of applesauce
  • 2 tbs. of coconut oil
  • 6 tbs. Cocoa Powder
  • 1 ¼ cups agave nectar
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour (gluten-free flour also works)
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tbs. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ¾ cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions

Mix everything together in a bowl. Place mixture in a greased 8x8 pan, and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.