Before the little ones came along, my husband and I were avid picnickers. There’s just something so very romantic about stretching out on a big, soft blanket and enjoying a simple meal… all the while being surrounded by nature on a sunny, warm day. In fact, almost 7 years ago I received a proposal for marriage while we were picnicking – which essentially made me a #Fan4life.
Alas, when we first had the little guys, the thought of picnicking seemed more like a chore than a chance to enjoy ourselves. Packing toys. A change of clothes. Spill-proof cups. Lots of wet wipes for sticky hands. Colouring books… and that’s before I got to the components of the meal. Sheesh, it’s no wonder I once had an aversion to the great outdoors.
But that’s all changed. This year, I’ve made it my mission to incorporate fun-filled family picnics into our summertime activities. And so far, we’re 5 for 5! That’s right, five picnics under our belts already this summer, and certainly more on the way (as soon as this 45°C heat wave subsides, that is).
There’s no secret to planning the perfect picnic. Truly, once you prepare for it once, it becomes easier every time. Here are my tried and true suggestions:
1. Keep it Simple. Finger foods all the way! Don’t even stress about bringing extra utensils, condiments and/or paper plates to complement a more complicated dish. Kids are famous for just picking what they want anyways, so a simple spread of finger foods such as cooked chicken nuggets, vegetable sticks, sandwich halves and chips are the way to go. For dessert, pack fruit skewers, granola bars and/or cookies (preferably ones that won’t go goopy in the heat). Invest in a large cooler to keep your foods safe and your drinks chilled.
2. Make it Fun. Even though I’m completely entertained just lounging and eating grapes, the boys often require a little more stimulation. I make a weekly stop to Dollarama to stock up on outdoor toys and games to keep the kiddies occupied before and after they eat. A bonus: I don’t necessarily care if the dirty/broken/wayward toys make it home, since they didn’t break the bank. Balls, butterfly nets, Frisbees, squirt toys and picture books depicting nature are all a great way to help them enjoy the outdoors. If there’s a walkway nearby, sidewalk chalk is also a perfect option.
3. Keep them Safe. Protecting little ones from the sun and bug bites is essential, especially if picnicking in conservation areas or near water. A gentle, broad spectrum sunscreen should be a staple in the picnic tote (we like Banana Boat Natural Reflect Kids Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50), along with a variety of insect repellents.
4. Pack your Canon. Your Canon camera, that is. There are so many moments I’ve captured in years past, and will cherish always. Seeing the baby sitting on a picnic blanket (with chubby legs poking out); watching my little guy jump up to catch a football; capturing a colourful spread of summer ripe fruits and vegetables. If you’d rather not tote along your DSLR, be sure to have your smartphone on hand.
5. Think Outside the Park. Picnics can happen anywhere – at a nature conservation, the beach, on top of a mountain, even in your own backyard! I love “stay-at-home picnics” – they’re a great way to spend a sunny, weekday afternoon with the boys… with minimal fuss! A bonus: no need to pack a change of clothes/diapers, ha!
This summer, put picnicking together at the top of your list for spending leisurely time with the family. Outdoor fun, here we come!