How to Have an Easy Family Picnic
One of the many advantages of the lovely weather that we have been having over the summer is that it gives you the opportunity to eat outside. This might just mean taking a plate of whatever you would normally be having and then sitting at a table in the garden to eat.
However, it might also mean packing up some plastic plates, some easy-to-eat treats and an industrial quantity of kitchen roll and heading off with your family to enjoy a picnic somewhere.
In either instance, your children will love the novelty of eating somewhere different than the normal table inside and you are likely to find many interesting discussions starting as a result of changing your scenery. Another advantage to eating outside, depending on the age of your children, is that the clearing up will be a lot simpler!
If you are planning an al fresco meal, it can seem like a daunting task to prepare everything. Hopefully the following tips will help to take some of the stress out of planning a picnic and allow you to enjoy this fun experience with your family.
Take a few creature comforts
Obviously you are unlikely to plan a picnic unless you are pretty sure you're going to have good weather, but even on the hottest day it can be more comfortable to take something to sit on. If you have a picnic blanket then that would be perfect, but if not you can improvise with thick carrier bags and a sheet. You may have other items with you that could be used as makeshift seats, or you could plan in advance and aim to stop off at a designated picnic area with table and chairs.
I always take some spare suncream, extra water and lots and lots of wipes (or the aforementioned kitchen roll). The water can be used for drinking or mopping things up, but either way it's bound to come in handy.
I also take plastic bowls rather than plates for my young children, as they find them easier to hold and to balance on uneven ground. Plastic cutlery might also be useful if you are taking salads or yoghurts or something, but I tend to stick to finger food. If possible, take drinks bottles rather than cups to minimise the risk of spillages.
Ice packs (like this one) are very handy and will keep your food and drinks cool if you preparing your picnic in advance.
Many supermarkets will take great pride in advertising their picnic food ranges over the summer months and lots of this food will be truly delicious. However, because it is pre-prepared and marketed as a seasonal range, the cost of these treats will be significant and may even end up stopping you from having a picnic in the first place.
If we can find these things in the discounted section of fresh food aisles (pop down during the morning of the day of your picnic to see what's available at the last minute) then we go for it, but otherwise we use up the leftovers in our fridge to create a selection of nibbles that's just as yummy.
This photo shows what we gathered together when we had a picnic last week and at this stage it doesn't look too impressive, but glance down towards the next paragraph and you'll see how we transformed it...
Make food together beforehand
Some of the nicest times we have together as a family involve food, so it seemed only natural to get my children helping out when we made up our picnic. The tasks they can take on will depend on their age, but my two pre-schoolers were able to butter bread and count out other food items, for example. This is what our leftovers became once we had worked our 'magic'...
Cut food into funny shapes/bite sized chunks (especially fruit)
Don't worry about spending money on fancy puddings, just adapt what you've got with a bit of imagination. I cut up an apple before we left the house and then arranged the pieces into a smiley face for each of my children and they loved it just as much as anything I could have bought ready-made in a shop.
Don't go anywhere expensive
There are some beautiful picnic spots around the country, but some of them might charge you entry into the grounds. There are also many that are free though, and a quick internet search will probably throw out quite a few suggestions for your area. However, children are easily pleased and will find it just as exciting to go to your local park or even your garden if it means eating a picnic together as a family. If the weather lets you down at the last minute, you could have a 'carpet picnic' and just eat on the floor of your house instead of at a table (perhaps using the picnic rug for good effect?).
Relax and enjoy it
Doing something out of the ordinary will always carry extra thought and occasionally extra worry - in this instance it could be about insect bites, sunburn, spilling drinks on clothes, not having brought enough food / the right food, etc. However, the main thing to remember is that these special experiences will form great memories for you and your family, so relax and enjoy it (and remind yourself that there is no floor to sweep afterwards!).