While we’re still unable to socialize indoors or have playdates, it’s looking like a picnic summer is ahead. Doing our socializing outdoors, my family had A LOT of picnics last year. They’re great – set your blankets up six feet apart, spread snacks on the blanket and watch as they get stepped on, spilled over and then suddenly everything is sticky. I’m never sure who’s eaten what (including myself) and often the idea of a lovely park picnic turns into a struggle to trap children on the cloth square and encourage nourishment while competing with endless entertaining distractions. I was excited to chat with local Registered Dietician, Jenn Messina who I was introduced to on the Mom Camp Podcast to get some ideas on picnic packing etiquette and how to manage expectations. Here her tips to make your summer picnic-perfect.
Five tips for the perfect family summer picnic
#1 You provide, they decide
As the parents you get to choose the picnic location, the foods you pack and when it’s time to eat. But the kids get to decide WHAT they are going to eat. Let go of expectations and allow them to eat as much (or as little) as they want. Sometimes the excitement of the picnic will be too much for them and they won’t want to eat much which is ok! Having planned meals and snacks throughout the day every 2-3 hours for younger kids and every 3-4 hours for older kids, will give them plenty of opportunity to eat again later if this isn’t their best meal, or if all they decide to eat for lunch is watermelon.
#2 Make it FUN!
Finger food is the name of the game so think about how to take your regular meals and snacks and make them hand held. Fruit kabobs, check! Sunbutter and jam tortilla roll-ups, double check. Other favorites are sandwiches cut into shapes using your cookie cutters, falafels, mini quiches, powerballs, pre sliced pizza and whole wheat pita with hummus. These can be added to the staple cheese strings, dried fruits, crackers, and veggies.
#3 Watch out for Choking hazards
When prepping, keep in mind that kids will be excited and might not be ‘sitting properly’ for the whole meal. Avoid serving high risk foods like hot dogs, apples, carrots, or round foods like cherry tomatoes, grapes, cherries, or whole nuts. Remove pits in advance from foods like grapes, cherries or olives. I also avoid foods with a lot of “string” like celery or membranous oranges.
#4 Keep it Cool
Pack perishable foods in an insulated cooler bag with freezer packs or frozen water bottles (or frozen juice boxes). Dispose of any perishable foods left out at room temperature for more than two hours in the summertime. Food that is spoiled does not necessarily look, smell or taste bad but could make you sick! Remember the old saying “when in doubt, throw it out”.
#5 Make Clean up a Breeze
Sanitizer, baby wipes, and paper towel are a picnic must! Sanitize hands before meals or snacks, wipes to clean sticky fingers but also containers that have gotten sticky, and paper towels to mop up any spills (plan for them!). Keep 2-3 bags handy for recycling, compost, and garbage. Planning for clean up will save sorting a jumbled mess later.
Jenn Wint is a writer, communications strategist and a public relations specialist. She is passionate about storytelling and community. Jenn lives in East Vancouver with her husband, 3yo son and 1yo daughter. You’ll find them hanging around Vancouver’s playgrounds, water parks, coffee shops and anywhere that bakes fresh cookies in-house!