I don’t know what it is about a picnic, but eating outside seems a thousand times more exciting than eating that same food at the kitchen table.
Some of my favorite family memories are of picnics, from the first warm day in Boston when I was pregnant with Ella to our first trip to the Duke Gardens when we flew out with Ani for Blue Devil Weekend after Bart was admitted to one with Bart’s parents in December 2013 when we had an unseasonably warm and sunny day. And of course, a Sunday picnic in Barcelona’s gorgeous Park Güell last fall complete with tomato and cream cheese sandwiches on baguettes.
We’ve been picnicking up a storm in the last month or so since the weather has been so spectacular. The Duke Gardens is one of our favorite spots, since it is nearby, but we also made a recent picnic outing with friends to the North Carolina Museum of Art which has beautiful (and free!) grounds that are perfect for running around on and also having a picnic.
It’s especially cute to see how much Star loves being outside - every time we go, she just lies on the blanket and happily stares around for close to an hour. Is there anything better than being outside on a beautiful day?
Since we’re in big-time picnic mode right now, I thought I’d share some of my secrets for making it simple and fun.
- Invite friends. I almost always think a picnic is more fun with another family or two along. It’s such a low-key way to spend time with other people - they can bring their own food, you don’t need anything to entertain the kids with, and you can all sit around and visit while your children run themselves into exhaustion. Pretty much my ideal outing.
- Keep picnic supplies in the car. During the spring and summer, we keep our picnic blanket (made by Bart’s grandma when we got married), a kite, a football, a frisbee and a few bottles of bubbles in the car. Not only does it make it easier to have a spontaneous picnic, it also means that when we’re packing up for a picnic, I can concentrate on the food and children, rather than also trying to round up the extras.
- Bring one or two fun items. We are fairly boring lunch eaters around here (lots of peanut butter and jam sandwiches, grapes, and apple slices), but when we go on a picnic, I like to add a couple of things that make it seem special. My girls are both nuts about squeezies of any kind. My personal “fun food” is chips - Bart will always choose Pringles and I’ll always choose Ruffles (Cheddar and Sour Cream forever) or Cheetos. And some homemade cookies are always a nice finish.
- Skip the cups, pack the water bottles. On our first picnic this year, Ella spilled her cup (of water, thankfully) three times in a row. Since then, we take water bottles instead. Nothing ruins a picnic faster than a wet bum from sitting on a soaked blanket.
- Bring a sweatshirt and sunscreen. Getting a sunburn or freezing because it’s a little cooler than you expected both put a damper on your outing pretty fast. Of course, on our most recent picnic, I forgot the sunscreen and my poor little redhead got some pretty pink cheeks.
- Pack twice as many napkins as you think you need. And then add another 10. And maybe some baby wipes too.
- Assemble your food there, if possible. When I’m at home, packing the food seems not very fun. Instead, I just throw the peanut butter, jam and a whole loaf of bread in the bag, plus a knife. Then, I can do it there enjoying the beautiful weather, make as many or as few as I want, my children can run around while I do it, and the sandwiches aren’t all squished or unappetizing.
The other thing that makes me happy is that when we get home, the girls are so wiped out from the sun and exercise that they go right to sleep.
Just another reason to love picnics.