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Planning a Kid-Friendly Picnic

Picnics are for all ages! A chance to partake of a meal out in the sun and run around in the open space is something everyone enjoys, especially children. Just mention the word “picnic” and they’ll be ready in a flash, anxious to spend time chasing butterflies, playing catch, or simply rolling around in the grass.

Packing a kid-friendly picnic is a bit different than planning a romantic outdoor meal or any other kind of picnic that involves just adults. A child’s tastes are different, their attention span is short, and they’re less likely to want to sit down on the blanket and enjoy a four-course meal. Furthermore, the supplies you bring will be different as well, given the need to be on the lookout for sticky fingers, bumps and bruises, and other typical kid-related picnic situations.

The Menu

For many adults, the idea of the perfect picnic is some crusty bread, several varieties of cheese, and a good bottle of wine. Others prefer fried chicken, potato salad, and a thermos full of lemonade. Chances are, however, that kids on a picnic will barely sit still long enough to take a few bites, so parents should plan accordingly.

If your child enjoys sandwiches but you doubt that he’ll sit down and eat the whole thing, pack small sandwiches cut into different shapes with cookie cutters. These can be not much bigger than bite size. This way, he can pop one in his mouth, chew a little, and then go off in search of something more interesting. Consider the standard peanut butter and jelly (which holds up just fine in the heat) or perhaps his favorite luncheon meat. Avoid things with mayonnaise, like tuna, chicken, or egg salad, because it’s likely these mini sandwiches might be sitting in the sun for a while.

Also consider simply packing items like peanut butter crackers, cereal mix, trail mix, veggie sticks, raisins, or other items that fit into a baggie and can go with her while she explores. Chunks of fruit are also a good idea for a quick but healthy picnic lunch.
Above all, bring plenty of beverages, especially if the temperature is climbing. Hydration is of the utmost importance. To keep drinks like juice boxes or bottled water cold throughout most of the picnic, put them in the freezer for an hour or so before packing them.


Pre-stocked picnic hampers are nice to have, but unless the dishes, cutlery, and glasses are plastic, you’ll probably want to forgo bringing it along. Instead, grab a sizeable backpack and fill it with sturdy paper dishes, plastic silverware, and paper cups (if necessary). Always bring along plenty of napkins and, with kids of any age, moist towelettes are also a good thing to have on hand.

Don’t forget a large blanket to sit on. If you’re with little ones, they may tire and need to take a nap after lunch, so this will provide them with a comfortable and clean place to snooze.

You’ll also want to take this opportunity to teach your kids about responsibility and keeping the environment clean, so pack a trash bag or two and be sure to put all your garbage in the bags. You may want to take it home with you and dispose of it in your own trash so as not to invite animals in search of food to invade the cans at the park.

Remember, you’ll be out in the sun, so besides food and food-related supplies, be sure to pack plenty of sun screen and a hat and sunglasses for each child. Nothing spoils the memory of a great picnic more than a serious sunburn at day’s end. Also bring some bug repellent to avoid mosquito bites and other annoyances.