We’re big fans of picnics, whether impromptu or a yearly tradition. We started picnicking years before we had children, and have only increased in scope (and complexity, admittedly) in the years since.
Our favourite for years was Symphony Splash in Victoria. We set up a picnic on the lawn of the Empress Hotel and ate dinner alongside 40,000 other people to the sounds of the symphony playing in the harbour. It was our favourite tradition, both before kids and after, for over 10 years before we moved away. We even took our oldest when he was six weeks old.
That particular picnic involved the most planning, but we do many impromptu outings as well. Meeting friends at a park with a playground, spending part of an afternoon at the spray park, or choosing a spot we’ve always wanted to visit and making a day trip of it are all part of our picnic routine.
Here are my tips for a successful picnic regardless of how or where you choose to do it:
1. Invest in a picnic kit. My parents have had one almost as long as I’ve been alive that has plates, cups, cutlery and salt and pepper all in a tidy ball that doesn’t take up much space and is easy to carry. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but some way to gather up all the dishes you’ll need without having to scrounge through your cupboards makes an impromptu picnic that much easier.
2. Get a cooler with a pocket and leave some helpful basics in there – napkins, an extra fork or two, a Ziploc bag and a plastic bag to collect garbage have come in handy many times for us.
3. Have something that will provide shade. We started off with a large golf umbrella, but then my husband found a picnic umbrella on sale that provides lots of shade and can be staked into the ground so it doesn’t blow away or get knocked over. It’s easy to set up, and we can just chuck it in the car when we’re going somewhere so we have shade for kids (and moms who don’t like sitting in the blazing sun, ahem).
4. Choose some tried and true foods that you know people will like and that you can make easily or on short notice. One of our staples is a fruit salad with a vanilla yogurt and orange juice dressing that is kid-friendly and makes everything feel summery.
5. Mix it up; choose both favourite spots and new places to explore. And don’t be afraid to pack it in and go home if the day doesn’t turn out well – the weather and small children can both be fickle.