How to Have a Successful Picnic With a Toddler in Tow
Are you looking for new ways to help your toddler enjoy the summer months and the beautiful weather that comes with it? If your child has never eaten a picnic lunch, now is the perfect time to introduce him or her to the fun and wonders of eating somewhere other than the kitchen table. Check out these tips for making it successful.
Be sure to dress for the weather. If you’ll be going on a picnic during the summer months, think shorts, tank tops, or even swimsuits. Socks and sneakers are important if you expect your little one will want to run and play. Avoid flip flops or sandals that can cause tripping hazards for uncoordinated little feet. If you plan to picnic during the spring, jeans and a light jacket may be more appropriate.
Bring Something to Sit On
Grass is beautiful but itchy, so you’ll probably want to avoid sitting right on it. You may be tempted to bring along a traditional picnic blanket but they can be quite bulky to carry, especially if you are trying to juggle a picnic basket, toys, and a toddler or two at the same time. Instead, opt for a lightweight blanket or even waterproof mats if your children tend to make messes while they eat or drink.
Don’t Forget the Sunscreen
Sunscreen is one of the most important items to pack anytime you plan to spend a significant amount of time outdoors. The sun is highest in the sky during typical lunch times, which makes it all the more important. To best protect from the sun, have the entire family wear SPF 30, sunglasses, and wide-brimmed hats. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen about once per hour.
Keep the Picnic Simple
Avoid making complicated dishes to take with you on your picnic. Not only is it time-consuming, but you’ll also have to worry about bringing the proper utensils to serve and eat it. Even worse, you could end up with on every messy toddler. Instead, stick to finger foods. Pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or cheese and crackers as the main item and fill it in with low-maintenance produce like blueberries, apples and baby carrots. Don’t forget to bring an easy dessert — think cookies — and some sippy cups of juice.
Plan a Few Activities
Even at the park, you’re likely to hear a chorus of “I’m bored.” Ease your toddler’s boredom by planning a few age-appropriate activities. If you don’t want to carry a lot, play freeze tag or simply push your son or daughter on the swings. If you have some extra space in your picnic basket, bring a ball, some bubbles or even a magnifying glass that you can use to look for bugs in the dirt. Most kids are easy to please at the park if you use a bit of imagination.
Let Your Toddler Bring a Toy
Of course, not all toddlers will be satisfied by chasing you or your other children around and playing tag. If your kids absolutely insist on bringing a toy, it may be best to compromise if you wish to prevent tantrums in public. However, don’t allow yourself to be roped into carrying half the playroom with you. Instead, allow each child to bring one toy and leave it at that.
Drink Lots of Water
While it’s acceptable to bring juice or another yummy drink to eat with the picnic lunch, the sugars in juice can be dehydrating so avoid letting your toddlers drink too much of it. This is especially important if the weather is very warm and the kids are running around a lot. Pack a few bottles of water or even a reusable water that you can refill at a fountain or from the sinks in the restroom.
Visit Somewhere Local
Even if your toddler typically does well on road trips, you should have your picnics somewhere local. By finding a favorite park in your neighborhood or a gorgeous spot near a hiking trail, you’ll always have a nearby place to visit if you decide on an impromptu picnic. In fact, who says you have to go to a traditional picnic space? Check out public lawns near your city’s government buildings or even public squares in malls. Even your own backyard or living room floor are great places to have a picnic lunch and spend some quality time with your children.
Consider When Your Toddler Gets Tired
If your toddler is like most, he or she probably goes down for a nap at a certain time. Don’t forget to factor this into your plans. If your child won’t sleep unless he or she is at home and has a specific routine, plan to have a mid-morning picnic before the afternoon sleepiness sets in. Alternatively, you could have a late lunch right after your toddler wakes up. If your son or daughter is a heavy sleeper and you don’t want to require older children to leave the park, you may even be able to have your toddler rest or nap in the shade under a favorite tree at the park.
Plan for Cleanup
It’s common courtesy — and usually the law — the clean up after yourselves once your picnic is over. Start with cleaning up yourself and the kids. Bring plenty of wet wipes and hand sanitizer to get rid of stickiness and germs. Although your local park probably provides trash receptacles, bring a garbage bag just in case they aren’t available or are overflowing. Use the sink in the restroom to rinse out any reusable containers and prevent attracting ants, then neatly pack everything away and set it somewhere you’ll remember to grab it as you leave your picnic location.
Keep Things Packed for Next Time
If you intend to make picnicking something that your family does on a regular basis, keep as much as possible packed between trips. Typically, you can leave the picnic blanket, paper towels, wet wipes, outdoor toys and other small items in a reusable grocery bag and keep it in the car or by the front or back doors.
Remember, not all activities are for every child. If your child seems unhappy, consider finding another way to enjoy the summer during your next outing. Learn more by following Kamo on Twitter (@kamo_family), Facebook (kamofamily) and Instagram (kamofamily).