6 Simple Picnic Ideas for Families

Picnic food

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Family picnics create lasting summer memories. For working parents with busy families, however, planning a picnic can feel like one more thing on the to-do list. But it doesn't have to be daunting. A picnic is no more complicated than a typical dinner inside—it can actually be easier—and should be seen as a fun family outing! You can go to the park if you like or even just stay in your own backyard.

Here are five ways to make picnics fun, easy, and of course, delicious.

  • 01 of 06

    Picnics Can Be Quick and Easy

    Summer Kids Activities hula hoops Picnic
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    Weekday evening picnics can be as easy as a kid-initiated pack-your-own dinner, a quick stop to the grocery store for prepared food, or a backyard barbecue with very little cleanup. You can even start a new tradition by marking days on your calendar and make this a recurring family event.

    One way to make picnics easy is to cook in advance. Foods like chicken, pasta salads and even sandwiches can be made in advance. To prevent sandwiches from getting soggy, keep the fillings, condiments and breads separate and assemble the sandwiches when you get there. 

    Here are some recipes that work as make-ahead picnic foods:

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  • 02 of 06

    The Pack-Your-Own Picnic

    Kids packing lunches
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    Many hands make light work. So having everyone prepare their own food makes picnic prep much easier on the parents. It's amazing how satisfied kids feel with a simple meal they prepared by themselves. And since it's important to involve your kids in the family cooking, prepping for a picnic primes them for working in the kitchen. Plus, it gets kids ready to pack their own school lunches someday.

    The pack-your-own picnic doesn't take much to pull off: An easy sandwich, a piece of fruit, a handful of veggies, and a sports bottle full of fresh lemonade make a great on-the-fly outdoor meal. If your kids are too little to pack their own, they can help with simple tasks like putting veggies in a bag or adding items to the picnic basket. Each time you prepare for a picnic, give them a slightly more difficult task so they can master their skills.

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  • 03 of 06

    The Supermarket Quick-Stop Picnic

    Mother and daughter at bakery counter in grocery store
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    Picnic prep couldn't be easier than a quick stop by your local grocer. If you have time on your lunch break, pick up the food early in the day. You can also involve the kids in this targeted shop by allowing them to pick out their personal favorites for your special meal.

    Deli-prepared salads, pre-made sushi, take-out pizza, and grilled paninis or sandwiches all make good options for a family picnic. Add a cheese and salami plate as an appetizer, and some flavored seltzers for a fun drink. It doesn't matter where the food comes from—it's still a picnic if you eat it outside!  

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  • 04 of 06

    The Appetizer-Dipping Picnic

    Two boys dipping veggies
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    Kids love to dip food, making this picnic not only easy but also loads of fun. First, purchase the items to be dipped: French bread, chips, vegetable sticks, and olives for the adults.

    Next, decide on your dips. For a Mediterranean picnic, choose hummus and baba ganoush. Guacamole, salsa, and sour cream dips work well for any picnic. And for the adults, try a crab dip or a pre-made specialty ceviche for extra nourishment.

    For dessert, a yogurt dip pairs nicely with wedges of fresh summer fruit, like watermelon and strawberries.

    Don't forget the drinks and napkins!

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  • 05 of 06

    The Backyard Grilling Picnic

    Family at grill in park
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    Picnics don't have to be fussy. In fact, you can have as much fun in your backyard as you can in a wooded park or playground. The backyard picnic also lends itself to a weeknight family "outing" or a hump day festivity that gets you through the workweek.

    Choose grill items that don't require much prep and can be eaten with your fingers or on bread or buns. Italian sausages, marinated chicken kebabs, and the ol' hamburger and hot dog go-to's make good choices. Sides can be simple finger foods like carrot sticks, cantaloupe slices, and chips.

    Then spread a blanket on your lawn, drag out a cooler full of iced drinks, and arrange a few beach chairs for your impromptu family feast. Get the kids involved by having them prepare the outdoor setting, filling the cooler, or, if they're old enough, manning the grill. And if the home setting gets boring, tote your grilling picnic to a park or local campground with on-site grills and picnic tables—and don't forget the s'more fixings.

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  • 06 of 06

    Themed Picnics

    Korean lunch box

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    Picnics are popular all over the world, so a great way to to explore new foods and cuisines is with themed picnics highlighting the foods of various countries and cultures. A French picnic, Chinese picnic, Korean picnic, Spanish picnic or Kosher picnic are just a few examples.