I love picnics. Any excuse to have one, I am there. We have picnics in the garden, on family day trips, pretty much all of the time during summer. Picnics for toddlers can be more challenging than ever though, especially with fussy eaters, you can end up with something pretty boring and uninspiring, so I have put together my tips for the perfect summer picnics for toddlers and what to include (but also what not to include!).
The food: What to take:
Well it is the most important part isn’t it? It’s not really a picnic without something yummy to nibble while you sit on the grass or at a park table. So here is what I would recommend for a picnic for toddlers (that adults won’t feel uninspired by either):
- A mixture of sandwiches – I use cheese, tuna, ham, egg mayonnaise, chicken mayonnaise, prawn (provided your kids don’t have an allergy). I usually make 1 standard sandwich for each filling and cut it into quarters, then we get the sandwiches all out and share the fillings.
- If you don’t want to do sandwiches, try a mixture of nice breads with a selection of hams, cheeses, pickles and fillings like coronation chicken. You might find the kids will just nibble the ham and cheese and bread separately, but who cares!
- Pinwheel pizzas – these are really easy to make and everyone (including the kids) loves them. Using puff pastry you simply spread tomato puree and cheese over the top then steadily roll it up and cut into round pieces, bake for 20-30 minutes until flaky.
- Sausage rolls – everyone eats then in our house, and I confess I never make them, I always buy them from our local bakery. It is always a bad idea to have a picnic without a sausage roll.
- Pork pie – my kids love this, and so does my husband, it’s easy to wrap up and take home if you don’t finish it too.
- Cheese straws – again, always a hit, but so simple. Puff pastry, spread with cheese, fold and repeat. Bake for 15 minutes. Done.
- Mini Quiches – quiche is so easy to do, Reuben is the only one out of all of us who isn’t a fan, so quiche always goes down really well in our picnic basket. Try and keep it simple if you are making it – buy your pastry at the shop, make cheese and ham or maybe just cheese, but unless you feel like it, don’t over do it! You can always buy delicious quiches from your local shop!
- Flans – any kind of flan is perfect for a picnic. I always, always buy puff pastry, roll it out then spread it with cream cheese, from there I caramelise some red onions and chop some ham. Sprinkle it across and bake for 20-30 minutes. So easy and delicious for everyone (the kids LOVE the creaminess of the cream cheese)
- Samosas – I make these all the time for picnics, for nibbles and to be honest just for me! Samosas can be filled with pretty much anything, just use fill pastry and I always bake them instead of deep frying them.
- Marinaded chicken skewers – these are really easy to make and you can add such a punchy flavour to the picnic. It doesn’t matter that the chicken will be cold when you come to eat it (in fact it will be better!) I love soy sauce and honey, but you could try sweet chilli, lemon and thyme, tomato & balsamic or even just simple pesto with olive oil. Make the marinade the night before and leave the chicken in it. Cook it in the morning and leave it to cool before you wrap it up.
- Fresh fruit – bananas, apples and grapes are great because they don’t break down or go mushy, and I have found that if it is really hot and I have pre cut the strawberries they haven’t lasted very well. Better to stick to other fruits.
- Shop bought goodies like squeeze pouch yoghurts, dairy lea dunkers, and other finger nibbles that don’t require utensils. I also have to say that crisps are a big bonus for picnics.
- Lots of water – preferably in a sports style bottle so you won’t get drips.
What I wouldn’t take:
- Any rice or cous cous dishes. Kids don’t always eat them because they are excited and busy, and they want something to grab and munch not sit down to. Plus it means you won’t have to pack utensils or plates. If you want to take this kind of thing, keep it to a minimum.
- Too many sugary treats – let’s be honest it’s exciting enough when you are on a big family day out, so minimising sugary treats it always a good idea.
- Cups – if you are going far, it’s a bad idea – spills, splashes, leaks in the picnic basket. It just isn’t worth it.
- Salad – lettuce and things are great for an adult picnic but the boys will never touch this and it requires utensils. Easiest thing is to leave the salad behind or to a minimum.
What else to take:
We have a few things that I always take on our picnic trips, it makes everything really easy and hygienic.
- A picnic blanket – There is nothing worse than sitting on the grass when it is still a little bit damp from earlier on. Plus, you can generally just roll it up and pop it back in the basket or under the pushchair if you have one.
- Wipes – It is so important to have wipes and if you don’t have a child in nappies the chances are you might not carry them all the time, but wipes are so important if you have a family picnic because everyone (including you) will get sticky fingers.
- A plastic bag for rubbish – so easy to forget. Somewhere to put your rubbish so you aren’t scrapping about in the picnic basket at the end of the day.
- Matkins! – I always take a matkin with us (you can read my post about them here) but if you don’t have the chance to get one then you can always takes normal wipeable mats.
That’s it! My top tips for having a fabulous family picnic this summer!
I am planning on using a fair few of these ideas this week and next for various summer holiday outings. I wondered about the freeze-ability (just made that one up I think!) of some of the items, such as the flan, pinwheel pizzas and cheese straws. Do you think you could make a big batch of these and defrost as required?