Growing up, summer picnics were one of our favorite family traditions. We'd have dozens of them every summer, and my favorite part was going to the grocery store beforehand and picking out treats for our "picnic sack". Now that I have a family of my own, I want to carry this tradition on in the hopes that Bear will enjoy them as much as my brothers and I did. That being said, picnicking with a three year old is no picnic in the park (pun intended).
You gotta be on your A game as a parent and Official Picnic Planner. Sure you have this perfect vision in your head of your child frolicking through the flowers and becoming one with nature, but that will come crashing down quickly as they run to you covered in mosquito bites and mud (you think. please say it's mud). Getting outside and enjoying the beautiful weather this time of year is good for us all, and there's no better way than lounging on a blanket with food galore.
We love to picnic with friends, as this gives Bear a chance to burn off energy with his pals and Mommy a chance to speak to adults and use words other than "fruit snacks" and "say please". This is also a great strategy because you can delegate who brings what. For this picnic last week, Bear and I brought the food and our friends brought all the games and their trusty patchwork quilt. It's usually a bit of a walk to get to our "picnic spot", so it makes it much easier if one person isn't making six trips to the car to haul everything.
We're still learning (a lot) as we go, but here are some tips that have helped us have successful toddler picnics:
1. Don't just rely on Mother Nature. Yes, it's true that every time you want your child to sit down and color or read a book at home, they're throwing a fit to go outside and play. However, they will get to a park and magically want only to color and nothing to do with the beautiful environment around them. If you're a parent, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Come prepared: bring colors, coloring books, hula hoops, baseball gloves, bubbles, stickers, frisbees, puzzles, and anything else you can think of to provide entertainment and fun. Even if the children are running around like wild banshees, chances are they'll need a break at some point and having something they can sit down and do will entice them to eat their meal.
2. Bring a colorful spread. While throwing in a big bag of Doritos and some peanut butter & jelly sandwiches seems easy and quick (and is perfectly fine-we've all done it), a picnic is a great chance to try new foods and eat lots of yummy fruit. We like to run in HEB and grab some new cheese to try and a variety of crackers. We'll bring whatever fruit we have at home, like pineapple, mandarins, grapes, apples, and plums. Bear often won't want these items at home but when he sees a friend eating them, he's much more apt to try and like them.
3. Hide dessert. This is a big toddler trick; this is not Thanksgiving Dinner where there's a giant feast of a spread and a perfectly sinful dessert table staring you in the face all day. If you pull everything out of your bag/basket at once, the children (and parents like me) will only want dessert. Duh. Keep the cake, cookies, and all things pure sugar out of sight until they've eaten some healthier options first.
4. Have a ready-to-go "picnic bag". Similar to how a swim bag operates, the picnic bag should be ready to go at all times and armed with sunscreen, insect repellent, umbrella, extra water bottles, a towel, hats, portable fan, etc. My sister-in-law gave me this tote a few months back and I'm obsessed with it; it has so many pockets and compartments on the inside that make organizing simple.
5. Don't picnic on a schedule. This is a tricky one, as we're all on a schedule of sorts and can't spend nine hours straight taking a nap in the park. However, picnicking is most successful when everyone forgets about the time and just enjoys being outdoors. Try to plan your picnics for an afternoon or evening where you have no other plans, so you won't feel rushed and be constantly checking your watch. The whole point is to relax and let your kids wear themselves out. You've got all the time in the world.
I want to say Happy Mother's Day to my precious Mom; I love you, Duke!
And to all the other mommas out there, hope you are having a beautiful Mother's Day!