Tips for Planning a Kid-Friendly Picnic

Tips for Planning a Kid-Friendly Picnic

June means picnic season. However, before you break out the picnic basket, here’s how to put together a kid-friendly spread that’s easy to prepare (promise!), quick to set up — and clean up — and fun to eat with your crew out under the trees.

The best part about all these treats? Your kids can help you put them together!

Everybody’s Favorite Pasta Salad

Why is it a fave? Because your kids get to decide what to put into it. Follow the package directions to cook one batch of tri-color rotini pasta (12 oz.). Refrigerate to cool. Now it’s up to you and your kids on the additions. Consider any of the following: cubed deli ham or chicken, pepperoni slices, cubed cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack), bacon crumbles, olive slices, broccoli florets, sliced green onions, drained chickpeas. Toss with ¼ to ½ cup Italian dressing or a sauce made of equal parts ranch dressing and barbecue sauce. Store in a large, airtight container to bring with you.

Shaped Sandwiches

Make your kiddos’ favorite sandwiches, whether it’s ham and cheese, PB&J or any other combination. Once the sandwiches are put together, use a palm-sized cookie cutter to make the shape in the middle of the bread. My kids’ most frequent request? A heart shape. Other options could be a star, diamond, cat face or other designs.

Lemony Apples

Wash and cut firm apples like Honey Crisp, Gala or Fuji into wedges (plan one apple per person). Place in a resealable bag. Drizzle with the juice of one lemon per three apples. For an extra dash of flavor, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Ready-Dipped Carrots

Squirt ranch dressing into the bottom of an individual-portion sized plastic cup with a lid (Use 4-oz. containers, are available from Amazon or at Walmart; alternatively, use small Tupperware containers). Then, fill each portion cup with mini carrots.

Go-To Chicken Strips

My kids aren’t fans of fried chicken on the bone. To avoid them eating the fried crust and leaving the rest of the chicken untouched, I either bake frozen chicken strips or purchase pre-made ones from an area grocer or restaurant.

Mini Dogs

No need to pack all the hot dogs, buns and fixings; instead, make up a batch of mini dogs that your kids can eat between rounds on the swings or impromptu Frisbee sessions. Unroll a can of pre-made crescent dough and cut each perforated triangle lengthwise into three strips. Roll the dough strip around a small, smoked sausage link or hotdog. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 375°F until golden brown. Cool before packing.

Quick Blueberry-Corn Muffins

Stir together corn muffin mix (enough to make 12 muffins; I used two Jiffy boxes), 2 eggs, 1 individual container of plain yogurt (5.3 oz. Greek or regular), ¼ cup milk, 1/8 cup sugar and lemon zest (or use your favorite homemade corn muffin recipe). Gently mix in 1 cup fresh (or dried) blueberries. Fill individual muffin tins lined with paper baking cups and bake for 15 minutes at 375°F or until just golden brown. Cool before packing.

Magic Animals

Melt 1 cup candy coating (let your kids choose the color) in the microwave. Dip animal crackers into the coating and top with sprinkles (if desired). Place the crackers on waxed paper until cooled and firm. Freeze in bags to take on your outing.

Dessert Dirt Cups

Crush enough Oreo cookies to make 1 cup. Follow the package directions to make chocolate pudding. Fill 4-oz. portion cups 2/3 full with pudding, add cookie crumbs on top and 2-3 gummy worms. Place lids on each one (one package of pudding should make around 7-8 cups). Refrigerate overnight before your picnic.

What to Pack

Paper plates
Paper cups
Plastic utensils
Water bottles
Large blanket or two
Hand sanitizer
Bug sprayTrash bags
Soccer ball or other sports equipment

How to Pack

Skip the basket and pack your picnic finds in either a cooler or a large backpack (bonus on the backpack — it’s easier to carry!).

To keep food cold, freeze ice packs or single-use water bottles beforehand and use those to keep the food chilled. Depending on how long you’re picnicking, your kids can even drink the chilled water from these bottles.

Picnic Tip

Don’t overdo it on the food. If your kids are anything like mine, they tend to graze more at the picnic, instead of sitting and eating a full meal all at once. These treats are designed for easy grazing.

About the author

I’m a freelance writer, recipe developer, and—most importantly—mother of three. My work has appeared in KIWI, Parenting, Parents, Relish, USAA Magazine,,, and Yahoo Shine!. I’m currently a contributing editor for MetroParent magazine, the regional parenting publication of the greater Detroit area.

1 Comment

  1. Instead of paper plates, invest in some reusable plastic ones that you can use for picnics (or use some you already own). Same with the silverware.

    Something we like to bring on picnics is crackers, cheese, and pepperoni. We also frequently bring canned olives (don’t forget a can opener!).

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