Easy Ways to Create Memorable Family Picnics

By: Jolene Roehlkepartain
In Minnesota, we live for summers! There almost always isn’t a weekend where a barbecue or picnic isn’t happening. Over the years, I’ve learned that when you make these events special and simple, your kids can enjoy them more. Try these tips for a successful family picnic.

Look for unusual locations. Scour the newspaper for outdoor concerts; plan your picnic accordingly, and be serenaded as you eat! Try a picnic at the beach, a park, a nature center, a water park, a lake (to go fishing), a zoo, or a playground.

Keep the meal simple. Consider having only finger foods (such as sandwiches, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruits). That way, you don’t need to drag forks, knives, and spoons. Or create a dipping picnic where you make (or buy) different kinds of dips to dip your food into.

Have everybody help. Too many barbecues and picnics fall on the shoulders of one person: either mom or dad. To keep the good times going and reduce burnout factor, be sure to spread out the work so that everyone pitches in.

Create a grilling checklist. Many parks now have outdoor grills. Too often, however, it’s easy to forget an essential ingredient or utensil. Develop a grilling checklist so that you can quickly grab things and go. On the list include: charcoal, lighter fluid, matches or lighter, grilling utensils, aluminum foil, paper plates, paper towels, and of course, the food to be grilled.

Arrange fun activities. Kids like picnics and barbecues more when there’s something fun to do. Have games to play, such as ones from Great Group Games by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor. Bring a Frisbee® or croquet. If there’s a tree nearby, bring a piñata, a blindfold, and a stick.

Have a nighttime snack picnic. What kid doesn’t enjoy being outside after dark? Have a snack picnic after dark. Roast marshmallows over a grill or fire pit. Buy sparklers and supervise your kids as they light them. Look for constellations.

Consider the great outdoors. Picnics and barbecues are notorious for attracting ants, bees, and other critters. Some kids do well with these, others freak out. If your child gets upset with outdoor picnics or barbecues, move the eating indoors. Have a picnic on the floor in your living room.

Cook with your kids. Have your kids help out with food preparation for picnics and barbecues (while also keeping them safe). Many kids love to cook as long as the recipes are simple and child-friendly. Click here to discover child-friendly cookbooks.

Have fun. The whole point of picnics and barbecues is to break up the routine and do something fun. Make sure the weather cooperates and you plan the outing well so that everyone can enjoy himself or herself.

1. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Nibbles for Health Newsletter #34: Pack a Family Picnic.

2. Family Fun, ParentFurther.

3. Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, Great Group Games: 175 Boredom-Busing, Zero-Prep Team Builders for All Ages (Minneapolis: Search Institute Press, 2007).

4. Image via jemsweb on Flick’r.


I took this tip to heart. While driving across the country, my kids and I would pull over and have a picnic in the back of the truck. After eating we would explore where ever we happen to stop. Once we stopped at a rest stop in Texas…HOT, HOT, and HOT.

Thanks for reminding me that experiences are things that matter most when creating memories.

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