Perfect Picnic Hacks for Parents

“A picnic is more than eating a meal,” said cookbook author DeeDee Stovel. “It is a pleasurable state of mind.” The weather is warming up and quarantine fatigue is setting in hard. We’re all looking for ways to reconnect with our kids and make our weekends count. A picnic in the park is the perfect way to make a weekend afternoon feel more festive. Friday, April 23rd is National Picnic Day – so what better excuse? All it takes is a little planning and a little patience. Here are our best picnic hacks to ensure a smooth day trip.

Kid-Friendly Picnic Foods

  • Pre-grilled foods – try seasoned ribs, chicken skewers, eggplant, corn, and zucchini.
  • Side salads – skip mayo for Asian dressed coleslaw or mustard German potato salad.
  • Veggies – satisfy with mini carrots, sliced peppers, cherry tomato, and olives.
  • Snacks – grab hummus and crackers, tortilla chips, PB crackers, Goldfish, or pretzels.
  • Trail mix – fuel up with yogurt raisins, dried banana, cashews, cranberries, and seeds.
  • Meats – for carnivores, pack sliced or string cheese, pepperoni, and cocktail weenies.
  • Popsicles – but don’t forget to bring cupcake liners to serve as drip trays. Genius!
  • Watermelon/fruit kebabs – pre-chop and skewer to make it neater and more accessible.
  • Dessert – keep it simple with cherries, strawberries, brownie bites, and butter cookies.
  • Dirt cups – crush Oreos on the bottom, adding chocolate pudding and gummy worms.

Picnic Sandwich Secrets

Hate a soggy sandwich? So do we! Here are a few tips:

  • Make your sandwich as late as possible for optimal freshness.
  • Once the sandwich hits room temperature, eat within two hours.
  • Use ice packs and an insulated cooler to add a few hours of shelf life.
  • Pack watery ingredients like cucumber, tomato, and onion slices separate.
  • Avoid sandwich bags, which increase condensation. Wrap in foil.
  • Choose a robust bread, like rye, tortilla, pita, a hard roll, or baguette.

Want an easy, hassle-free experience? Central Park offers a baguettini sandwich, apple, bag of chips, cookie, and bottled water – a picnic basket to-go for $12.

Best NYC Picnic Spots

Not sure where to go? The options are vast, but consider:

Central Park’s “East Green” offers shady trees and ample room for fun. The East 72nd Street Playground is located nearby, with water features in the summer. The Conservatory Water offers model boat sailing, concessions, and restrooms. A short walk south to the Central Park Zoo rounds out the afternoon. 

It’s a busy spot, but Empire Fulton Ferry Park offer stunning views of the Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn Bridge. Arrive early to grab a picnic table with an umbrella. Nearby you’ll find Jane’s Carousel, the nautical-themed Main Street Playground, and restrooms.

In Long Island City, Queens, Socrates Sculpture Garden is a waterfront park hosting oversized sculptures to gaze upon, as well as ample shade and enclosed spaces for inquisitive youngsters to explore. Hallets Cove just north of the park offers free kayak rentals.

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park provides beautiful, well-kept grounds showcasing nature’s beauty with greenhouses and gardens. Hands-on programming for children and mansion tours offer optional entertainment.

Wading River’s Wildwood State Park overlooks Long Island Sound. Have a picnic within the park in the shady picnic table grove or down on the sand. There are showers, camping sites, fishing, hiking, and a playground for the kids. 

Themes for Picnics with Kids

Want to change it up from the humdrum old picnic of yesteryear? Try these creative twists:

  • Teddy bear picnic – Invite your child’s favorite stuffed animals along.
  • Puzzle picnic – Melissa & Doug offer wooden jigsaw puzzles to enjoy in the fresh air.
  • Dress-up picnic – Dress in costume for a a princess and/or super hero party.
  • Water party – bring water balloons, squirt guns, and bathing suits.

Picnic Games & Activities

  • Active games include cornhole, KanJam, ring toss, bocce, football, frisbee, or soccer.
  • Spend the afternoon painting rocks and hide them around the park for people to find.
  • Surely we all remember playing Tic Tac Toe, blowing bubbles, and chalk drawings.
  • Go through the alphabet with the “I’m going on a picnic” memory game.
  • UPicnic entertains up to five kids with bubbles, music, puppets, and games for a fee.

Picnic Reads

There’s magic in the air, reading outdoors. Bring a few picnic books along:

Must-Have Picnic Supplies

Sometimes one or two items make all the difference in the world:

  • Picnic basket – or up your picnic game with an oversized insulated bag.
  • Picnic blanket – or a tablecloth if you’ve got a table nearby.
  • Sunblock – or an umbrella to save you from the UV.
  • Baby wipes – for inevitably messy hands!
  • Music speaker – play Amazon’s Portable Sunshine, Grill & Chill, or Kids Birthday Party.
  • Frozen water bottles – as a space saving way to keep food cold and guests hydrated.
  • Talcum powder – sprinkle a border around your blanket to keep ants and bugs away.
  • Mesh food screens or a portable fan – to keep flying insects out of the food.
  • Waterproof shower curtain – if you’ve had bad luck in the past with soggy swamp grass.
  • A change of clothes – a backpack with an extra set of clothes can save much complaint.
  • Trash bag – leave no trace!

Looking for more ways to entertain the kids? Contact SHINE to learn about our classes, workshops, parties, and day camps in New York City and the Hamptons.

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