The Good Picnic Guide

The word ‘picnic’ for kids is one of those magical words like ‘sweets’, ‘chocolate’, ‘presents’ or ‘Christmas’. We may be dragging them out on a walk, driving miles to pick up a boiler or even spreading a picnic blanket on the playroom carpet if it’s raining – but if I add the word ‘picnic’ it’s almost like I’ve told them we’re going on a trip to the Faraway Tree.

This summer I’ve decided to reward their faith in everything magical and make our picnics the most amazing picnics ever. So what’s going to be different?

First of all, I’m going to get more inspired with my catering. Instead of the usual slightly squashed sandwich, packet of crisps and sausage roll if you’re lucky, I’m going to make the food itself a magical mystery tour.

I’m taking my inspiration from the scene in Wind in the Willows where Rat and Mole head off in a boat with a “fat, wicker luncheon-basket” that Rat has prepared for them. When they arrive at their chosen picnic destination, Rat watches happily “while his excited friend shook out the table-cloth and spread it, took out all the mysterious packets one by one and arranged their contents in due order, still gasping, ‘O my! O my!’ at each fresh revelation.”

For food, therefore, I’m thinking of things like cheesy muffins and meatloaf… fancy tarts and miniature pasties… fruit kebabs… slices of cold meat… tasty dips with fancy bread sticks… teriyaki chicken… and homemade cookies. Oh, and I’ve just seen a nice recipe for a pea, tomato and mint frittata.

Next on the list comes entertainment and surroundings. If I want these picnics to be an event to remember then I also need to think about the fun and the atmosphere we’ll be enjoying. With the Wind in the Willows set firmly in my mind now, I need to start looking around for a suitable riverside. There will definitely need to be a big shady tree… with dragonflies and buttercups. And maybe we could make some bunting to hang from the trees…

Perhaps we could even have a theme for some of our picnics? A Teddy Bear’s picnic is an obvious choice. Or maybe a Murder Mystery. We could also have a Sporting Picnic with three-legged races and the egg and spoon. Or a Bikini Picnic with water pistols and wet sponges if the weather ever decides to get hot again…

We will also need to have games to play such as Tug of War, Throwing the Welly, Tag and ball games. Perhaps even swimming. Or rounders. Or boules.

Then, to slow down the pace a little, we could play games like Charades or perhaps a few rounds of ‘I’m Going on a Picnic’. (To play this, each player says “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m going to bring…” starting by repeating everything that has gone before and adding something new. The first player starts by saying something with the letter A. The next player adds something beginning with the letter B. And so on through the alphabet.) I’ve even found a website that has a list of picnic songs that you could sing as you march along the path to your chosen spot – or around a campfire at the end!

Wherever you decide to go – even if it is just to the local park or Grandma’s back garden – here’s a quick checklist to go through before you leave the house:

  • Everything out of the fridge?
  • Plenty of drinks.
  • Sun hats.
  • Sun cream.
  • Small first aid kit.
  • Something to sit on.
  • Plenty of things to play with.
  • Homemade wipes for hands.
  • A knife for cutting and maybe some spoons.
  • Carrier bags for taking your recycling home.
  • And probably a camera.

Here’s hoping for some decent picnic weather. If May and June are anything to go by then we’ll be sending out a white dove to search for dry land before we leave. So remember, you can always have a picnic in the Great Indoors…

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Rebecca Ash, author of The Spend Less Revolution, studied philosophy, French and psychology, then spent the first years of her working life in China living on £80 a month. She moved back to London where she became a copywriter and spent the next ten years living a life of long hours, long lunches and little spare time. Rebecca has now quit that job, quit London and downsized her life. She is a freelance writer who is raising her two daughters away from the city.

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