By: Stephanie Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center
Picnics in the park are a fun way to bring the family outdoors and spend quality time together. They can also provide a nice “clean-up the crumbs” break for mom and dad! But, it’s important to practice safety while enjoying your meal outdoors, especially when the temperatures heat up.
Take a look at these fun and safe picnic tips!
- Plan the menu: Kids love finger foods and following a spring-theme always adds more charm. Find a flower-shaped cookie or sandwich cutter and add a bit of flair to your child’s favorite PB and J. Helpful hint: Add wax paper between layers of sandwiches in a container to keep them fresh.
- Add some ABC’s to your pasta salad. Practice your spelling words while you eat! Instead of using just regular pasta noodles, mix in alphabet pasta shapes to put the F-U-N in this dish.
- Help your kids stay hydrated with mini water bottles and add a fruity twist. Instead of juice boxes, freeze pieces of fruit such as oranges, lemons, pears or melon to pop in as “fruit cubes.” These add flavor without unnecessary sugar.
- Keep it cool. Don’t allow your child to eat anything that’s been sitting out for more than two hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees, throw food away after an hour, or keep in a cooler.
- Wash hands before eating. While we should always wash our hands with soap before eating, it might be difficult to find a bathroom with soap and water nearby while out on a picnic. Don’t forget the moist towelettes or hand sanitizer. If you’re concerned about using antibacterial products on your child, ask the pediatrician for additional options to bring when on the go.
- Clean up. If possible, bring along two empty bags: one for garbage and one for recycling. Make sure to properly dispose of all trash and not leave anything behind.
- Remember the sunscreen! Have fun AND stay protected by lathering yourself and kids up every hour or so. An SPF of 30 or more is recommended for kids.
Coming up with picnic-friendly games is also a great way to enjoy an afternoon outside. Make sure to pack bubbles, a bean bag toss, jump ropes or a Frisbee. These games all encourage your child to engage in active play while improving social/emotional and cognitive development. Unstructured play teaches children to share, take turns and explore their environment. While playing with other family members, they are also working on cooperation and improving communication skills. Fresh air is a great way to reduce stress levels.
Lastly, sunlight stimulates the pineal gland which keeps our immune system healthy. Time spent in nature has also been proven to make kids and adults happier!
What fun and safe picnic tips can you share?