Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

SUMMER SOLUTION - Time for a picnic!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 29th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A quintessential part of any summer season is the outdoor picnic. Sharing a meal outdoors is a great way to enjoy quality family time and a delicious meal. It's also a way to keep kids occupied and active away from the television and game console.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Planning a picnic for your family is simple and it can be done using what you already have around the house. While we recommend parents be involved, if the kids are mature enough and you need a break, kids can plan and enjoy their own picnic in the yard while you focus on other things. In any case, an outdoor picnic is Catholic Online's latest Summer Solution. 

First, decide how elaborate you want your picnic to be. A picnic can be as plain as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the backyard, or as elaborate as a full, home cooked meal enjoyed at the park. Once you have decided on the scale of the event, you can make appropriate arrangements.

For the simple version, few instructions should be necessary. Simply make sure you have a clean place to eat, preferably in the shade. A clean quilt laid on grass is nice, and makes a decent spot to lay for a nap afterwards. The greatest concerns you will face with a simple backyard picnic will probably be the sun and the various insects that are common during the summer, especially when food is present. 

There are two ways to help avoid overexposure to the sun. The first is to find shade that will block most of the sun from your body. If you can't get much shade, consider wearing a brimmed hat. The second line of protection should be sunscreen. Take care to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin. 

Your other concern will be insects. Make sure the spot you pick is free of ant hills and trails. Many a picnic has been ruined when someone found their shoes crawling with ants. Other insects can be repelled with citronella candles, insect repellant, and possibly with other outdoor devices such as bug zappers. Make sure food is kept covered and sealed. Understand that a few bugs are a natural price to pay; no outdoor meal is completely free of them. 

A home picnic does have several advantages. Most notably, packing up and unpacking is rendered moot because food can leave the kitchen without having to be prepared for a lengthy transport and drinks don't have to be kept cold. Cleanup is also fairly easy. The ease of washing up and using the bathroom is also an advantage that's especially appreciated with younger children. 

However, if you opt for a more traditional outing that will mean more planning and preparation, but it is always worth the effort. 

The first step is to decide where you want to go. Consider visiting a place that will keep kids both safe and occupied. For younger kids, this will probably be a local playground. For older kids, a park near a stream or gentle river might be fine. Older children typically enjoy exploring in nature and as long as they are safe, it is healthy for them to do so. 

Second, decide what the menu will be. Some stores sell ready-made sandwiches and other items that make an outdoor meal quite convenient, however you will pay a premium in price and you may give up some quality time you could spend with your family in preparation. 

If you decide to prepare at home (which we recommend) take the time to fix a quality meal.

Sandwiches, vegetables for snacking, chips, trail mix or crackers, cold drinks, and maybe fruit or a small dessert item make for a well rounded picnic. 

Sandwiches are probably the best picnic meal and kids can do much of the work. Create an assembly line with each person assigned one or more duties of sandwich assembly. Younger kids can layout bread and portion meats and vegetables (which can be later adjusted by an adult) while older kids can handle the spreads. Cream cheese spreads hold up better than most, so they are good for making sandwiches that won't get soggy and fall apart before eating. Make sure you wrap each sandwich in paper or in a bag for transport. 

An adult should do anything that uses a knife or kitchen appliance while kids can help by assembling and bagging items. For dessert, frosting spread between graham crackers makes for a homemade treat that works as well as store-bought cookies. Chocolate or vanilla frostings work best. 

Fruit is great for kids at play and better than sweets. Find fresh produce from your local farmer's market or store and have kids prepare it for the picnic. Direct them  to wash the produce, then portion it as needed and finally package it for the journey as appropriate. 

Packing your basket should be simple, but remember to travel as light as possible. Nobody enjoys lugging an oversized, heavy picnic basket across the park. Pack heavy items in the bottom and fragile items on top. Make sure you have plates, utensils, and napkins. Don't forget drinks either! Drinks can add a lot of weight to a basket, so consider having each child carry their own. Baby wipes are convenient for quick, sanitary cleanups. 

If you are travelling a longer distance, you may need to pack an ice chest instead of a basket. Use ice packs or frozen water bottles to keep food chilled during the trip. 

After your meal is finished, it's time to play or take a nap, but first remember to throw away trash and seal tight any leftovers. This will prevent bugs from joining in and keep litter from scattering. 
Now it's time to enjoy your picnic! Have fun and feel free to come back and comment to let us know how it went. 

 

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)