How to Plan a Kid-Friendly Picnic Lunch
What better way to take advantage of a sunny day than with a picnic? Pack up your picnic basket, grab the kids, and head to an outdoor open space—even your backyard works. The components of a picnic lunch are so easy to make that the kids can do most of the work themselves. Sure, they'll need some adult supervision, but even little hands will be able to prep and prepare the majority of this meal. The biggest challenge is organizing and packing everything so that it stays fresh and intact. Here, we're showing you a simple kid-friendly picnic menu that's a breeze to put together.
This healthy meal covers all of the basic food groups. The first item up to prepare is the vegetables. We recommend celery, peppers, cherry tomatoes, and green beans, which kids can snap themselves. Next, you'll need to put together the trail mix. You can raid your pantry for the sweet-and-salty essentials that make up this cherished snack. We used dried bananas, cranberries, sunflower seeds, cashews, peanuts, raisins, and more for a delicious treat, but let your kids create their own custom mixes based on what they like best.
While the small bites are tasty, the main attractions of this outdoor feast are the sandwiches. For a sun-friendly alternative to mayonnaise, use a cream cheese spread that is just as tasty and holds up better in the heat. Next, add turkey and ham for a protein-packed lunch. For dessert, let your kids make homemade whipped cream to pair with their favorite fresh fruit. It's a simple job, but they'll have so much fun doing it—all they need to do is pour heavy cream and one tablespoon of confectioners' sugar in a one-quart airtight container. They'll shake the container to "whip" the cream at the picnic site and place dollops on top of ice-cream cones filled with fruit.
Now that the menu is sorted, packing your picnic basket can seem like a game of Tetris. Not to worry—we're laying out exactly how to pack all of your tasty treats to make the most of dining outdoors.
Wash vegetables, then pat them dry so they'll stay crisp. While an adult chops celery and peppers, kids can snap green beans, cut vegetables, and put cherry tomatoes and the rest into plastic bags.
Prepare Trail Mix
Raid your pantry for dried fruits, nuts, and other bite-size sweet and salty snacks. We used dried bananas and cranberries, sunflower seeds, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, raisins, pretzels, cashews, and peanuts. Put a handful of each into a large bowl, then stir gently. Store in a hard-sided container to keep ingredients cool and from getting crushed. You can make the trail mix a day or two ahead to save time.
Frost Graham Crackers
These delicious treats are a no-bake alternative to sandwich cookies. To make them, spread homemade or store-bought frosting between two graham cracker halves; we used chocolate frosting for some, vanilla for others. Stack and store in a hard-sided container.
Prepare Fruit and Cream
Combine ripe berries and grapes for a quick fruit salad. Don't wash berries until just before the picnic, or they'll turn soggy. Look for plump blueberries with a silverish tint and raspberries that are deep red but not too soft. Toss together gently, using your hands. Pack in a hard-sided container.
To make the cream, put 3/4 cup heavy cream and one tablespoon confectioners' sugar in a one-quart airtight container. You'll "whip" the cream at the picnic site.
Cream cheese spreads keep better than mayonnaise and taste great on ham or turkey sandwiches. Divide an eight-ounce package of cream cheese between two bowls. Stir four tablespoons of apricot jam into one and a teaspoon of oregano into the other. Then, set up a sandwich-assembly line, making sure each sandwich gets both spreads.
Once you've made the sandwiches, wrap them in waxed paper the same way you would wrap a present. Seal the sandwiches with different colored stickers so that you can tell at a glance which is turkey and which is ham.
Pack a Picnic Basket
Pack lightweight items and anything that might get smashed last. Place trail mix, graham cracker treats, napkins, plates, and spoons at the bottom of the basket, while baking cups (for vegetable dip) and cones (for fruit and cream treats) can go on the top. Lay some well-chilled water bottles on their sides inside of a cooler—the cold water keeps the food from spoiling in the heat and the cream cold enough to whip. Then put cream, fruit, and store-bought ranch dip on top of the water bottles. The veggies and sandwiches can go in last. If you're going only a short distance, the sandwiches can travel in the picnic basket.
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Shake Up Whipped Cream
Making whipped cream is fun and simple to do. At the picnic site, kids can take turns shaking the container of cream and confectioners' sugar vigorously (two to four minutes), until the mixture is thick and fluffy. Don't shake it too early, or it will deflate before you serve it. Spoon fruit into cones, and top with a dollop of cream.
Time to Enjoy
Celebrate the great outdoors and relax with the kids in the sunshine. This well-rounded menu makes for the perfect kid-approved warm-weather meal.