When our family was young, we spent every weekend park hopping. We were too poor to do anything expensive, so we let the kids take turns choosing a park. We packed a picnic and off we went on one of our favorite family adventures.

Picnics can be great fun for the whole family. Whether you spend lazy afternoons in the park or take a vigorous hike in the mountains, a picnic is a great idea for any family outing. Here are some of the basics, and some fun ideas, to help you enjoy a fun, family picnic.

Food

Food is the main staple of any picnic. This can be as easy or as elaborate as you'd like. If you are hiking to a campground you might want to bring hotdogs and roasters. If you're heading to a beach, pre-wrapping your food before putting it in your basket could prevent sand from giving your PB&J an unusual texture. Make sure the type of food you pack is a good match for your location.

Small portions

Finger sandwiches, or smaller portions work well with children and adults alike. It's hard to sit comfortably on the ground with both hands on your sandwich.

Fruits and vegetables

These are great picnic foods. Cut them into bite sized pieces which generally travel well.

Pasta or potato salad

Not everyone's a fan of potato salad, but pasta salad can be prepared in many different ways. It can be individually packaged or put in a larger container for transport.

Dessert

The less sticky the better. When thinking of your dessert remember, not all picnic spots have places for little sticky fingers to get washed. Remember your surroundings when planning something yummy to follow your meal.

Visit Taste of Home for picnic recipe ideas.

Containers

If you can pack it in and out without much hassle you could bring plastic plates and cups, which cuts down on garbage. If you know there will be garbage containers to dispose of your trash you could opt for paper or other disposable dinnerware. Use plastic Ziploc for grapes, watermelon, carrots and veggies and anything else that can withstand a little push and shove from the bag. Or you could opt for mason jars. An entire salad can be packed into a mason jar, smaller jars are great for individual portions of pudding.

Supplies and Relaxation

When planning your picnic, decide what your goal is; fun, relaxation, watching a ball game, or a rest after a family activity. No matter what type of picnic you have, bring the supplies necessary to accommodate your objective. If relaxation is the key, lots of complicated foods, chairs and drinks will not allow you a moment of peace. Instead, choose simple, easy to eat foods and individual prepackaged drinks.

If fun is your goal, maybe a theme would help. If you pick a theme, such as a child's favorite character or your favorite country, try to gear your foods and supplies accordingly.

Location accommodations

Always bring a blanket in the event that there are no picnic tables. If you are bringing grandparents that cannot sit on the ground bring some camping chairs that you can easily pack and carry.

Trash bags

Always bring a trash bag or two. If you will be away from a trash can, make sure you plan to carry your trash out.

Coolers, bags and other food keepers

You won't be happy carrying a full-sized cooler two miles up a canyon on a hike, or keeping frozen foods in just a backpack for two hours while you make your way to your site. Match your food transportation to your destination.

Clean hands

If you can bring some liquid soap and an extra water bottle, this would be ideal. If there is a stream, Dawn dish soap is wildlife safe. If not, a bottle of hand sanitizer and baby wipes may have to do.

Fun

Picnics can be great fun by themselves, but adding a little extra can make a world of difference for your kids. This can be as simple as a Frisbee or bottle of bubble solution or as complicated as a relay race or treasure hunt. Here are some fun suggestions for your picnic.

Frisbee, football, kickball

These are all easily transported games that can be played just about anywhere.

Water fights

Nothing is more fun than a water fight at the end of a long, hot hike. If you have room, pack an extra water bottle or two and some inexpensive squirt guns.

Plant or animal identification

You can get simple books dedicated to the area you are in, or even a wildlife guide, at the local library. If you are visiting a state or national preserve or land you may be able to obtain a guide at a ranger station, or visitor center.

Small Games

Card games or other small transportable games, can be great fun after a good meal.

Time and attention are the two most important things you can give your family. Unplug, unwind and meet over a basket of food on a blanket in the park. Create a little Heaven on earth.

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