When summer begins, it can feel like the long, lazy days stretch out before us and we have plenty of time for special get-togethers. But time flies and soon autumn is staring us down—and we find we haven’t made enough summer memories! Why not embark on a traditional hallmark of summer—the picnic—to make time slow and to spend some quality time with the family (or friends). Even if your kids are older, with the right planning, everyone will get in the picnic spirit and enjoy this rite of summer.

1. Get in gear

Close up of a picnic basket on grass with a red and white checkered blanket inside

Every picnic needs the basics: plates, napkins, glasses, serving cutlery, a bottle opener or corkscrew. You’ll also want a big picnic blanket or two—you can use your basic blanket from home or buy one specifically for picnics, lined and waterproof. If you know you’ll be going somewhere that has picnic tables, you might opt instead for a tablecloth (and think about items to weigh it down for windy conditions).

Here is a handy checklist of other items you’ll want to bring for an easy, hassle-free picnic:

  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wipes to wash hands
  • Extra napkins or paper towels
  • An umbrella to protect you from the sun (or hats and sunglasses for everyone!)
  • Re-sealable plastic bags, aluminum foil or plastic wrap for leftovers
  • Containers with lids to avoid leaks from salads
  • Garbage bags for clean up
  • Condiments
  • Matches and candles for the evening (or a birthday celebration!)
  • A first-aid kit (or at least bandages)
  • Trays to set drinks on to avoid spills
  • Cutting board and knives depending on what you are serving
  • Plenty of water
  • a sweater or two in case it gets breezy

Of course, you need something to pack all these things up. Picnic baskets are traditional, but, especially if you will be doing any walking to get to your destination, they can be impractical. Many picnickers these days are switching to picnic backpack sets, which provide an easier way to carry your picnic must-haves—and many are insulated to keep food and beverages cold, and include matching essentials such as napkins, glasses, plates, etc.

If you want to make last-minute picnics more frequent, consider packing a picnic basket or bag of picnic goodies in advance to have on-hand and ready to go. Fill the bag with non-perishable picnic essentials, like blankets, cutlery, plates, napkins, cups, that extra bottle opener and even canned drinks or games (more on games later!)

Also, before setting out to picnic, you can pack two containers—one for tableware and non-perishable items and a cooler for sandwiches, salads and drinks.

Pack your basket in reverse order to make it easy to get at the items you need when you arrive at your destination. Blanket or tablecloth on top!

2. Pack-your-own picnic

Chicken cutlet sandwich with a bowl of cabbage slaw in the background

Sometimes teens might need a bit of convincing to get in the spirit of a family picnic. Plus, kids (and adults!) of all ages might be picky eaters. To get everyone on board and so that they all look forward to their picnic lunch, have each family member make their own sandwiches and treats! Kids will feel super-satisfied with a simple meal they prepared by themselves. (Also, many hands make light work for parents!)

To make it happen, set up a picnic-prep area in the kitchen with different station. The pack-your-own picnic doesn't take much to pull off: Set out some delicious breads from Country Harvest’s varieties with high-quality, great tasting grains and different nutrients like omega-3, protein and fibre. Or maybe you have bagel-lovers in the family, in which case, include Country Harvest Grains+ bagels in a variety of flavours that are sure to fuel your day.

Offer an array of family favourite sandwich ingredients and depending on how quickly you expect to get to your picnic site, you can put condiments on right away or bring them separately to keep sandwich ingredients fresh and crisp. Top sandwiches once you get there.

For sides, keep it simple and offer different types of hand-held fruit (for ex., apples, peaches, watermelon slices), a selection of raw veggies, bottled water, pop or sports bottles filled with fresh lemonade.

For some extra-special, flavour-packed sandwiches, try Country Harvest’s Chicken Cutlet Sandwich with Savoy Cabbage Slaw or the Waldorf Chicken Bagelwich.

3. Pick your spot

For small kids, there’s no easier or better spot for a picnic than your own backyard or neighbourhood park. But, for a memorable family excursion, choose a special setting, like a fragrant wooded area, by a lake or waterfall, at the beach at sunset, under a big tree in a park or amid the flowers of public gardens. For something really special, head to a local island—or choose a hilltop with a beautiful vista.

Some other location tips to keep in mind:
Be sure to select a place that won’t be too crowded or noisy and is comfortable: Is there place to set out your “table,” either on the ground or at a picnic table? Is a place really windy or sandy? Is there shade? Does it have washrooms close by?

Will you want to do anything active before, during or after the picnic? If so, are there trails, a wading pool, an ice cream stand, a playground, sailboats to watch or other fun things to do close by? Is there room to throw a frisbee? (Or play other games?—see below!)

4. Let the games begin

4 adults versus 3 kids playing a game of tug-of-war in a wooded area

Make an afternoon of it and do some family bonding over some games: Fancy a competitive game of tug of war, bocce ball, badminton, frisbee, limbo, rubber horseshoes or ring toss?  All these games are inexpensive, portable and good for different numbers of players.

Depending on the age of kids, consider going to a park that has playground equipment or outdoor ping pong tables, or pack checkers, chess or a board game.

Is your family more crafty than sporty?

Bring a family craft project. Tie-dye works well as a family activity and everyone ends up with a great wearable t-shirt to remember the day! You can pick up one-step tie-dye kits at a craft store. All you need to add is water from a water bottle. You can use plastic bags to bring your beautiful creations home.

Want more outdoor activities ideas? Check out 6 Ideas to Get Moving Outside this Summer

5. Timing is everything

A dad taking a picture of a mom and her 2 kids having a picnic

For a truly enjoyable family picnic, don’t try to squeeze the occasion into a short window of time on the calendar. It can take adults and kids alike time to unwind and get into the picnic spirit! Leave lots of time before your planned meal to get to your destination and get set up. Make sure you have snacks on hand so that no one gets hungry before the main attraction (lunch) begins.

Take your time and enjoy every minute of your picnic. . . . and try to leave time for listening to the birds and gazing at the clouds! Nothing ruins a family outing like having to check the clock . . . which brings us to . . . to make it truly peaceful—and memorable—make a “no devices” rule while picnicking!

One more thing about time. . .  While you want to give yourself plenty of it, leave them wanting more—and pack up and hit the road while everyone is still happy and having fun.

Along the way, don’t forget to take lots of pictures to capture your Summer 2021 picnic!

For more sandwich ideas with high-quality grains, wholesome bagels, and no sugar added bread, click here.