Eating outdoors is special for kids, but packing up the food and keeping it safe in the heat can seem a little tricky. Don't let that stop you. With our menu suggestions and food safety tips, your picnic will be a walk in the park!
Mini sandwiches with assorted fillings (like turkey and Swiss, cream cheese with veggies, and Nutella) are fun for little kids. Make them up to a day ahead and store in the fridge. Pack them in a container between layers of wax paper to prevent them from drying out.
Kids will love these cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon balls on a straw -- and get a serving of fruit. Make them just before heading to the picnic because fruit tends to start losing vitamin C after it's cut.
This long, shallow Rubbermaid Take-Along is ideal for transporting the kebobs and sandwiches to the park. BPA-free, it's sold at Wal-Mart, Target, and grocery store chains for about $3.
Although this yummy pasta salad can be made quickly, feel free to whip it up a day or two before the picnic and store it in the fridge. Bring along extra salad dressing to toss into the pasta salad before serving because it tends to dry out fast.
The large, 5-cup container from Progressive is perfect for transporting pasta salad to the park. All three containers in the set will "collapse" when they're empty so they take up less space. $15, amazon.com
Freeze the fruit for this punch before you pack it up. It'll act as "ice cubes" to keep the drink cold.
The punch looks prettiest in a clear pitcher you can set on the picnic table. But it's easiest to bring it to the park in a large Thermos.
Don't Forget the Water Pack a water bottle for all of the kids and suggest they use the water fountain. When it's hot out, they'll need even more fluids than usual. If your kid likes juice, also pack a Mott's Sensibles pouch (it's 100% juice, yet has 30% less sugar than other 100% apple juices).
If you can, bring two coolers to the park. Put the perishable food in one cooler surrounded by ice packs to keep it cold. Open as infrequently as possible. Store drinks in another cooler—open and close it as much as needed.
It's super important for kids to wash their hands before eating, especially if they've been using the playground equipment. Ideally, you'll choose a park with a bathroom that has soap and water. But pack antibacterial lotions or moist towelettes as well.
Once you have served perishable food, you can safely leave it out for an hour if the temperature is 90 degrees or more. You have about two hours if the weather is cooler.
Besides food and drinks, you'll also want to bring sunscreen to the park so you can re-apply it every hour or so. It's ideal to catch the kids when they're having a snack or lunch so they'll be less wiggly.
Take two empty bags to the park for your trash. Dispose of any food that's been out of the cooler. Have another bag for your recycling, in case the park doesn't have a special bin.