Alfresco kids: Mummy bloggers share their top picnic tips

Forget about the picture-perfect picnic — it’s usually not worth the effort, says Andrea Mara

WICKER basket — check. Sparkling plates — check. Red and white tablecloth — literally, check. Add in some fresh sandwiches, mint-infused water, and a wedge of Brie, and you’ve got the perfect Instagram picnic.

The real-life version? In my house, we use a bright green cool-bag because, let’s face it, wicker baskets are not very practical and are awkward to carry.

Instead of the picture-perfect red and white tablecloth, we have a blue stripey rug with a waterproof underside — it’s Ireland and the real-life grass is often wet. And as for the food: our picnic is usually a “whatever we found in the press” special.

Most of us know that picnics rarely look as good in real life as they do online, and getting organised to go can be a monumental chore. So we asked three parent bloggers for their tips — how do you make picnics practical for grownups and fun for kids?

Emma Coogan (@Lyla_and_Co) says picnics don’t need to be complicated.

“We have a picnic blanket that lives in the boot of the car, and we always bring food for the kids whether we’ve planned a picnic or not.”

Her reasons for picnicking with her daughters (aged five and three) are very practical.

“Our weekends usually involve getting out and about, and we tend to leave early as the kids don’t sleep past seven. We’re rarely home during the day so eating out is more of a necessity. Picnicking is cheaper, less stressful, and the kids enjoy it more than they would a restaurant.”

Aisling Hamill (@soulfullyaisling) lives near a beach, so picnics are a regular feature.

“Since we moved to Greystones, picnics became a way of life, and a lot more rough-and-ready,” says the mum of three. “For me, it’s all about being out with the kids, particularly throughout the summer; taking the day in our stride instead of planning everything around heading home for lunch. Plus, eating on the beach is always more fun.”

So what kind of food works well? Having experimented unsuccessfully with soggy sandwiches, squashed berries, and warm yoghurts, I’m keen to hear tips.

Mum-of-three Sinéad Fox (@BumblesofRice) has a simple way to make sure sandwiches are fresh: “I raid the fridge and make the rolls or sandwiches when we get there, to prevent them going soggy. I bring a squeezy bottle of relish or mayonnaise and a small container of butter, and have my ‘salady bits’ chopped and ready in small containers.

“We’d often stop for fresh rolls en route so we’ve perfectly fresh sandwiches when we get there.”

Does she bake in advance of going on picnics? “I rarely purposely bake for a picnic, but anything that’s in the press is welcome to come along. Old fashioned iced buns or lemon drizzle cake both travel well and my mum’s mini-quiches are fantastic for a posher picnic. Anything that’s especially sticky or is likely to melt is a no-go, and will attract wasps.”

Aisling says they sometimes grab a bag of chips and go for an evening swim, but at other times, she prepares picnic food in advance.

“If I’m feeling super organised, I might make up a lunch — crudités of carrots, cucumber, and celery, with a pot of hummus. I’m a fan of a fruit box with a wide selection of fruits, and sesame sticks or popcorn always go down well with mine.”

Another unexpected problem I’ve encountered is that of reluctant children. In my head, a picnic is a wonderful treat — I have fond childhood memories of trips to Fountainstown Beach and Currabinny Woods in Cork, eating sandwiches and crisps and drinking red lemonade.

As a parent, I love the idea of making memories with my kids, the kind of memories I have from my own childhood. But my kids don’t always jump up and down with excitement when I suggest a picnic — sometimes it’s too cold, sometimes they want to stay home and play with

their

friends, often it’s because they know they’re getting the above-mentioned soggy sandwiches.

Emma says it’s about location: “If we’re going for a picnic there’s usually a playground or plenty of space to play, that’s enough to convince them.”

Sinéad’s children (aged 10, eight, and six) sometimes want to stay local.

“As they get older they’re starting to prefer hanging out at home — I find the promise of the traditional treat at the end of the picnic is enough to get them into the car.”

But generally, her kids love picnics.

“There’s something special about eating outdoors that I think they’ll look back and remember when they’re older. A ham sandwich at the kitchen table isn’t nearly as appealing as one at a waterfall or in the woods.”

Of course, as it’s Ireland, sitting by the waterfall or in the woods isn’t always possible, due to our changeable weather. The solution? A car picnic, says Emma.

“My father-in-law minds the girls twice a week while I’m in work and he brings them for a picnic both days.

“If it’s raining he brings them to the community centre or failing that, they eat in the car.”

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