By Alisa Bangerter
Studio 5 Party and Ideas Correspondent
With a little extra pre-picnic planning, you can add some extra pizzaz to your picnic by taking it from ordinary to extraordinary!
• Remember you can have a picnic almost anywhere. Be creative! Think of out of the ordinary places to picnic such as in a car or pickup truck bed, on a balcony, under your kitchen table (small children would love this), in front of your fireplace, in a tent in your backyard, etc. If you have an indoor picnic, set some houseplants around to give added “atmosphere.”
• Create a picnic bin or basket that is kept filled with the essentials so you can grab it and go whenever you want a spur of the moment picnic. Have kids paint and decorate the bin or basket if desired. (There are also many picnic baskets and backpack like picnic organizers available for purchase. Check out www.picnicfun.com) Keep a checklist in your bin or basket so items can always be replaced as needed and ready to go.
• Have a picnic around a theme. Choose location, food, décor and other items around the theme. A picnic could also have a color theme for example – a pink picnic with everything pink.
• Use some artificial turf as a picnic table covering. This can be purchased by the yard inexpensively at a home improvement center.
• Make small fleece picnic blankets for members of your family. Each person will have their own space to spread out on. These wash great as well.
• Big, double size beach towels (or individual towels) work great as picnic blankets.
• Picnicking on a windy day? Attach spring type wood clothespins at each corner of your tablecloth. Let kids paint the clothespins as a fun project. Another option for tablecloth weights is to use chip bag clips.
• Sew elastic on the corners of a tablecloth so it pulls under the table to keep it from blowing off.
• Recycle denim jeans to make great picnic tablecloths or placemats. Sew pockets on placemats to hold silverware and napkins. Sew ribbons on the ends of placemats so they can be rolled up with utensils inside and tied shut. Another option is to create each family member their own unique placemat that is theirs alone to use. For example – a pink placemat with funky trim for a girl or a sports themed placemat for a boy.
• Wrap silverware in napkins like they do in a restaurant. This keeps each set clean and easy to distribute.
• Wrap sandwiches with wax paper and then a pretty paper wrap. Another option would be to place sandwiches in glassine bags or small colored paper sacks. Decorate with stickers.
• Pack picnic lunches in individual boxes – one per person. Use any kind of take-out food type boxes, tiny baskets or other creative containers. Wrap each with a ribbon and attach a tag with a nametag. This is nice if you are making personalized sandwiches. Another cute container idea would to be pack lunches for children in new beach pails.
• If each picnic meal is packaged separately, add a fun surprise like they give in kids meals at a fast food restaurant. The dollar stores are great places to find items. Adults would like this as well. If the picnic is not packaged separately then bring a treasure box for kids to choose an item out of.
• Use dishtowels as napkins. These work great and wash up easily.
• Instead of ordinary sandwiches made with bread or buns, why not try sandwich filling in pita bread or tortillas.
• Bring some bright colored drinking straws for drink bottles and canned drinks.
• Cut sandwiches into creative shapes using large cookie cutters.
• Make a long picnic sandwich by slicing a loaf of French bread in half and filling with cold cuts, cheese, etc. Slice in two inch sections when ready to serve. Place fun food picks in the top of each sandwich.
• Make mini cupcakes for dessert. Decorate each with an “ant.” Make ants by placing two brown m&m candies side by side to create a body. Pipe on melted chocolate or brown frosting legs – four on each side. Pipe on the antennae.
• A cute way to serve fruit at a picnic is to cut off the top of an orange. Carefully scoop out the fruit creating an orange peel bowl. Fill bowl with a variety of cut up fruit (including pieces of scooped out orange). Replace top of orange and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready for your picnic.
• Make your own individual bags of chips by filling small sandwich bags. Add a fun decorated bag topper made from cardstock (just fold over a strip of cardstock and staple to top of bag). This would be a great way to package any type of snack or trail mix for munchies.
• Sprinkle some plastic ants around your picnic table or on your picnic blanket.
• Make some picnic kabobs. Thread pieces of fruit onto bamboo or wood skewers. This is a fun way to serve fruit and is easy to transport. Be creative with your kabobs – thread other items with the fruit such as sponge cake squares, donut holes, marshmallows or small brownie squares. Other fun items to bring on sticks: hot dogs, chicken fingers, sausages, tortellini, etc.
• Make creative bottle or soda wraps. Computer print (or hand make) fun labels with a message, poem, joke, etc. for the drinks. This is fun to do if the picnic is held celebrating a holiday, birthday, sports team, etc.
• Make sure to bring a camera along. Keeping a disposable camera in your picnic basket is a great idea.
• Keep a picnic journal (a small notebook) in your picnic basket and record the date, place and a quick note about each picnic.
• Save extra packets of salt and pepper and other condiments form fast food restaurants to use on your picnic. Packages of wet wipes are great to take along as well.
• Bring a small CD music player to provide some music. Especially nice for a romantic picnic for two.
• Have a candlelight picnic after dark. Try roasting marshmallows over a candle.
• Have a treasure hunt that leads to a filled picnic basket ready to go.
• Have a breakfast picnic. Your own backyard can work great for this and everyone can stay in their pajamas. Serve simple items such as fruit, muffins, bagels, yogurt, pastries and juice bottles. Grab some pillows. and if it is early, you can watch the sun come up as you eat and relax.
• Play picnic bingo. Make a different bingo card for each player. Place picnic items in each square. Include items such as watermelon, catsup, ants, picnic table, lemonade, etc. You could even include names of people attending the picnic. Use plastic ants or watermelon seeds as markers. Give a fun picnic themed prize to the winner. For very small children, use pictures in the bingo squares instead of written words. Picnic themed stickers work great for this.
• Have a watermelon seed spitting contest. How about a hot dog eating contest.
• Have a fancy picnic. Use real silverware and nice dishes. Use a nice tablecloth and add a vase of fresh flowers. Food can be kept simple such as fruit, bread and cheese. Don’t forget a fancy chocolate or two for dessert… or three or four…..five or six…. you get the idea!
• Make sure to bring along some fun items for entertainment such as: bubbles, a kite, Frisbees, sidewalk chalk, balls, card games, binoculars, a butterfly net and bug jar, magnifying glass, books, gunny sacks for a sack race, etc.
• Play the “I am going on a picnic, and I am taking……” game. The first person says something that starts with the letter A. The next person repeats the item the first person gave and adds another item starting with the letter B. Play continues with each person repeating previous items and adding an item until the whole alphabet is used.
• A fun quality game to take on a picnic for kids ages 3-10 is the Picnic Game from eeBoo Corporation. It is a darling game with a real cloth “tablecloth” game board and kids play to complete their picnic meal – just watch out for the ants! Go to www.eeboo.com for more info. (My teenagers even had fun playing this game!)
• A great picnic tip is to freeze wet sponges in plastic bags and they can double as ice packs and then be ready for clean up.
• Don’t forget that winter picnics can be really fun. Make sure to dress warm, pack plenty of hot chocolate and bring along some snowball makers and sleds.
May all your picnics be filled with fun and most of all fabulous memories!