Take a Hike with a Tyke
Packing it in. If you're going to be walking any distance to your picnic destination, you'll need a way to carry in your supplies. You can't haul a cooler very far, so you're better off with your load on your back. It's the most comfortable way to carry anything and as a parent, you already know the value of having your hands free! A daypack (or two) will do just fine.
The Picnic Blanket. Instead of a household blanket, try a ground cloth or "space" blanket (sold in camping stores). Made out of space-age materials (a combination of synthetics and metal) these blankets weigh just a few ounces and fold into a tiny bundle. You can sit on them, spread out your food, spill peanut butter and soda and then hose them off when you get home.
The Menu. Look for foods that are easy to pack and carry, and don't need to be refrigerated. Think of a French country lunch and you'll get the idea: Take along some good bread, hard cheese and salami (backpackers routinely take them on trips that last several days), and some apples and carrots. Packable foods that work for kids include peanut butter and jelly, crackers, beef jerky, dried fruits (and fresh fruits, too), and hard-boiled eggs. Salads tend to wilt, but a bag of sliced veggies (carrots, broccoli, and celery) tastes great on a hot, thirsty day. Containers should be plastic, not glass (glass is actually illegal in some parks, because it tends to break and end up as litter).
Snacks and treats. Every daypack should contain a stash of extra food to give you and your kids an energy boost at the end of the day. Try candy bars, granola, and trail mix (available prepackaged, but you can make your own combination of raisins, nuts, dried fruit, M&Ms, and any other goodies you want to throw in).
Water. Whether you're going out for a quick picnic or a long hike, water is the most important thing in your pack. Be sure to bring enough. Each person needs a canteen. You can use empty soda bottles, plastic bike bottles, or canteens designed for hiking. If you're going on longer, more strenuous trips, you'll need more water and a way to purify water you pick up on the trail. A backpacking water filter is available at most outfitters. Read more about treating water.
Pack Your Garbage Out. Teach your children the most important law of the wild: Take only pictures, leave only footprints. Read more about camp cuisine.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication