Feeling bored of feeding your baby the same old foods in your kitchen, and looking for a fun way to liven up lunchtime? Why not take your lunch outside and turn it into a family picnic? The novelty of eating in a new environment will make your baby more receptive to trying new things, and the change of scenery will do you both the world of good. You could even invite some of baby’s favourite soft toys along and turn your family picnic into a teddy bear’s picnic that everyone will enjoy! Involving their soft toys is a great way to build your child’s social skills and turn an everyday lunch into a really fun experience.
Love the idea of enjoying a picnic with your baby but not sure where to start? Here are some of our best picnic ideas for babies:
The novelty of the picnic, from your baby’s point of view, is the opportunity to eat lunch away from their highchair. Therefore, the location you choose becomes almost secondary, provided you have a picnic mat, allowing your child to sit on the ground and explore the environment around them. Your local park or a fun family day out (such as a trip to a zoo or local farm) are both popular locations for baby’s first picnic. Here she will be able to feel the grass between her fingers and toes, as well as watch other picnickers enjoying their lunch alongside her.
If you’d prefer to stay closer to home then your own garden will provide a similar sensory experience for your baby: the texture of grass, the sound of birds and other wildlife, and the sun on their face as they eat will all enhance the experience. And if it rains? An indoor teddy bear’s picnic on your living room floor is the perfect rainy day activity for children of any age!
Packing for a day out with baby can often feel like packing for a six-week expedition to the Artic! They need so many supplies that you’re often left wondering how you will carry them all, and adding a picnic to the mix will only make your load heavier. But the good news is that you can pack for your picnic surprisingly lightly. All you actually need is a picnic blanket (so that you have something to sit and eat on) and a cool bag loaded with all of your favourite foods and treats. If you only pack foods that can be eaten with your hands then there’s no need to pack cutlery or plates, which will only add to the rustic novelty of the affair!
Other nice to haves include a couple of your baby’s toys, so that they can be entertained on the mat once they have eaten their fill, a couple of ice packs to keep your food nice and cool, and some kitchen roll to wipe sticky fingers and faces when the meal is over (although wet wipes would do the same job). Don’t forget to pack an empty used carrier bag: this will make it much easier to pack your rubbish away and take it home with you once you have finished your meal.
A bowlful of fresh fruit is a summer picnic staple, but unfortunately it also attracts unwanted guests to the party: wasps and other wildlife. That doesn’t mean that you should abandon the healthy fruit though, you just need to plan ahead to keep the wasps at bay! Wasps dislike the smell of eucalyptus, so rubbing a little eucalyptus oil on your wrists should ensure they buzz off and don’t bother you. Alternatively, you could hang a fake wasps nest, known as a ‘waspinator’, from a tree near your picnic. These are a great way to keep the wasps away, and will come in particularly handy if your baby doesn’t like insects and gets upset when they fly near her.
Sandwiches are easy to serve and easy to eat with your hands, which makes them the ideal choice for a picnic lunch. But, let’s face it, they can also get boring very quickly! If you want to liven up your lunchtime picnic then why not mix up the sandwiches? One way to do this is to try wraps or rolls instead of ordinary bread. You could also try introducing a new filling or a new sauce flavour to the mix. Mixing some mayo with some chilli sauce, for example, would turn a boring chicken sandwich into a flavour fiesta! This is also a neat trick to persuade a fussy baby, who likes to pick the filling from their sandwich but never eats the boring bread, to try the whole thing.
If you’ve simply had enough of sandwiches, whatever the flavour, and want to try something else on your picnic then there are plenty of other options available. Buy a roll of readymade puff pastry, sprinkle on some cheese and then cut it into finger thin slices, and 10 minutes in the oven will leave you with homemade cheese straws. The same pastry packed full of diced onions, carrots, peppers and tomatoes then baked will make delicious vegetarian sausage rolls. Alternatively, for a really fun treat, why not use a whole wheat bread mix to make dough that could be turned into delicious whole wheat pizza slices. The toppings you choose can be adapted to suit the tastes of your baby, and if you’re having a family picnic you could use different flavour combinations for each person without too much extra work!
One way to inject some fun and whimsy into even the most workaday picnic is to focus on your presentation. Those ham sandwiches they eat for lunch everyday will be so much more exciting if you use a cookie cutter to cut them into the shape of a unicorn or a dinosaur. Fruit cocktail becomes a treat when it is served like a sword on a skewer (use a straw like a skewer if you worry about giving a younger baby a sharp skewer) and fun picnic sized foods (such as mini sausages and savoury eggs) are a great way to make snacking fun again.
The way your food is visually presented will make a big difference to whether you want to eat it. So, whether you’re working with the most basic ingredients (such as jam and bread) or are serving a versatile picnic banquet, thinking about how you’re going to serve those ingredients really can make or break your picnic. Why not think about giving your picnic a theme? Cutting everything into the shape of animals would be fun for a trip to the zoo, whilst a teddy bear cookie cutter could turn your teddy bear’s picnic into one everyone will want to enjoy! As long as you use your imagination, the possibilities are almost limitless!
Finally, nothing rounds off a picnic better than a sweet treat! Whilst a ice cream or ice lolly from the local van is a popular choice (and the ideal way to cool off on a hot day) these tend to be loaded with sugars that would make them a less than ideal choice for your baby. Instead, what better than one treat that the whole family can enjoy that is low in sugar, and that you can make at home?
Carrot cake muffins are a great choice here. Load them with plenty of carrots, then add natural sweetness using raisins and orange juice. Fruity flapjacks packed with nutritious oats are another great choice: add dry fruit, nuts and coconut for flapjacks that are packed with flavour and vitamin C whilst also having a relatively low sugar content. Finally, cinnamon is a great alternative to sugar if your baby has a sweet tooth. Why not make some banana cakes, paring the natural sweetness of the bananas with a touch of cinnamon? Make these with bran and milk instead of flour and you’ll be packing a delicious treat so healthy, you won’t feel guilty about letting your baby have a second helping!
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