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Going on a picnic is one of the quintessential summer activities for families to partake in at some point. Eating outside is pretty much the best of both worlds in the eyes of my toddler. While he has begun to understand the concept of a picnic and sitting still to eat outside, the first picnic was not quite this easy. The lure of a big park and lots of space to run in the background was much more important than eating a healthy meal. Since our first picnic, I have picked up on a few tips to ensure a successful adventure.

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1. Start small. Don’t expect your child to eat a full meal, but start by bringing snacks along and introducing the idea of a picnic during snack time rather than attempting to replace a meal with a picnic. This way they are still getting the experience and you aren’t concerned about them getting a good meal.

2. Allow your children to run around while you prepare the meal. Rather than preparing the meal at home and packing it, prepare it while your children run around and play. This way they get some energy out and are more likely to want to sit down and eat. There is also a greater chance that they will be hungrier after running around some much!

>> Read more: Everything You Need for the Perfect Picnic

3. Include fun or special food and drink. Make the picnic more exciting by bringing treats you don’t normally have at meals. Bring a fun dessert or chips that your children love but don’t normally get to eat. This will make them more excited to sit down and eat if they know there is a special treat involved.

>> Read more: 10 Recipes for the Perfect Picnic

4. Make the picnic themed. Creating a theme around the picnic will further engage your children and encourage them to sit down. Have some games in mind as well that go along with the theme as a fun way to incorporate more activity. I like to pick themes based on either holidays, books, cultures, or other fun things my toddler has recently been learning about such as Dr. Seuss, trains or even sports.

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5. Bring a lot of napkins and wipes. Things are going to spill and messes are inevitable. Being prepared will ensure everyone is able to enjoy the picnic while not being sticky. It is also usually a great idea to bring extra drinks and food so if something is spilled there is still enough for everyone.

6. Keep it simple. Don’t go with a lot of expectations but just enjoy the family time and go with the flow. There is a good chance that the weather won’t be perfect and something will have been left at home. As long as you don’t make a big deal about anything, your children probably won’t even notice and will still have fun.

>> Read more: 50 Free Summer Activities You Can Do With Your Kids

Through following these steps, we have been able to have fun, stress-free picnics throughout the summer. Picnics are a great, inexpensive way to spend quality time together as a family as well as create a fun learning environment for you child. We also love incorporating these same tips and having winter picnics inside!