Pack a Picnic!

Your partner is at work, you have the day off, and it's a gorgeous summer day. You and your little ones -- or not so little ones -- are going stir crazy. They're bored with the same old routine and you still have the bathrooms to clean and a pile of bills to be paid. What can you do? Take a mini-vacation and go on an old-fashioned picnic. Picnics are great way to involve the kids in a fun and creative outing, have a change of scenery and reconnect the family.

• Select your picnic destination. Your children's personalties can provide valuable clues. For older kids with a strong imagination, an unknown picnic destination can be a welcome adventure. Go hiking and have the children leave special markings, such as stones around a tree trunk, to identify the path. Let them choose the final spot for the picnic. On the way back, use their markers to help direct the family back to civilization.

For picnicking with small children, an established park often is best. Amenities such as an onsite bathroom will make your job as picnic coordinator go smoothly. Also, consider the park's entertainment capabilities. Do they have paddle boats, pony rides or a carousel? The more activity options, the easier it will be to keep the kids happy during your picnic outing.

• Plan the menu creatively! Don't pack up ho-hum egg salad sandwiches and, sigh, potato chips. Make your picnic memorable by announcing a moratorium on the usual rules and encouraging the children's culinary input. Forgo the perfectly balanced nutritional lunch, and let them call the shots. They want a peanut butter and pickle submarine hoagie? All the better! Encourage your kids to build their own picnic feasts. But be sure to pack it all in a verifiable picnic basket, not just a paper bag, or the usual lunch box. And don't forget critical items such as a blanket to sit on, camera, hats, sunscreen, insect repellent, wet wipes and bottled water.

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