If you happen to have any friends overseas, you know that we Australians are very lucky in our version of winter. We don’t get much snow or blizzards, just a slight chill and a little more rain. Of course, if you’ve watched a lot of TV, you might wish we had sled rides and snowball fights and skating on frozen ponds. That said, we can do a few things that snow-filled countries can’t do. For example, we can have a lot of fun with winter picnics.
Spending time outdoors during the winter might seem counter- intuitive. It’s much nicer to stay inside, with a hot drink, under a cosy blanket. But especially for smaller kids, a winter picnic can be a clever way to keep the house clean and the sniffles at bay.
One of the best cures for a cold is to sweat it out. Staying active can even stave off the cold to begin with. So in addition to dosing your kids with oranges, lemonade, cinnamon, ginger, honey, garlic and other cold remedies, get them outside. Bundle them up in warm, flexible clothing.
Ideally, clothing should be bright and colourful to psychologically lift their spirits, but light enough to give them mobility and let them play. Include deliberate games as part of the picnic itinerary. Make it a kind of outdoors party. They can play musical chairs, whack a pinata, or play pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey using a fence post or a tree.
They can play tag or swing and run around. The idea is to keep them moving and active so that their heart rate rises and their metabolism speeds up, both of which will help their immunity. This is one occasion where you can give them sweets and sugary treats guilt-free. Just make sure they use up all the energy from the sugar high before they get back home.
All that playing will work up their appetites, so you need to have a healthy picnic stash. Since it’s cold, a good picnic snack should be toasty and a little spicy. Smaller kids will have a hard time consuming chilli, so use your own discretion.
If your picnic is restricted to family members, you are already familiar with their tastes and tolerance levels. You could make a batch of your favourite home-made chilli and carry it in a thermos flask. But if the group includes other people’s children, a steaming pizza that is mildly spiced might be a better option. You can pair it with flavoured milk since the milk will dull the chilli.
When you’re going on a picnic, you prefer your loads to be as light as possible. Avoid carrying heavy dishes and glassware that might break. A thermos is essential, but for your other dishes, use disposable cutlery, plastic or Styrofoam cups, and paper plates. Just be sure to a group clean-up before you leave the picnic site. It’s a good way to teach kids about taking care of the environment. Plus, littering fines can be quite punitive in certain places.
Finger foods are usually best for a picnic. Chips, dip, sandwiches, crisps, waffle fries, cookies and fish fingers are all good options. Many pizza places can deliver to your picnic site, so that can be quite convenient, since you can make a bulk order and get it while it’s hot.
There are a few other things to consider. Select a picnic site that has a shaded area in case it rains. It could be a shed, a canopy, or even a beach umbrella, just so you have somewhere to shelter from winter showers. If possible, your picnic spot should also have some benches so that you don’t have to sit directly on the wet ground. You could carry some foldable chairs or plastic seats as a backup if there are no benches in your vicinity.
Your final picnic item is patience. The kids will have a lot of fun, and you will probably benefit from the time outdoors as well. But … with all the energetic play and possible wet patches from the rain, the kids will also get quite dirty. So as you plan your picnic, try to stay calm when you anticipate the laundry that will follow.