Excerpts from this post were originally published in January, 2011.
We’ve had a mild winter so far, brilliant sunlight, crisp cool air, and a peaceful blanket of white snow – now that is the mix for a perfect outing. We’ve been getting outdoors every day out of sheer necessity; it’s far too easy to go bonkers when you’re snowed in! Sometimes we go sledding, sometimes walking, but all the kids really need is a snow bank to have fun.
In summer we practically eat everything outdoors, but winter confines us to the dining room table three times a day, and quite frankly, that gets old. Why not plan a winter picnic to change things up?
With proper planning and an adventurous spirit, a snow picnic can be every bit of fun -if not more- than a summer picnic. Here are my tips to keep everyone happy on such an outing – both parents and children!
Tips for a Picnic in the Snow
A thermos of hot cocoa and homemade cookies are a good place to start. Don’t attempt an entire meal on the first try, instead, pack some cookies or other favorite treats in a waterproof container, fill a thermos (I like the Kids Konserve Insulated Stainless-Steel Thermos because it’s BPA-free, portable, and keeps food hot for hours) with hot chocolate, and be on your way.
We like to head out with our snacks when Noah gets home from school. An afternoon enjoyed in the quiet of the forest after a long day in a classroom is my idea of letting my six-year-old unwind.
Dress the Part
In order to enjoy the winter picnic experience, dress to the nines. When we head out, everyone is outfitted from head to toe in warm gear, and while it may not be matching or brand name, it keeps us snug and that’s enough. Don’t forget to wear an extra pair of socks!
Tip: If it is a particularly sunny day, and you’re planning on being out for a few hours, you may want to apply a thin layer of sunscreen on little faces before you get bundled up. The snow reflects the sun’s rays and sunburn in winter is a possibility.
Watch the weather
Make sure you have a good idea of what the weather has in store. Gently falling snow makes for a fun setting, but too much more can be trouble. If there is a chance it may turn into freezing rain, then either stay very close to home, or wait for another day.
Grab the Gear
This is one picnic you can leave the bug spray at home! We don’t bring much more than food (the essentials!), but here are a few items you may want to toss in a backpack to be prepared.
- Camera. Snap a few photos of your winter picnic and share them with us on our Facebook page.
- Blanket. We usually sit right in the snow or on a fallen log in our snow pants, but you may want a woolen blanket to spread out.
- Flashlight. Bring a small one if you are going far from home, as the daylight fades fast in the late afternoon.
- Kleenex. Inevitably, someone’s nose always needs a wipe.
- Matches. If you’re rural enough to be able to build a fire, bring the necessary tools.
- Small plastic trash bag. You know the motto, right? Leave no trace. Pack any garbage out with you.
Get out of town
The winter slush in a city is no fun. If you can, hop into a car and make tracks to a local orchard, farmer’s field, or even a golf course for clear, unbroken snow.
If staying in town is the only option, try and head for the biggest park near you and bushwhack off the trail. Find a nice perch with a view and ideally some sunshine.
No matter where you are, make the outing more of an adventure for the kids by pretending you’re in a favorite storybook. My boys like to play Royal and Almanzo from ‘Farmer Boy’. We hunt a lot of ‘panthers’ when we’re tromping through the snow.
Grub that’s Good
Yes, the word ‘picnic’ generally conjures up images of watermelon and egg salad sandwiches, but I don’t recommend those for a winter outing. Instead pack non-messy, easy to eat foods that warm the tummy and don’t require any on-site assembly.
- Thermos. Ideal items for a thermos would be Chili, beef stew, lentil soup, or macaroni & cheese.
- Foil-wrapped. Many summer camping foods can be adapted to suit a winter picnic. Simply prepare and cook the food at home, keep well wrapped and warm in aluminum foil, and bring them along for the picnic. Try Beef Stew Packets, Campfire Burritos , Frijoles Rancheros or even just baked potatoes.
- Cold. Wraps, sandwiches, and simple finger foods are another easy route for keeping little tummies happy. Homemade granola bars are sure to please, cookies are essential, and no one can turn down a freshly baked muffin. Don’t forget a thermos of hot apple cider to help warm the hands up.
As opposite to a summer picnic, food tends to take a back seat in a winter picnic. Eating is secondary when there are snow forts to build and tunnels to dig. PBJ’s we will have with us always, but the snow? It will be gone by April.
Have you picnicked in winter before? Would you?