I’ve mentioned before that I’m not always the best person at getting outside, despite the many reasons to do so. Part of this is because it is simply inconvenient. Our backyard is the size of a postage stamp. We have a patch of grass that is maybe six by six feet, and that’s being generous. We have a bit of brick patio, some pea gravel (not great for little kids), and a small flower bed. It does have a wall and a gate, so it’s secure, but it is nowhere near the inspiring, quasi-magical play space that I envision providing for my boys one day.
Because of this, getting my boys outside to play requires loading them into a stroller and walking for about 8 minutes to a nearby field.
It’s not far, and it’s not hard, but I sincerely struggle to actually fit this into our day: baby G. goes down for a nap by the time I manage to get myself dressed, and toddler N. goes down for a nap shortly after lunch. Between eating and one or other of the kids sleeping, we are left with precious little time where we are all awake and not occupied with food.
One option would obviously be for the baby to nap on-the-go, but I’m a major stickler for naps, and at this point G. won’t sleep in the pushchair. This means that we really only have the in-between-naps time available – about an hour and a half on average.
After a lot of frustration and guilt that I have been short-changing my kids by denying them outdoors time, I finally came up with a solution.
Picnic lunches let us spend all of our between-nap-time outdoors.
This works for so many reasons: lunch prep happens during the baby’s morning nap. By the time he is up, I have lunch packed, the pushchair ready, and N.’s shoes on. We fly out the door and head to our picnic spot. Instead of eating in our kitchen, we eat outdoors on a blanket. We have plenty of time to enjoy our meal, play, and amble home before N.’s nap.
We have really been enjoying our picnics. Baby G. scavenges bits of lunch that his brother dropped before taking a long crawl to some mud and trees, stopping to pick grass along the way. N.’s imagination has really taken off lately. He goes around with his pretend dog, Puppy, who is blue, and finds him a ‘bone’. He also adds to his stick collection. We’re trying to not take so many back to the house, so I’ve had to initiate a ‘catch and release’ program. He’s also found pine-cones and a worm. We see bees, hear church bells, meet dogs. It is an exciting place to be!
It’s been particularly great now that the weather is more often warm and sunny. We’ve also extended our mealtime adventures to dinner time if it’s raining at lunch – I will pack up our meal as best I can and then Carl and I will put the kids on our bikes and we’ll head further afield, with enough time to eat, play, and cycle home before bedtime. It doesn’t require fancy meals or lots of money, which means that our little picnics are a pretty sustainable way to get our kids outdoors more often, without missing out on naps.