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15 Ideas for a Fun Family Picnic

by Dr. Heather Wittenberg | July 2, 2014

Planning a family picnic is the perfect activity for fun summer learning. With all the outside games and food, it’s easy to see why your kids will never know you have a secret curriculum up your sleeve! Here are 15 great tips to make your summer picnics full of learning – AND lots of fun:


  1. Races: Running races, the egg and spoon race, hopping-on-one-leg races – anything goes! Lots of exercise is linked to more learning – and better behavior. Have the kids run for at least an hour during your picnic to maximize this fun learning booster.
  2. Ball Games: Playing catch and kicking the ball helps with a kind of coordination called Motor Planning, which helps your children get from one place to another. The more confident  your children are with their bodies , the more likely  they are to take on other challenges in life.
  3. Daisy Chains: Dandelions or other common summer weeds are perfect for making daisy chains. Help your little one create the chain to help fine motor skills develop – and don’t forget to count the flowers.
  4. Leaf Adventures: When your children are  busy with something else, collect leaves from a few trees. Then ask them to find which trees they belong to. When they do, tell them about the trees they’ve discovered.
  5. Bubbles: Blowing bubbles helps little ones build the oral muscles needed to improve their speech. Count the bubbles for more fun and learning.
  6. Scavenger hunt: Create your hints ahead of time, and have one adult hide the items while another facilitates  games with the kids. Aim for 5 -6 items for younger children; older kiddos can stay focused for a longer list.
  7. Chalk it up: Bring chalk to draw pictures, letters, numbers, and shapes. Show your child how to play hopscotch and four square, too.
  8. Duck, Duck, Squirt (Gun): This variation on Duck, Duck, Goose goes like this:  Whoever is “it” goes around the circle, counting “duck, duck, duck” until he picks a player to squirt with the water gun. Race around the circle to see who can get back to the open position first, and try not to get too wet!
  9. Geocaching: This fun activity takes some preparation, but everyone in the family will enjoy it. Look up the location of treasures stashed nearby, and find them with the GPS on your phone. Check out some great geocaching tips here.
  10. Cloud Watching: Lie on the grass together and watch the clouds go by. Have everyone say what shapes they see to encourage creativity. See what stories your little ones can make up about their cloud friends. Let the imagination flow!
  11. Freeze Tag: This classic game is a great way to challenge little ones to control themselves, be patient, and have fun. Make sure everyone has a chance to be “it!”
  12. Visit the Fire Department: Many parks are adjacent to a fire station. Teach the kids about fire safety by arranging a tour before your picnic. Most fire departments enjoy showing off their equipment to families.
  13. Healthy Food: Plan to pack simple, healthy snacks for your picnic. Choose foods with brain-building Omega 3 fatty acids such as chia seeds (fun and yummy to dip fruit in), edamame, salmon, and trail mix with walnuts. Your child’s brain – and behavior – will benefit.
  14. Fresh Fruit Ice Pops:  Before the picnic, have the kids help select and prep their favorite fresh fruits. Freeze fruit chunks and coconut water in popsicle molds to enjoy at the park. Yum!
  15. Don’t Forget the Sunscreen! Any outside adventure needs sun protection. This is the chance to teach little ones about the dangers of too much sun – and how to avoid it. Bring along the bug repellent, too.