Be creative when heading out for a mealtime adventure

It really doesn’t matter what the weather holds, my six-year-old daughter is always asking for a picnic. From the middle of winter, to the blustery spring or rainy fall day, to the sunshine filled summer, she is always hopeful we will pack up some sandwiches and fruit and head out for a mealtime adventure. Her enthusiasm for this generally warm weather past time has led to some creative picnic scenarios, from the “grass” of our living room rug to the perfect nook by the river. Whether your family shares my 

daughter’s affinity for checkered blanket dining or simply enjoys the occasional outing, here are three ideas to help make your next meal a picnic. 

Basket not required
Allow your children to fill up containers with their favorite foods, opting for finger foods and items that don’t require staying hot or cold. If you let them do this part, it’s far less work for you and you know they’ll eat what’s been brought. Maintain a stash of reusable, lightweight plates and flatware on a shelf everyone can reach. Along with a blanket designated as your go-to picnic ground cover, your family can easily help fill your picnic backpack, basket, wagon, bike trailer or whatever carrier you are using. If you’re looking to purchase some sturdy kitchen items to serve as picnic ware, be sure to look locally first at places like the Fort Collins Food Co-op, Crunchy Grocer in Loveland, and Colorado company Natural Grocers. Still can’t find what you want? Check out the website A Mighty Nest, where 15 percent of your purchase can be donated to a school of your choosing, and the items are sturdy, high quality, and arrive at your doorstep.

Stay close to home
Even though I should be used to it by now, I still find myself feeling overwhelmed when I’m asked, yet again, to go for a picnic. That’s when I remember that we don’t have to travel very far for this delightful dining experience. In fact, our front yard has served as the perfect picnic spot more times than I can count. This is especially handy if the weather looks iffy and little minds and hearts are not to be swayed. When we have a front yard or driveway picnic (because sometimes the concrete driveway lends warmth the frozen ground cannot during a winter day picnic), I will often take it up a notch and become the server who brings my children courses of food. This is fun, and not only cracks up the kids, but gets me preparing more creative foods than I might have otherwise. 

If your yard is not an option, then choosing one of the local parks is a great way to keep the journey short. In Fort Collins alone there are over 40 parks, including neighborhood and the ever-fun “pocket” parks. Pocket parks can be delightful to discover and are often located within walking distance to any given neighborhood. One such park we like to frequent is Avery Park off of Taft Hill. Between Greeley, Loveland, and Fort Collins, there are over 100 parks and miles and miles of bike trails to help you get there safely. 

Go exploring
Sometimes a picnic can be a great way to rally the family behind visiting some place new. Parks are fun, with playgrounds and picnic tables, but sometimes really getting out can make the picnic even better. The Front Range is filled with natural areas that provide fodder for such adventures. The Poudre Canyon is full of places to explore, and Gateway Natural Area is a picnicking paradise. Soapstone Prairie is 25 miles north of Fort Collins, almost to Wyoming, and provides trails to hike, beautiful grasslands to explore, and a cultural resources. Promontory Point Park in Greeley has ponds, a small waterfall, trails, and a wonderfully expansive feel. Ramsay-Shockey Open Space in Loveland is less popular than Devil’s Backbone and provides lots of family-friendly hiking trails. And with the myriad bike trails connecting city dwellers to places quiet and serene, it’s always fun to hop on the nearest bike trail and see what special place your family can find.