How will you be celebrating Labour Day? One of my family’s favourite traditions is to have a picnic in the evening to stake out the perfect spot to watch fireworks. Picnics are a great way to involve the whole family in an activity. They can be a quick lunch under the trees or a full-day event. While picnics are generally quite casual and relaxing, they can take a bit of planning. In this article, I help make planning the perfect picnic easy!

I have fond childhood memories of numerous picnics with my grandmother. We would set up the picnic in her backyard, usually under the shade of the trees and sometimes next to her flower garden. On a rainy day, we would set up in the living room, overlooking the backyard. Our picnics were always full of the traditional picnic foods that I helped to prepare: sandwiches, salads, fruits, vegetables, dips, and of course, dessert!

The following steps will help you plan your picnic:

  1. Plan for the weather
  2. Find a space for the picnic
  3. Prepare an assortment of food
  4. Pack the essentials
  5. Prepare activities and entertainment

1. Plan for the weather

Check the weather report and dress appropriately for the weather. Don’t forget your sunscreen! If there is a chance of rain, plan an indoor place for the picnic as a backup.

2. Find a space for the picnic

Picnics are an ideal summer activity because they can be set up just about anywhere, such as your own back yard, at a local park, a national park, or your favourite beach.

Ideas for picnic places in and around Montréal:
Mont Royal Park
Angrignon Park
Jean-Drapeau Park
Cap-Saint-Jacques Natural Park

Ideas for picnic places in Kitchener-Waterloo:
Waterloo Park
Victoria Park
Bechtel Park
Laurel Creek Conservation

3. Prepare an assortment of food

Personally, I think that the more food you pack the better. On one hand, when you have too much food, you run the risk of some of the food spoiling or going to waste. On the other, there will be enough food to pick at for the rest of the day, so you and your family are never left feeling hungry. Pack foods that are easy to eat and make, and do not require being hot or cold to be eaten, such as:

  • Bread
  • Cheese
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Dips
  • Sandwiches or wraps
  • Deli meats
  • Salads (rice, bean, lettuce, etc.)
  • Lemonade, ice tea, and/or water
  • Dessert ( Cookies, Cake, Crumble, Muffins, Cupcakes)

One of my favourite picnic foods is hummus. It’s quick and easy to prepare, requires minimal refrigeration, and is a crowd pleaser! However, like many other foods, don’t let hummus sit out in the sun for too long. When you take a break from eating, put the hummus back in your cooler to keep it fresh. Here is my favourite hummus recipe (first published on The Cook’s Sister – my personal blog).

  • 1 x 540 mL can of chickpeas, ¾ of the liquid drained
  • 5 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt


Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor.
Blend until chickpeas are smooth in texture.
Pour into a serving bowl.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours so the flavours meld together.
Serve with a side of fresh vegetables such a mini carrots, radishes, celery slices, green pepper slices, etc., and/or pita chips or as a spread on your favourite sandwich.

4. Pack the essentials

  • . Blankets to spread out on the grass
    Tip: Pack a few folding chairs or cushions if sitting on the ground is uncomfortable
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellant
  • Entertainment (See more ideas in Section 5: Prepare activities and entertainment)
  • Plates, bowls, cutlery, cups, cutting board, serving bowl and utensils, and napkins
    Tip: Bring real dishes instead of paper, plastic, or Styrofoam to reduce trash
  • Cooler full of delicious picnic foods and plenty of water, kept cold with ice packs
    Tip: Freeze Water bottles or juice packs ahead of time and use them to keep the contents of the cooler cold.

5. Prepare activities and entertainment

As a child, I recall that I would frequently get bored and would look to my parents for suggestions on how to entertain myself. A common response was to go outside and play games with my younger brother. This was usually enough guidance, but sometimes we would be bored yet again and BOTH bug our parents to entertain us. Here are some suggestions for activities that will keep both you and your children busy at a picnic:

  • Read one or more story books aloud as a group, having one person read or even taking turns
  • Bring a radio or mp3 player with portable speakers to provide background music, feel free to dance or sing along
  • Play a card game
  • Bring along a selection of sports equipment such as a balls (soccer, basket, etc.), hula hoops, skipping rope, Frisbee
  • Play an acoustic musical instruments, such as guitar
  • Decorate the sidewalk with chalk or play hopscotch
  • Play charades

Now you’re ready to plan and implement the perfect family picnic! Remember, for a successful picnic you should plan ahead, choose the location that works best for you and your family, prepare the meal together at home, plan a few activities that you would like to partake in after the meal, and pack the essentials (food, plates. etc., entertainment, and sun screen). Wishing you and your family a wonderful summer full of time spent together learning and having fun!

Where is your favourite place to host a picnic? And what are your favourite picnic foods?

Amber West, M.A.
Liberty Tutoring