One of my favourite times of the year is late Spring when the weather is a little warmer but not too hot, the flowers are blooming, and it feels like the months of typical English weather are behind us, if only for a few weeks. We finally get to enjoy the great outdoors, and who doesn’t love a perfect picnic? You find some stuff in the fridge, throw it in a basket, cool bag or your handbag and search the house for a blanket. Picnics are a great excuse to catch up with friends or family.
It got me thinking, who discovered the PICNIC? We all know it’s a French word, but when you are sitting there tucking into your sausage roll, do you ever think, who decided that eating sandwiches, sausage rolls, sweet treats, and orange squash was something that should be enjoyed outside on a blanket? You probably don’t, right?
But it did get me reaching for google to find out just a little about picnics.
The History of Picnics
Before we get into the full history of Picnic and their origins, according to my sources (thank you, google), a picnic is a meal that is traditionally taken outside, also known as al fresco. It is seen as a type of excursion that ideally should include scenic surroundings, such as a beach, park, lake, castle or somewhere with an impressive view.
The Picnic (picque-nique) dates back to 17th Century France, meaning it is a social gathering where attendees bring food to share, often referred to as ‘pick at your food’ which makes sense. It is also said to be a favourite pastime of the aristocracy, who loved their indoor affairs so much that they held large garden parties in the summer months.
Coming to England
The French Revolution arrived, causing most of the aristocracy to flee abroad. Most settled in London; not wanting to leave the lifestyle they had come accustomed to and having little money, they bought the Picnic to England.
We embraced it over the decades in England, often opting for outdoor events over indoors. Even centuries later, England loves a good picnic. However, other countries not so much, and even France decided they preferred more extravagant indoor events.
The Future of Picnics
As recent times suggest, we are looking for more outdoor social events. For not only health benefits but mental health as well. Family bonding and time out from technology are on parents’ minds. But the Picnic is evolving and will continue to grow with some cafes and restaurants offering picnic lunches, catering companies offering luxury hampers to be taken on your trip day out to Goodwood, or even in your garden. I’m also not surprised that supermarkets aren’t offering their version of a takeaway picnic lunch!
Five Reasons you should picnic with Kids
Improve Mental Health
Spending time outside has been shown to reduce anxiety levels; spending time in the sunshine and the fresh air is known to improve mood and reduce stress levels. Take the time to self reflect, and maybe encourage your children to do some calm activities before eating, for example, reading or playing calmly with a favourite toy.
Let’s consider the health benefits of spending time outside, from breathing in fresh air to the vitamin D gained from spending time in the sun, which helps to build strong bones and teeth. There is also the active side; we always had a football or cricket set in the back of our car growing up, so any picnic usually involved a little runaround. As we know, most kids don’t like sitting down for too long. The food you consume can also be healthier compared to restaurant and cafe options. Don’t forget the suntan lotion!
With the hustle and bustle of working life, we don’t all get to spend as much time with our children as we would like. Often their mealtimes are earlier in the evening; Mum and Dad eat theirs at 9 pm. So a picnic is a welcome excuse to spend some quality time bonding, talking about school, hobbies, their favourite game, or just playing catch with a ball. Sometimes being away from the distractions of technology is a welcome excuse for a picnic.
I love a good picnic; my husband finds them stressful (joys of a disabled child), but I grew up having picnics on the beach, in a park, or a car picnic. We are a family that enjoys eating out, my husband more so, but this can be an expensive option, so raiding your cupboards, your fridge and grabbing the icebox can make a refreshing change to spending £40 – £50 in a restaurant. They can also be a healthy option compared to hitting the fish and chips shop.
Picnics usually come with a view – beach, park, castle, lake, or another outdoor event like a festival or concert. It doesn’t even have to be entertainment with added costs; perhaps you could spend five minutes reading, playing with some favourite toys. When my little girl was a baby we bought her a small boat for the sea, she didn’t like the sea so we filled the boat with water and she spent hours sitting in it playing on the beach.
10 Essentials for a Family Picnic
There will always be many places to escape to and enjoy a picnic from National Trust locations, farm parks, local parks, castles, beaches and organised days out like Goodwood events, but what should you take for that day out? I’ve given you reasons why you should have picnics as a family; here are the essentials.
- Blanket (Unless tables are provided)
- First Aid Kit including cream for stings & bites
- Kitchen Cloth or Towel
- Rubbish Bag (Please take it home)
- Coolbox & Ice Packs – I love our electric cool box; it is handy to run in the car for travel and easy to transport to the beach if required.
- Picnic Set – Just a small set of plastic (reusable) plates, cups, cutlery etc., that you might need. The bag also doubles as a perfect bag for extra goodies.
- Bottle Opener – If you plan on taking bottled juices or alcohol, it could be a life safer
- Suntan lotion – The last thing you want after a lovely time in the sun is to return home with significant sunburn.
- Toys & Games – Activities or something to do. A board game, puzzle or a game of Uno (a family favourite) is anything to keep the mind away from reaching for the mobile phone or handheld devices.
- Camera – We have technology in our hands these days; it doesn’t have to be an expensive camera; a mobile phone would be okay to record that particular day.
Location, Location, Location
A picnic wouldn’t be without a great location or a breathtaking view. Perhaps your family appreciate a trip to the beach, maybe they enjoy a run around a park or maybe your family like to hide out in the woods. The opportunities are endless; however, perhaps it might take time to find that perfect location. Also, remember that you may need to consider how far you have to walk from the car park.
However, you like your picnics; whether you cook up a feast the night before, nip into a supermarket on the way, or plan it days in advance with proper afternoon tea, they are unique. My Nan used to love a flask of tea and some biscuits; my Mum likes a proper pork pie (so do I). I think picnics will always be a social event, whether a small family one or a larger gathering of friends. With people looking for more sustainable and cost-effective days out, the traditional Picnic will be here to stay.
Do you enjoy picnics? What is your Picnic essential? Do you think they are the worst day out ever? Please leave a comment below.