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  • Rosie Alexander

Six steps to a happy picnic this summer!

To put it mildly, so far 2020 hasn’t been the best of times, but as we cautiously kick start our new-normal living and ease through summer months, parents across the country are rising to the challenge of keeping things relaxed and fun for children in a new, health-aware way. And goodness knows after all the practice we had at making fun out of very little whilst shut in during Lockdown, arguably we’re emerging with a new skillset and a heightened willingness to appreciate the things we previously perhaps took too much for granted… open spaces, exercise, being creative, the really important things in life like family and friends.

Have you noticed, for example, that suddenly we’ve become a nation of manic picnic-ers? Of course, in the UK, we have always appreciated the art of munching sandwiches on a rug but now, seemingly, on every grassy knoll you come across there’s someone spreading the plaid and breaking open Tupperware. Plus, a lot of us are walking and cycling so much more, no longer climbing into the car at every opportunity and scudding to who knows where for very little reason. Things have changed, we’ve changed, and, as a consequence, for the environment, our bodies and our minds, there’s reason for optimism!

This outdoorsy life we’re now fully embracing is of course something our nursery has been

championing for years, which is why our children have had the fruits of Forest School and other outside spaces always at their disposal and why we are so dedicated to making them aware that wild spaces and the environment are to be cherished and protected.

That said, if we are all going to continue to pursue this pared back, less-is-more-and-we-like-it lifestyle that brings us more in touch with nature, we’re going to need to consider what else young children need on a picnic beyond egg rolls, carrot sticks and a flapjack. And so, here are my six summer essentials for the parents of the new mini adventurers eating on the ground…

1. Take along tasty, nutritious savoury and sweet treats that make a picnic worth braving the weather for. Children will also love helping to make them beforehand.

* Sweet potato, avocado and feta muffins topped with crumbly cheese and seeds.

* Fruit skewers. Take lots of cut-up fruit which each picnic-er can select and slide onto sticks.

* Pack layers of salad goodies, hummus and seeds into individual, tiny, glass jam jars. Top off with a lid until you're ready to tuck into the layers with a spoon.

* Homemade fruit smoothies slowly sipped through a reusable straw.

2. Pack fun activities small enough to fit into your picnic basket to keep little ones entertained once the food’s all gone.

Take a look at Soren’s House for inspiration. Their Scandi-inspired toys and games nod to yesteryear and are beautiful as well as fun. I love the phone-sized activity books with enticing titles such as 32 Ways to Dress a Cat (£4), the 3-D dinosaur puzzle to colour, assemble and play with (£8), their nature-based sticker books (£6.50), and their selection of press-and-listen books. Available elsewhere too!

3. Eye protection.

Whilst it may seem important that you choose sunglasses your child likes so that they actually get worn, the key is to pick a pair that provides almost 100% UVA and UVB protection. Look out for ones marked as UV400. This means they block a minimum of 99.9% UVB and 99% UVA. Try not to go for anything too small because it’s important to protect the delicate area around the eyes too.

* The KidzCo have multiflex frames with polarised, shatterproof lenses which provide 100% UVA and UVB protection.

* Babiators provide sunglasses for babies from age 0. Made from a soft, light material, they are comfortable to wear.

* JoJo Maman Bébé also has a good range of sunglasses for ages 0-6, reasonably priced, as well as straps to stop little fingers pulling the shades off.

4. Suncreams specially designed for young children.

As people head-scratch over why rates of allergies and eczema are on the rise, research has suggested it could be because of the toxic chemicals in some skincare products. It is thought that 60% of what we apply to our skin is absorbed, so it seems only prudent that the suncream we apply to children’s skin in particular is organic and free of petrochemicals, parabens, artificial perfumes, emulsifiers and synthetic colours etc. Have a look at Green People’s Organic Children range.

5. Sustainably sourced rash vests, T-shirts, shorts, hats and sandals.

* Muddy puddles do a very cool, sun-safe rash vest and bottom set.

* Petit Nord’s children’s shoes are handcrafted from up-cycled materials and vegetable tanned leather that is 100% fully biodegradable, and their production uses methods that minimise harmful chemicals. Not the cheapest around (though their sale is usually good), they are hard-wearing!

* Frugi is a British organic children’s clothing brand. All clothes are made from 90% organic cotton and strive to be as ethical as possible. Awarded Kids Brand of the Year by the Drapers Independent Awards 2019, Frugi donates 1% of profits to charity. And they’re making children’s face masks too!

6. Books about picnics!

* The House at Pooh Corner, by AA Milne

* The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

* Brambly Hedge Spring Story, by Jill Barklem

* Picnic in the Park, by Joe Griffiths

* We’re Going on a Picnic, by Pat Hutchins

* Having a Picnic, by Sarah Garland

Happy outdoors summer to you all!

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