Picnic Season Deirdre Doyle Of The Cool Food School (4)
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The Perfect Family Picnic Guide by Deirdre Doyle of The Cool Food School

It’s that picnic time of year again! Time to wash that picnic blanket you threw in a cupboard in September last year (or it may have been July given the weather last summer!), rinse out the manky flasks and start making the sambos!

As a mum of three, I love picnics for a number of reasons:

  • Less cleaning up. This is probably the absolute best thing about picnics! 
  • Kids are out in the fresh air, away from their screens and devices
  • They’re running around, kicking a ball, playing with muck or climbing whatever is dangerous nearby but they’re building up an appetite all the time
  • They can only eat what you bring. So no going back to the fridge looking for something different because you’re in the middle of a field or on the beach! I always think this is a great chance to get that food into them that they least like at home (#meanmum !).

And let’s not forget the previous point … the appetite! So we all love picnics. Now we need to know what to pack and where to go. 

As a health coach, I always err on the side of healthy when it comes to packing picnics. Here are some of our go-to picnic foods:

Main course items

  • Sandwiches of course. Easy to hold, easy to make and transport and easily customisable. Our favourite fillings include tuna with diced cucumber, sweetcorn and mayo, home-baked ham, cheese and lettuce and finally, curried chicken, rocket and grapes (this one you have to taste to believe it! See recipe below)
  • Egg muffins – these are a simple recipe the kids can help make. Again, they are easy to make, easy to transport, easy to hold and can be eaten while climbing a tree (not that I recommend that!). Chop some veggies (pepper, spring onion, tomatoes, whatever you have in the bottom of the fridge), throw them into a greased muffin tray, beat up 6-8 eggs and pour over the top of the veggies. Top with cheese if you’re fancy! Bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes. Allow cool and pop into your lunch boxes or reusable sandwich bags. 
  • Salad – ok this might be a stretch for the kids but great for the adults! I love a chopped, mixed salad of lettuce, tomato, boiled egg, beetroot and raw peppers. Bring your dressing separately to avoid soggy salad syndrome. 

Snacky bits

  • Popcorn – a great whole food snack (if it’s not sweetened) that always comes on picnics with us.
  • Boiled eggs – peel them at home (or not). A great mini snack that will curb hunger – at least briefly!
  • Cheese and crackers – cube some cheese and grab some oat cakes or similar for feeding the kids after they’ve eaten everything else.
  • Veggies and a dip like hummus. Carrot sticks, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumber – give them these when they’re starving as they’re much more likely to eat them!
  • Home made muffins or flapjacks 
  • Fruit – lots of it! I sometimes chop up a melon or pineapple and bring that. Otherwise it’s the usual contenders – apples, oranges, pears, berries. Not bananas though – keep the bananas for home!
  • An occasional food like chocolate bars or biscuits. It is a day out after all! Or buy an ice-cream when you’re out. No summer outing with kids is complete without a 99!

Picnic Locations

So that’s the food sorted but where should you go? Let’s imagine for a moment that the weather is actually warm and sunny. So you can actually eat your picnic outside in nature and not all huddled inside the car (hello Irish summer!).  Here are some great picnic spots around Ireland that all have a little something extra for the kids that we have visited over the years:

Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

Firstly, Glendalough is stunning. It’s full of history, natural beauty, lakes, walks for all levels and crucially, lots of picnic benches and open grass areas for laying out a blanket or kicking a ball. The kids might (or might not) love the old graveyard and the round tower. Importantly, there is a coffee van for you and an inc-cream van for the kids. It gets very crowded at weekends and during the summer so come early or you’ll be queuing for hours to get into the carparks.

Avondale Forest Park, Co. Wicklow

Your kids are sure to love the unique wooden treetop walkway and giant slide at Beyond the Trees at Avondale like mine did. You are sure to love the scenery, cafe and playground where the kids can blow off steam after the excitement of the longest slide in Ireland! Plenty of space for picnics here. There is a charge for the carpark and a charge to go down the slide. Again, avoid peak times as the queue for the slide can be quite long (I know as I’ve stood in that queue!).

Marlay Park, Dublin

One of our favourite parks in Dublin. It has a well-trodden path around the park that’s perfect for buggies and bikes. There’s not one but 2 playgrounds in this park – we call the main playground the ‘super-duper playground’ and the kids could literally hang out here all day. There are plenty of picnic tables in this playground. If you want to get away from the excitement of the playground, there is ample green space to lay out your blanket, have your picnic and the kids can kick a ball around. Bonus for you – there are a couple of spots around the park for coffee and ice-cream.

Curracloe Beach, Wexford

This stunner of a beach is beloved by families, teenagers, old age pensioners and filmmakers alike. It was the setting for 2 different movies – Saving Private Ryan in 1997 and the more recent Brooklyn in 2016. But also, it provides a picnic spot to thousands every year during the short (!) summer in Ireland. Bring your windbreaker and pack your thermos of tea/coffee as well as the sandwiches. No Irish childhood is complete without a literal ‘sand’wich at the beach!

Ards Forest Park, Donegal

We visited this park recently and were blown away by the scenery and beauty of this place. It has it all going on – salt water lakes, beaches, sand dunes, salt water marshes and woodland. And the all important playground of course. It’s pretty deserted generally – it is Donegal after all! But get this place on a fine day like we did and you’ll be in awe. Picnic wherever you like in the 1,000 acres of this park! It is also free to enter. 

Recipe for that tasty curried chicken, rocket and grapes wrap:

Picnic Season Deirdre Doyle Of The Cool Food School (3)

Ingredients for 3 littler people or 2 big people:

  • 2 free range chicken breasts
  • handful of rocket leaves
  • handful of red grapes
  • tsp. curry powder
  • tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 3 wholemeal wraps

How to make it

  1. Pop the chicken breasts into the saucepan and cover them with cold water.
  2. Pop them on the cooker and bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and let them cook for 12 – 15 minutes – you’ll know the chicken is cooked if you cut into it and it’s white all the way through
  3. While the chicken is cooking, rinse your grapes and chop them in 2
  4. Bunch your rocket together on your chopping board and cut it into smaller pieces
  5. When the chicken is cooked, take it out of the water and let it cool.
  6. Chop the cold chicken into small pieces and throw it into a largish bowl.
  7. Add the rocket and grapes, the mayonnaise and the curry powder. Give everything a good mix. Add more mayonnaise if needed.
  8. Take your wraps and pop a couple of spoonfuls of the mixture into the middle.
  9. Roll them up and cut in half and pop in your lunch box. These will keep you going all day on the beach or in the playground!

Article by: Deirdre Doyle of The Cool Food Schoolwww.TheCoolFoodSchool.ie

Hi, my name is Deirdre and I set up The Cool Food School in 2018. I’m a mum to 3 funny, annoying, busy children who are in primary and secondary school and they inspire me to make the world a better, healthier place for all children! They are also the inspiration behind my friends, Molly, Ollie and Chuck!

At the Cool Food School, we promote healthy eating in a fun and interactive environment for kids of all ages. We travel to schools, preschools, libraries and events nationwide to teach children about food through a range of fun cooking workshops designed to encourage kids to try new foods! Check out our kids cookbook Chop, Cook, Yum

Established by BTEC-qualified Health Coach Deirdre with the mission to teach children of all ages about the joys of healthy eating, The Cool Food School has travelled all around Leinster to do just that.

We’re all about encouraging children to enjoy wholesome foods for a happier and healthier life.

Follow Deirdre on @thecoolfoodschool or visit www.thecoolfoodschool.ie

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