Plan a Kid-Friendly Picnic (and Even Better, Let Them Pack)

What better way to take advantage of a sunny day than with a picnic? The components are so easy to make that kids can do most of the work themselves. The biggest challenge is organizing and packing everything so that it arrives at the destination intact.

Now we'll show you how to dress ham and turkey sandwiches with cream cheese spreads that hold up well in the heat, serve fruit salad in ice cream cones, and prepare ranch dip in baking cups to cut down on dishes.

Chop Vegetables

Wash vegetables, then pat dry so they'll stay crisp. While an adult chops celery and peppers, kids can snap green beans and put cherry tomatoes and cut vegetables into plastic bags.

Prepare Trail Mix

Raid your pantry for dried fruits, nuts, and other bite-size sweet and salty snacks. We used dried bananas and cranberries, sunflower seeds, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, raisins, pretzels, cashews, and peanuts. Put a handful of each into a large bowl, then stir gently. Store in a hard-sided container to keep ingredients from getting crushed.

Tip: You can make the trail mix a day or two ahead to save time. Store in an airtight container in a cool place so the chocolate won't melt.

Frost Graham Crackers

These delicious treats are a no-bake alternative to sandwich cookies. To make, spread homemade or store-bought frosting between two graham cracker halves; we used chocolate frosting for some, vanilla for others, or both. Stack and store in a hard-sided container.

Prepare Fruit and Cream

Combine ripe berries and grapes for a quick fruit salad. Don't wash berries until just before the picnic, or they'll turn soggy. Look for plump blueberries with a silverish tint and raspberries that are deep red but not too soft. Toss together gently, using your hands. Pack in a hard-sided container.

To make the cream, put 3/4 cup heavy cream and 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar in a 1-quart airtight container. You'll "whip" the cream at the picnic site.

Make Sandwiches

Cream cheese spreads keep better than mayonnaise and taste great on ham or turkey sandwiches. Divide an 8-ounce package of cream cheese between two bowls. Stir 4 tablespoons of apricot jam into one, and a teaspoon of oregano into the other. Then set up a sandwich-assembly line, making sure each sandwich gets both spreads.

Wrap Sandwiches

Once you've made the sandwiches, wrap them in waxed paper the same way you would wrap a present. Seal the sandwiches with different colored stickers; that way you can tell at a glance which is turkey and which is ham.

Pack a Picnic Basket

Pack lightweight items and anything that might get smashed last. In basket: Place trail mix, graham cracker treats, napkins, plates, and spoons at bottom; baking cups (for vegetable dip) and cones (for fruit and cream treats) can go on top. In cooler: Lay some well-chilled water bottles on their sides, then put cream, fruit, and store-bought ranch dip on top of them; veggies and sandwiches go in last. The cold water keeps the food from spoiling in the heat and the cream cold enough to whip. If you're going only a short distance, sandwiches can travel in the picnic basket.

Shake Up Whipped Cream

Making whipped cream is fun and simple to do. At the picnic site, kids can take turns shaking the container of cream and confectioners' sugar vigorously (two to four minutes), until the mixture is thick and fluffy. Don't shake it too early, or it will deflate before you serve it. Spoon fruit into cones, and top with a dollop of cream.