The first rule of Mother’s Day picnics is: mother shouldn’t have to lift a finger.
The second rule of Mother’s Day is: see rule 1.
Among the many ways to make Mother’s Day special, nothing quite beats a family picnic in the park. It gets everyone outdoors enjoying the early spring sunshine, where kids can run around and mothers can accept endless cake and prosecco (or whatever floats their boat).
For those in England, a Mother’s Day picnic will be all the more special this year because the activity has just become legal again! A minor relaxation of the lockdown rules on 8 March (see Government site) now allows for outdoor recreation, and not just exercise, within a household group. And that means picnics are back!
Mother’s Day picnics are like any other picnics but with one important difference: mum shouldn’t have to prepare anything. That means the rest of the family need to do all the organisation, preparation and carrying. That is the golden rule. Everything else that follows is mere detail. If you can get mum to the park, enjoying nice food with the family, and she hasn’t had to do anything to make that happen, then you are a winner. Here are a few thoughts on making that work:
- Don’t stress on the preparation. You could spend hours slaving away to make all mum’s favourite treats. And that would be lovely! But that means mum will probably end up doing the childcare, while you’ll have lots of organisational stress to deal with. Neither is conducive to a relaxed Mother’s Day. Instead, just buy some favourite treats and keep it simple. If you really do want to make some special food, try and prepare it the night before once the kids are in bed.
- Make sure you have the essentials. All picnics need a small number of must-have items. You will certainly need some kind of blanket or portable chairs for a March picnic because, even if it hasn’t rained for a few days, the ground is likely to be soggy. Also remember to take reusable plastic plates/bowls, cups, cutlery, wipes and napkins and two spare carrier bags (one for recyclables; one for anything else). Forget any of these, and your picnic will be, ahem, hampered. Oh, and remember the corkscrew if you’ve got a bottle that needs one. Imagine the disappointment if mummy’s special fizz can’t be opened!
- For the food… well, you know what mum likes best. Just make sure it’s all easy for kids to eat without the benefit of a table. If you’re buying pre-prepared food from a supermarket, remember that you don’t have to stick to traditional picnic grub like sandwiches, quiche, dips and corn chips. How about sushi, or Thai spring rolls? See our guide to picnic food for more inspiration.
- Don’t overdo it, though. If you take half the kitchen with you, then you’ll not only have more to carry, but you’ll also have to spend lots of time preparing your bags, then tidying things away when you get home. Again, this leaves mummy with childcare, which is a big no-no on Mother’s Day.
- If you’re looking to bring cheer to the kids as well as to mum, then think about turning it into a teddy bear’s picnic. Invite their favourite toys along, and remember to bring toy cups and plates for them to dine from. You might be able to get a really cute photo of mummy attending the teddy bear’s picnic, which could be printed and framed as a keepsake of the special day.
- Choosing a park should be easy enough this year, at least for families in the UK. Government advice would still have us staying local, not travelling outside our local town or area for recreation. So that probably limits you to places within easy walking distance. That might be less exciting than, say, a trip to the hills or the seaside, but it does mean you’re close to home should you find that you’ve forgotten something (or junior needs the toilet).
- Find the perfect spot. You need to be well away from play areas, sports pitches and places where others might congregate. A location near trees or flower beds is ideal, especially as the plants are awakening from their winter slumber.
- Enjoy your picnic! Remember, mummy shouldn’t lift a finger, so be attentive with the food, napkins, drinks and all the rest. Get the kids to help clear away the debris afterwards.
- Once you’ve eaten, the kids will want to run around and play. This could be a good opportunity for mummy to relax and watch the children enjoying themselves. Suggest these outdoor park games if you need a bit of inspiration.
- Of course, the elephant in the room -- or park -- with all this is the British weather. There’s no guarantee of a rain-free day, and even if it does hold off, the temperature might stymie things. So plan ahead and consider what coats and hats you might need, whether to take a thermos of coffee, or a large umbrella. You could also consider picnicking in your garden (if you have one) as a compromise that allows easy retreat should the weather turn.
- If the weather really doesn’t want to cooperate, you could always stage an indoor picnic. Move the furniture, rearrange the flowers, lay down a blanket, spread out the food and you could even build a (cardboard) campfire. It’s the kind of picnic that can’t be spoiled by weather or lockdowns, with the added bonus that you get no ants and the toilets are 10 seconds away. Everyone’s a winner!
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.