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How to Plan and Host a Picnic Party

Updated on July 15, 2013
Outdoor Dinning
Outdoor Dinning | Source

With summer here many of you have turned your mind to picnics, both the large scale (think family reunions) and the more intimate gathering (immediate family only). However, let’s consider a picnic that falls a little in between these two extremes. How do you go about planning a picnic party?

What is a Picnic Party?

But wait, what is a picnic party? Of course you can’t plan one if you don’t know what it is. A picnic party is an outdoor gathering of friends usually held in the afternoon. It is great for people in apartments (who don’t have lawns) or for visits to water parks with your kids and their friends. It is a get together of either two or three families or about five to eight children. And aside from food and fellowship there is usually some type of activity.

How to Plan a Picnic Party

So, now you know what they are how do you go about planning one? It can actually be a lot of fun. As with any type of picnic it is best to begin with the food. Picnics are by their nature very food centric. So let’s plan our food first.

Types of Food

Sandwiches are easy but versatile picnic fare. Weather you choose to make sub sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly or some type of salad sandwiches you are still left with a good deal of variety.

  • Sub Sandwiches
    • What cold cuts will you use?
    • What cheese or cheeses will you use?
    • What vegetables will you add?
    • What type of bread or roll will you use?
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly
    • What type of bread will you use?
    • What type of nut butter will you use?
    • What type of jelly will you use?
    • Will you be adding butter, honey, chocolate, bananas, etc.?
  • Salad Sandwiches
    • Are you making egg, tuna, chicken or some other type of salad?
    • Will you be adding vegetables like celery or onions?
    • Will you be adding fruit and/or nuts? (Think cranberries and walnuts.)
    • What spices and condiments will you use?

If you’d like to go the extra mile you could even prepare individual sandwiches for each of your guests. Which brings me to my next tip, use takeout boxes to transport your food. This allows you to preserve your food so that you needn’t bother with serving utensils or wasting party time divvying up the food. And, as I hinted at earlier, it allows you to individualize your fare should you need (think allergies or dietary restrictions) or wish to do so.

Paper Mart has a fun selection of decretive take out boxes with handles. This will make transporting easier, as they will stake nicely. And the handles make it easier for guests as well. Paper Mart also sells a variety of round and cylinder shaped boxes which you can use to dish up your sides.

Choose one or two sides. Make a large batch. Then portion it out amongst the round containers and place one in each of your takeout boxes. Again you can go simple or extravagant and still have a variety of options.

  • Baked Beans
  • Cole Slaw
  • Fruit Salad
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Jell-O Salad
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Potato Salad

So you have your sandwiches and your sides, what else do you need? Your meal is only lacking drinks, deserts and utensils. For drinks again I would recommend individualizing them. If you like to make your own punch or can’t find individual serving sizes of the drinks you prefer, not to worry. The Oriental Trading Company sells inexpensive bottles and cups. Fill up an appropriate number and stash them in your cooler.

For desert stack two or three cookies and tie them together with colorful yarn. I prefer using a cookie recipe that calls for pudding. Besides making moist cookies, it allows me to have fun with my cookies without learning a whole new recipe.

Now it is time to pack your meals and accompanying utensils. Wrap your sandwiches with cloth or paper napkins and tie with the same yarn you used for your cookies. Place the sandwich in a takeout box with the boxed side. Add the parceled cookies. Finally place a knife, fork and/or spoon in a small manila envelope and add it to the box. Close up the box and stack it in a larger box to transport to your vehicle.

Table and Seating Preparations

Make a quick trip to your local thrift store and stock up on blankets, pillows, cutting boards and trays. The blankets and pillows will serve as seating for your guests. The cutting boards and trays provide hard surfaces upon which to place beverages or other items likely to tip over. Wash, fluff and fold your purchases and place them in a box for easy transport.

Scavenger Hunt List

Scavenger Hunt List
Scavenger Hunt List | Source

Picnic Activities and Games

Now that lunch is taken care of we can think about what activity to provide for your guests.

If it is a trip to your local park to enjoy the sprinklers on a hot summer day then all you need to do is make sure you’ve packed plenty of towels and that each guest brings a swimsuit. Most water parks provide changing areas but it would be a good idea to double check before heading out. If a changing area is not provided you needn’t let that put a dampener on your plans. Simply inform your guests the will need to arrive wearing their suits and pack plenty of extra towels.

If getting wet is not something your crowd would enjoy than consider some of the following activities:

  • Scavenger Hunt – Just provide each team with a list and a bucket and you are ready to play. (Feel free to use the list to the right.) Some type of prize for the winning team would also be nice, for example a “Nature Lover” t-shirt.
  • Volleyball Tournament – If you have a three or more families participating a tournament can be good fun. Pack a net and volleyball. Then create some type of trophy or prize for the winning team.
  • Pie Eating Contest – Skip the cookies in the lunch boxes and bring a large number of cream pies instead. Make them shallow pies heavy on the whipped cream to increase the fun. As a prize consider creating or purchasing an adult bib.
  • Water Balloon Toss/Water Balloon Fight – Maybe sprinklers aren’t your style but you don’t mind getting wet. Try a water balloon toss for a little wetness or a water balloon fight for an all-out drenching. For those of you unfamiliar a water balloon toss requires a water balloon per partnership. All the partners stand facing each other with their water balloons. On the signal everyone tosses their water balloons. Those who still have a balloon take one step back. At the next signal everyone again tosses their balloons. Everyone with a balloon takes a step back. This continues until only one partnership is left.
    Water balloon fights require more balloons. Give each team a set number of balloons. The more you provide the longer the war will last. Sneak about and attempt to drench the other team without become drenched yourself. If you like the idea of waging war but don’t want to get wet there is another option. Gather up all your mate less socks. Put baby powder in the toe and tie or sew the end closed. When you hit someone with one of these socks it will leave a white powder marking.
  • Basketball Shooting Contest – One or two basketballs and a few prizes and you are ready to play.
  • Capture the Flag – If you have two or four families attending you can easily divide into teams. Then all you need are two flags. The rules are simple. Try to capture the opposing flag while guarding your own. If you are tagged you must go to the designated jail area. You remain there until your entire team is captured or you are released by being tagged by a fellow teammate (without that teammate being sent to jail). If you are tagged while carrying the flag it can be returned to its starting position. Let the battle begin!
  • Tug of War – A classic picnic game that just requires rope.
  • Potato Sack Races – Another picnic classic the just requires sacks and a prize for the winner.
  • Three-legged races – If you are not having potato sack races a classic picnic should at least have three-legged races. You won’t have to find sacks but you will need something to bind the legs of the participants.

how to assemble sticker "medal"
how to assemble sticker "medal" | Source

Inexpensive Prizes

An easy, inexpensive way to make prizes for your winners would be to create “medals”. For each medal you wish to create you will need:

  • A length of ribbon – enough to fit over someone’s head
  • Two round stickers
  • A piece of cardboard cut to the size and shape of the stickers

To assemble your “medals”

  1. Place one edge of your ribbon in the center of the cardboard.
  2. Secure with one sticker.
  3. Flip the cardboard piece over.
  4. Place the loose edge of ribbon in the center of the cardboard.
  5. Secure with remaining sticker.

You now have a “medal” to award your game winner. You can get creative with your stickers and make your medals themed. Place everything you need for your activity (or activities), including prizes, in a box for easy transport to your vehicle.

Gather your food box, your cooler, your box of table supplies, and your activity box. Place them in your car. Gather your guests and head out to your picnic.

If your planning and preparation goes well you should be able to just relax and enjoy the picnic party with your guests. Hope you have a great summer!

Just a Few of Our National Parks

Mount Rainier National Park:
Mount Rainier National Park, Ashford, WA 98304, USA

get directions

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park:
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, 319 2nd Avenue South, Seattle, WA 98104, USA

get directions

Acadia National Park:
Acadia National Park, Mount Desert, ME 04660, USA

get directions

Alagnak National Park:
Alagnak National Wild & Scenic River, King Salmon, AK 99613, USA

get directions

Amistad National Park:
Amistad National Recreation Area, 4121 Veterans Blvd, Del Rio, TX 78840, USA

get directions

Antietam National Park:
Antietam National Battlefield, 5831 Dunker Church Road, Sharpsburg, MD 21782, USA

get directions

Appalacian National Park:
Appalachian Mountain Club, White Mountain National Forest, 361 Highway 16, Gorham, NH 03581, USA

get directions

Badlands National Park:
Badlands National Park, 25216 Ben Reifel Rd, Interior, SD 57750, USA

get directions

Big Cypress National Park:
Big Cypress National Preserve, 33100 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, FL 34141, USA

get directions

Big South Fork National Park:
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Oneida, TN 37841, USA

get directions


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    Post Comment

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      5 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      I'm so glad it inspired you. I love picnics but the summer always seems to disappear before I can have more than just a few.

    • vespawoolf profile image


      5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Now I have a hankering for a picnic! I appreciate the creative food ideas and any of these games would be a blast. I'm going to refer to this again next time we can plan an outing. Our friends will love it. Thanks!

    • Joy M profile imageAUTHOR

      Joy M 

      5 years ago from Sumner, Washington

      Hope it helps you have a more enjoyable summer. :)

    • livingsta profile image


      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Interesting information, thank you for sharing :-)


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