It’s a perfect time to get outside and have a picnic with the family. But when you have a child under the age of one, picnicking can be a challenge. Things can quickly turn into food chaos leading to a messy, unsafe eating experience.
I’ve compiled some tips on keeping your picnic safe and enjoyable with your little one. These tips use the feeding approach I commonly recommend when starting a baby on solids, baby-led weaning (BLW). BLW is a self-feeding and family-oriented way to start solids. Self-feeding is that baby picks up and brings the food to their mouth from the very first bite of solid food. Family-oriented means that baby eats from the same food and at the same time as the family. There are many benefits including being convenient and cost-effective. Beyond the benefit to the family, BLW also promotes food variety/nutrient-dense feeding, assists in the development of motors skills and safe eating practices , promotes internal regulation, and positive eating. No matter the feeding approach you decide to use with your baby, I recommend that parents educate themselves on nutritious, positive, and safe eating. See my webinar to learn more on how to implement the BLW approach.
Okay, it’s picnic time. Here are the BLW tips for picnicking. It includes how to sit, how to feed, foods to pack, and things to bring. Learn how to keep your picnic experience fun, enjoyable, and safe.
How to Sit
The safest way for baby to sit to reduce the risk of choking is in a high chair. If you are somewhere with picnic tables, you could bring a traveling high chair like this one. This would be ideal. But if a table/high chair situation is not an option, let’s discuss what to do. If you are seated on the ground on a picnic blanket here are my tips.
- If you are the only adult, sit baby down facing you so that you can monitor them eating. If you have another adult with you, try sitting with your legs in a V and placing baby’s bottom in the nook of your legs to secure their position. Have the other adult monitor their eating.
- Encourage baby to sit up and on their bottom.
How to Feed
Handing a baby a plate of food while picnicking will quickly lead to the plate being used as a frisbee, hat, or seat. Instead, hold out two pieces of food in your hands and let baby select from one or both foods. Once they select. I recommend biting into your own lunch :) This “handing” method is still a bit messy and time consuming but it will cut down on food chaos. When feeding baby, limit distractions. It is helpful when you first arrive to let baby check out the surroundings before getting into the food.
Foods to pack
Bring finger foods that are less messy. Avoid meals heavy in dips or sauces. Familiar foods that baby eats with ease are appropriate for a picnic. This is not the time to try new foods, especially new allergen foods. Anytime with feeding a baby, you want to make sure the food is a safe texture, shape, and temperature.
Example of a picnic meal for the family*:
- For baby: Avocado, soft inside of cucumber, slices of lightly toasted bread with a thin spread of hummus, slices of watermelon
- For parents and kids: Mediterranean sandwich and watermelon.
*questions about food type, texture, or shape? Register for the Beginning BLW webinar
Things to bring
Baby Wipes and napkins
Traveling high chair
Cooler to prevent foodborne illness
Bib/change of clothes
Whatever you need for your normal breast or formula milk feedings
Maggie Perkins is a registered dietitian that does nutrition telehealth for families.
She focuses in family feeding, intuitive eating, and Health at Every Size©.
Her private practice, Tomata, is based out of North Carolina.
The material in this blog is not intended to be used as medical advice. Please work closely with a competent health care team on your specific medical needs.