How to Have a Spontaneous Picnic in 15 Minutes

When was the last time you had a spontaneous family picnic?

Are you looking for a simple, quick and fun activity to share with your family?

If the thought of setting up a picnic overwhelms you, I’m here to help.

In this article, I’ll show you how your family can prepare a picnic in 15 minutes or less.

How to have a spontaneous family picnic: a simple, quick and fun activity for you to eat, play,  spend quality time together and create lifetime memories.

Why Picnic Adventures?

Our family picnics are always an adventure because we make them spontaneous. We never know when or where they will take place.

Sometimes the decision to have a picnic is driven by my children’s moods (a change in scenery does wonders), other times it’s determined by the weather and sometimes it’s based on what’s available in the pantry and refrigerator.

Our unplanned picnics allow us to eat, play and spend quality time together.

The spur-of-the-moment nature of our picnics brings us closer because it gives us the opportunity to break away from our family routine and work together as a team. If you ask my children, our picnics are like a treat – something truly enjoyable that they don’t get often.

family picnic

A picnic is a wonderful way to relax together and it doesn’t have to be a lot of work.

How do you possibly get everything ready and everyone out the door on a moment’s notice?

Allow me to share a few secrets, and you will soon be able to enjoy an evening of fun, food, and family time on your own 15-minute picnic, just like we do.

You Will Need

  • Food and drinks
  • Basket, cooler or bag
  • Plates, cups and utensils
  • Blanket or tablecloth
  • Dash of spontaneity
  • Pinch of creativity
  • Plenty of fun

Preparation Time

15 minutes

Activity Time

Hours of fun


The park, the beach, your own backyard—anywhere you’d like to go on a picnic. Some surprisingly quick locations are suggested below.

Below are five easy steps to a spontaneous picnic:

#1: Keep the Food Simple

With all the food blogs, TV shows and food photos on Pinterest, I envision preparing elaborate meals for our picnics. However, that vision quickly vanishes when I realize that would require thoughtful planning, shopping and much more time than I typically have, especially after a workday.

The first secret to a 15-minute picnic is to keep the food simple.

quick salad

A salad is a quick, easy and healthy picnic meal.

What does your family like to eat? If they enjoy peanut butter and jelly, then have the kids assemble sandwiches, cut them into fun shapes, pour some milk into cups and you’re set!

Plan your picnic menu based on what you have on hand and can put together quickly. Our picnic menus range significantly. We’ve had soup, tuna salad, pasta, veggies and sandwiches.

We often rely on leftovers and creativity; grilled chicken from the previous night’s dinner and a premade salad mix inspired our last picnic meal.

You could even pick up a pizza on your way home from work for an instant picnic.

Try a picnic made entirely of healthy snacks. We did that once and my kids loved it!

bowl of fruit

Be sure to include some healthy snacks in your 15-minute picnic.

The key to a stress-free picnic menu is to choose something you can prepare quickly.

#2: Get Your Kids Involved

The second secret is to have everyone help with the preparations, even the kids.

On our last picnic, my husband mixed the salad while I prepared a fruit salad and my son grabbed our ready-to-go bag (see below).

cutting chicken for salad

Bagged salad + leftover chicken = quick picnic meal.

I packed our meal, my husband got drinks and my son helped my daughter with her shoes.

help with shoes

When everyone helps, you’ll be ready to go quickly.

If everyone works together, you’ll be ready for your backyard picnic in less than 15 minutes!

#3: Have a “Ready to Go” Bag

The third secret to planning a fast family picnic is to be prepared. I put together a “ready-to-go bag” and keep it packed and ready in an accessible location.

getting picnic bag

Keep your ready-to-go bag in a place the kids can reach.

Our ready-to-go bag is an insulated cooler bag that I fill with paper plates, napkins, cups and utensils—everything we will need for a picnic other than the food. Be sure to include a ball or Frisbee to play with.


Keep blankets clean and ready with your picnic bag.

Place the bag and your blanket somewhere your kids can easily access them. When it’s time to go, you’ll be ready.

#4: Pick a Creative Location

Your picnic can take place anywhere—be creative! You don’t have to spend a lot of time driving somewhere “special” for your picnic.

You can lay your picnic blanket down just about anywhere and have fun with your family.

Here are a few ideas:

    • Your backyard
    • Neighborhood park
    • Clearing in the woods
    • Anywhere there’s water
    • Public parks
    • Side of the road
lay out blankets

You don’t have to travel far to have a fun picnic.

We’ve had picnics in many places that are close to home.

When it’s too cold or too hot to be outdoors, have a picnic in your living room.

Pack your bike’s basket and ride to the neighborhood park. That’s what we did for our “snacks picnic” and we all had a great time.

eating outside

Enjoying a meal in the backyard.

Have a picnic in your backyard. That’s where most of our picnics take place.

#5: Enjoy the Moment

Since the goal of our picnics is to spend time together and have fun, we always make time for play after eating.

crawling to grapes

For some people, the meal is the game!

When we go to the park, we take a ball and make up running games.

playing duck duck

“Duck, duck…”

When we picnic in our backyard, my kids like to play tee-ball, create chalk art and find insects, but their favorite activity is to play group games like Tag and Duck, Duck, Goose.

goose game

“Goose!” It’s fun to share your own childhood games with your kids.

Some Final Thoughts

My kids get excited when they hear “picnic” and I love that our picnics allow us to have spontaneous family adventures and create lifetime memories.

No matter when or where your picnic takes place, enjoy the moment! If possible, leave the cell phone behind. This is easier said than done, but it’s the best way to be present.


  • Pack a ready-to-go bag: an insulated cooler bag with paper plates, napkins, cups and utensils—it will be ready when you need it.
  • Place the bag and your blanket somewhere your kids can easily access them.
  • If you have a wagon, use it to pack and transport your picnic items.
  • Pack a ball or Frisbee for the park.
  • Encourage your kids to make up games.
  • Do you get together with family or friends on a regular basis? Plan a group picnic! Have a contest to see who can prepare their picnic in less than 10 minutes.

Make the most of your adventure together and I guarantee your next picnic will be filled with fun and wonderful memories!

What do you think? Got any creative locations or ideas for picnics? What games does your family like to play together on a picnic? Comment below and let us know how and where your picnic took place. I’d love to see a picture, too.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author, Heide Estrada

Heide Estrada loves to create family memories. When not working, you will find her photographing her children, trying new recipes, planning family trips or browsing Pinterest for her next project. Other posts by »


  1. Thanks, Heide! I love the idea of a picnic in the backyard. Sometimes a change of scenery is all it takes to improve everyone’s mood. I know the perfect spot for my ready-to-go-bag. Thanks so much for being part of My Kids’ Adventures from the beginning.

  2. Christine says:

    This is a wonderful article! I can’t wait to have a spur-of-the-moment picnic!

  3. Matt Healy says:

    I love this idea, and I find the suggestion of a “ready to go” bag particularly helpful in making it more likely that my family can make it happen. Thanks!

  4. Heide Estrada says:

    Thank you, and the whole MKA team, Jennifer! I really appreciate the
    opportunity to be a part of such a collaborative and creative group. I
    can’t wait to see photos of your picnic. :-)

  5. Heide Estrada says:

    I’m glad you liked the article, Christine. The spontaneity of our picnics is my favorite part.

  6. Heide Estrada says:

    Yes, Matt, having a bag ready to go is very helpful and allows the kids to take part in getting things together. Hope you’re planning a picnic soon.

  7. Laura says:

    Such a great article… not only for parents of small children, but specially for grandparents that babysit young ones 😉

  8. Heide Estrada says:

    Thank you, Laura! Yes, this is a great activity for children of all ages. When my daughter was an infant, we used to place her bouncy chair on the picnic blanket. When it came time to play, we would move her bouncy chair so she could be part of our “Duck, Duck, Goose” circle. She enjoyed watching us run around.

  9. Kristin Ammerman says:

    Beautiful pics, Heide! Your article caught my husbands attention and he wants to do a picnic asap :)

  10. Heide Estrada says:

    Oh, that’s so exciting! I’d love to hear how it turns out. Also, feel free to share photos on the My Kids’ Adventures Facebook page.

  11. You can also share pics in the comments here :)

  12. Martin says:

    Thanks for sharing your great ideas. You have a beautiful family. Enjoy.

  13. Heide Estrada says:

    Thanks for letting us know, Mike!

  14. Heide Estrada says:

    Thank you, Martin! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. :-)

  15. On particularly hot days, we’ve been known to set up a picnic in the living room. When my now 11-YO was just a toddler, we started having “cocoa picnics” on the kitchen floor with hot chocolate, a snack, and some of her favorite books. She has outgrown a lot of things, but not that tradition.

  16. Heide Estrada says:

    Terry, I really like your “cocoa picnics” idea. Thanks for sharing! We’ll have to try that version with my kids, I know they would really enjoy it. I’m sure it would be a fun at breakfast time and on a rainy day.

  17. It is so much fun … and now we do it on snow days when she’s home from school. We go pick out a *pile* of picture books (which she has outgrown) and then head down Memory Lane. The good thing is we’re not limited to the kitchen floor anymore.

  18. […] ideas so we can all enjoy ourselves outside and our kids too. 1. Fresh and healthy summer picnic 2. Spontaneous picnic 15min 3.Top picnic ideas and […]

  19. Bike Pretty says:

    Great post! You have such a great, no-stress approach to family time. It’s really refreshing. And your family is so beautiful!

How to Have an Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt With Your Kids
How to Create Glow-In-The-Dark Bowling In Your Home
How to Create a Backyard Treasure Hunt, Minecraft Style
How to Make Slime: 5 Easy Recipes
How to Entertain Your Kids for Hours With Adventure Tubs