Children love to break from the norm, so take them on a picnic tonight or pack a great picnic for your next outing to the beach. No matter when or where, enjoying the perfect picnic is easy and fun when you plan and prepare.

Pack Smart

When packing up your picnic basket or cooler, use containers that can easily stack. This will save space so you can fit more items. In addition, let your water bottles double as ice packs by freezing a few ahead of time and placing them in the basket to keep your food cool. Make sure you bring plenty of paper plates, napkins, utensils, and cups for everyone. If you have a baby or toddler, don't forget the bib. And definitely don't forget the blanket!

Bring Your Favorites

Make or purchase your favorite summertime foods such as pasta salad, potato salad, fruit salad, wraps, and sandwiches. Give your children some choices and let them help pack. You can also include chips or pretzels but avoid snacks that melt quickly and leave behind a mess. Bring along enough water for everyone and fun drinks such as lemonade or iced tea.

Prepare for a Mess

Picnics are messy. Be ready by bringing hand wipes to wipe sticky fingers and faces. Plan ahead for how you will dispose of your garbage. There may be several cans available where you decide to picnic, or you may need to bring a trash bag with you from home. Whatever you do, be sure to pick up ever piece of garbage you create.

Play Some Games

Bring along some classics like a kickball, Frisbee, or baseball and gloves for the kids to play games while you catch up on your reading. They can also play Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light. Relax on your own or join them in their fun.

Plan for Mother Nature

No matter what the weatherman says, the weather can change. Be sure to apply sunscreen before you leave and bring some along so you can reapply later. Include bug spray to keep those mosquitoes away, plus umbrellas, and raincoats if there's a chance of showers.

Picnics are a fun way to celebrate a great meal with your family while enjoying the beautiful days of summer. With a bit of preparation, a lot of fun, and little bit of cleanup, you can have a great outdoor meal that the kids will want to do again and again.