Research shows that the simple act of eating together as a family can significantly improve overall family happiness and dramatically lower incidences of teen drug and alcohol abuse [source: Gibbs]. But as every busy parent knows, preparing home-cooked meals seven nights a week (let alone three times a day) can quickly become overwhelming. A family picnic can break up the mealtime routine and involve the whole family in the planning and cooking process.
Get the kids involved early. Have them help you choose the location for the picnic. It could be the park down the street, a nearby state park or nature preserve, or even the backyard. Then let them each choose one thing to contribute to the picnic. Ideally, it will be something they can help to prepare, like a fruit salad or ham sandwiches. For the littlest kids, have them count out oranges or cookies for each member of the family, or gather enough paper plates, forks and napkins for the whole crew.
You don't need an official picnic basket. You can designate a cooler or even a cardboard box that the kids can decorate like a picnic basket. An old bed sheet makes a great picnic blanket. Make sure to bring a soccer ball, a Frisbee, bubbles, and other outdoor activities for after the picnic. If the picnic is a success, make it into a weekly tradition when the weather is nice. It will give the whole family something different to look forward to.