At some point in winter, the kids begin stalking through the rooms of your house like caged tigers. They’re not looking for something educational to quietly enjoy. Oh no.
They move stealthily to wherever you pay your bills and do other boring, adult things. Though still illiterate, they will somehow locate the most critical of your paperwork, rip it to bits, and scatter it like confetti. Then, they will scurry into the bathroom and unroll toilet paper to the furthest corners of your house, clever spiders hoping to catch your attention. They will sit by with amused expressions as you battle your way through the Charmin.
“I JUST needed to unload the dishwasher,” you’ll scream, nostril flaring, and the kids will leap like gazelles fleeing a lion, onward to other mischief.
When the walls begin to close in on your family, its time to plan a carpet picnic. Truthfully, the following diversion tactic works best with young children. Your tween has probably learned to unroll the TP within reason. If not, let’s have a glass of wine later, and you can tell me all about it. But for toddlers and early elementary kids, a carpet picnic, when executed properly, can provide entertainment for hours, while doing chores!
For maximum return, plan your carpet picnic on a day you need to grocery shop, clean the kitchen, feed the kids, and pick up a toy-littered room. So, basically, any day will do as long as you have the following:
- Restless child(ren)
- Crappy weather (Necessary to prevent repeated entreaties to move the party outside.)
- A blanket / sheet / plastic tablecloth (Unless you want cream cheese ground into your carpet or otherwise live dangerously.)
- Food (As elaborate as your imagination can dream or as simple as your patience requires.)
- Contained Beverages (Again, unless you walk on the wild side. In which case, bring the Welches Grape juice. Let your toddler pour her own cup.)
The key to a successful carpet picnic isn’t in the execution, but the planning. This is when you masterfully direct your children to do chores.
Step 1: Make your regular grocery list. Next, work with your kids to plan the picnic menu. For our last carpet picnic, my eldest selected lemonade, cheese sandwiches, ants on a leaf (green apple with cream cheese and chocolate chips or raisins), and a chocolate-covered granola bar. I countered with peas. She countered with Doritos and peas. On the outside, I begrudgingly agreed. On the inside, I fantasized about the Mother’s Day presents she would buy me when she was a titan of industry or a world-class lawyer.
Step 2: Turn your grocery store run into a picnic prep expedition. If someone starts winning, hold up the bag of Doritos and give your best glare.
Step 3: Prepare the kitchen. This is when you entice your little ones to put away the groceries, load the dishwasher, and do whatever else needs to be done, so that you can prepare the picnic.
Step 4: Prepare the feast. Now, this part can take a bit of effort. However, if your kids enjoy spending time in the kitchen, it’s a great way to pass a good hour or more. Apparently, my parent’s cooking DNA skipped a generation, so my kids would be thrilled to prepare a three-course meal on the regular. I mommed-up and tried my best to seem euphoric as I squeezed lemons and whittled apple slices into leaf shapes.
Presentation is everything. It’s the same cheese sandwich they eat every weekend, but this time, it’s in a wicker basket (WITH DORITOS!). Suddenly, it’s a special cheese sandwich.
Step 5: Select your picnic site. I recommend the messiest room in your house. It’s a good idea to have something in your feast that requires “chill time”. Otherwise, your clever offspring will clear a space exactly the size of the blanket and be done. We cleaned the entire playroom while the lemonade chilled in the fridge.
Step 6: Relish in the fruits of your labor. Spread a blanket on your toy-free floor and enjoy!
Repeat as needed until spring.
In case a carpet picnic isn’t whimsical enough or you need to entertain your child(ren) for an extended period, I suggest the following:
- Flora constructed from tissue paper and pipe cleaners. Extra points for knowing the names of actual flowers
- A movie. Yes, the evil screen can extend this party well into the afternoon or at least until naptime
- Costumes. If you’re limited in the costume department, jack up the heat and let them wear shorts or pull out a few of those bridesmaid dresses cluttering your closet. Let your toddler pour the grape juice