Kids in the Kitchen: Four easy picnic dishes

Summer Picnic Adventures: Enjoy getting into the kitchen to prepare for a big day out or a rainy day in!

School is out for the summer and as parents we look with dread to the long days ahead. It can be hard trying to muster up fresh ideas and activities to keep the kids entertained for a whole eight weeks. In reality, we don’t need to pile any added pressure on ourselves. With kids, simple is always best.

In my experience, one word fits all during the summer break: adventure! Not everything always goes to plan or schedule, and the juggle is real with work, childcare and our Irish summer weather. The trick is keeping it secret and not telling the kids what the adventure actually is until you are ready to go. This way, you can slot in any activity that suits you on the day. You are basically winging it or playing it by ear!

Take advantage of your child’s growing imagination with a treasure hunt in the back garden, a nature trail in the woods or even a simple picnic in the sittingroom. Whatever suits on the day or even the hour. When it comes to eating during the summer, a picnic on a blanket on the ground will always be a child’s first choice.

Sometimes the anticipation can be just as exciting as the main event. With that in mind, getting the kids into the kitchen to prepare and make the picnic is another great way to keep them busy. To cut the stress I have done the groundwork with these recipes, all of which have been tried and tested in my Family Cooking Club, so they are doable for kids. I have added a few tricks and tips that help to keep the kids involved yet safe in the kitchen such as using everyday utensils like scissors for cutting chicken and veg.


So, enjoy getting into the kitchen to prepare for a big day out or a rainy day in!

Granola Bars

  • Line a 10-inch square baking tin with greaseproof paper.
  • Preheat the oven to 160c fan.
  • Get the kids to crush 80g of mixed nuts in a sealed bag or a pestle and mortar, then add them to your lined baking tin.
  • Let your helpers pour in 150g of rolled oats and 80g of raisins along with a drizzle of oil.
  • Toast your mix for 8 minutes in the oven.
  • Meanwhile, make your caramel sauce by melting together 100g of butter and 80g of sugar over a medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  • Add in 2tbsp of honey and 1tsp of vanilla essence.
  • Remove the baking tin from the oven and pour the toasted oats, raisins and nuts into the caramel sauce – be careful of the hot tin!
  • Let the children give it a good mix with a spatula.
  • Transfer the whole mix back into your lined baking tin, pressing it down firmly with the spatula making sure it’s compact.
  • Bake for 30 minutes then leave to cool before slicing carefully into bars.
  • For an extra flourish, drizzle with melted chocolate and desiccated coconut.


  • Preheat the oven to 180°C fan.
  • Get the kids to roll out 320g of ready-rolled puff pastry and with a pizza cutter cut the pastry into 6 even squares.
  • Get your little helpers to dice 100g of ham with a pair of clean scissors.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine 200g of mascarpone, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a pinch of nutmeg.
  • Add in the diced ham and 100g of cheddar / mozzarella mix.
  • The children will love dolloping a good tablespoon of the cheese and ham mixture on to the centre of each pastry slice.
  • Fold the corners in to make little parcels and brush with egg yolk.
  • Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Coronation Chicken Rolls

  • The kids can make practically these on their own!
  • To a large mixing bowl add 200g of cooked, shredded chicken, 4tbsp of mayonnaise, 1tbsp of curry powder and 1tbsp of mango chutney.
  • Pour in 50g of sultanas or apricots and get your helpers to mix it all up.
  • The children can finish by snipping in 2 scallions with a pair of clean scissors.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Take your favourite mini bread rolls and fill them with your delicious coronation chicken.

Greek Salad

  • When making a salad with kids, scissors and a simple peeler are great tools for cutting and slicing the veg.
  • Wash and break off the leaves of 2 baby gem lettuce.
  • Wash and slice in half 200g of cherry tomatoes using a clean scissors.
  • Slice 1 cucumber with a peeler and cube 150g of feta cheese with a butter knife.
  • Throw the ingredients into a large bowl along with 50g of black olives (the kids can also slice these with a butter knife).
  • Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle in a pinch of dried oregano.
  • Make a simple dressing by mixing together 2tbsp of olive oil, 2tbsp of balsamic vinegar and 1tbsp of honey.
  • To prevent the salad from going limp, bring your dressing in a separate container and drizzle on top before eating.