How to Make a Socially Distanced Picnic Celebration for Mother’s Day

Packing a picnic basket

Every milestone or holiday that comes and goes while we are all in quarantine feels like a pinch.  We Zoom, we Facetime, we wish each other well on social media, but obviously these are somewhat anemic ways to celebrate anything worth celebrating.  And now, Mother’s Day is on the horizon, and sending Mom a bunch of emojis on her special day feels a bit hollow.

Not all of us are going to be able to see our moms, whether due to distance or illness or precautions (remember early on when the phrase “an abundance of precaution” was tossed around like it was actually an abundance, and not just reasonable precaution?).  But if we are lucky enough to live within driving distance our of moms, we can try and make something of this holiday.  If the weather cooperates, we can plan a safe socially distanced picnic and share the day as a family.  

Please note – everything in this post includes you following CDC guidelines! Socially distancing! Masks! Gloves! Disinfectant! No touching things that your mom touches!

Mom holding up a slice of banana cake

Tips for a Socially Distanced Picnic Celebration for Mother’s Day

My husband, sons and I have been able to have outdoor meals with my mom on a few occasions. And now we’re practiced and ready to have an open-air Mother’s Day picnic.  Here’s how to do it.

Determine an outdoor spot to have your picnic. 

Pick a place that you don’t think many others will choose.  If your mom lives someplace with a backyard, that’s perfect.  If you are worried about other people being there, maybe pick a less-popular time of day.  An alfresco breakfast might get you the seclusion you need.

Have a plain-talk conversation beforehand. 

Everyone involved has to understand that a minimum of 6 (or better yet 10) feet between each person at all times is non-negotiable.  This may need repeating to young children, and frankly may need repeating to some moms who might have a hard time resisting reaching out for a much-wanted hug.  Remind everyone that something is better than nothing, and safety is the utmost priority.

Plan a menu. 

Keep the food very simple.  You are there to see each other in person, and that’s the most essential thing.  Having said that, think about spring picnic food: portable, sturdy, and supremely un-fancy.  Some of my favorite things to prepare are bean salads; grain salads; green salads; sandwiches; quiches; pasta salads; slaws; chicken, egg, or salmon salads, and mixed vegetable salads.  

Modern Three Bean Salad

This is super important: if you are cooking for everyone involved, make sure to be extremely careful when preparing the food. 

Wash hands thoroughly and often, wear a mask and gloves when handling the food.  

Pack the food that the people in your home will be eating in one set of containers, and pack food for your mom and anyone she lives with in another set of containers.  (I also pack extra so she has additional meals to eat throughout the week).  Place the containers in separate picnic baskets or bags (wipe down your mom’s containers and bags, and then use fresh gloves to carry it to the picnic).  Place the appropriate amount of disposable plates, utensils, serving utensils, napkins, beverages, cups, etc. in each bag, all sealed in another plastic bag.

Or, you can decide to bring food just for the people who live in your house, and ask your mom or someone who lives with her to prepare her own meal, which obviously feels less festive, but super safe.

Packed food for a picnic

Bring a garbage bag and put on a fresh pair of gloves to clean everything up. 

Let your mom bring her own extra food inside in her specially designated bag.

Wear masks, wear gloves, and don’t go inside! 

Without being graphic, figure out how you are going to handle bathroom needs, and bring lots of hand sanitizer as you will inevitably have to touch things that your mom will also touch.  Make sure she and her housemates have the proper protection on as well.

Be considerate when arranging seating. 

When we all visit my mom outside, we are very conscious not to sit in a group of four with her 6 feet off to the side; we all sit six plus feet apart, so it feels like we’re on an even playing field of sorts.

If you have little kids in your group, ask them to prepare a skit, a song, a dance, something that would please your mom.

(And if the kids are little, it’s safe to say that anything will please mom/grandma!).  Think about videotaping it to send her later.

Think about some socially distanced games. 

Scattegories is one that we play often, sometimes on Zoom, and during our together-apart get-togethers.  We simply text my mom a photo of the card with the list of categories. Charades is another of my Mom’s favorites.  You can play board games as well, as long as you all social distance – you can designate one person to roll the dice, and someone else to moves the pieces for everyone.

Bring some new photos of your family, especially any grandkids. 

When you leave, it’s going to be hard to see you go, and some new pictures may help to take away some of the sting.  You might also have kids draw or paint something to leave behind.  Place them in clear plastic bags, and give them a wipedown with sanitizer.  

All of this would have sounded like crazy overkill just months ago, but now it’s the price of safe gathering, and keeping everyone safe.  And P.S., if Sunday isn’t sunny and warm, pick another day – if nothing else, this situation has taught us to be flexible and roll with the punches.

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Some Recipes to Consider for Your Picnic:

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