The Green Desk

Having a Picnic

We would like to have snack time outside and/or our lunch time with our children. Having a picnic can be a lot of fun.

Can you tell us how this can be done and still meet licensing and/or ECERS requirements as to hand washing, family style dining etc.?

From the North Carolina Rated License Assessment Project:

All of the health requirements still apply for outdoors and since tables outside usually cannot be cleaned/sanitized properly, table cloths may be used to cover wooden picnic tables. Handwashing is required so programs may figure out a way to have running water outdoors or have the picnic first so children wash hands and head to the tables right away before playing. Remember that if having a picnic causes some challenges to the regular sanitation practices, a lower score on a single ERS item will not greatly impact the overall average score across all items. So, higher scores in other items will balance out a lower score in the meals/snacks item.

From the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education:

Handwashing and a table cloth should address any licensing concerns.

From the North Carolina Children’s Environmental Health Branch:

When food service is provided in the OLE, food shall be protected, stored, prepared and served in accordance to 15A NCAC 18A.2806, 2807 & 2808. Employees and children shall wash their hands in accordance with 2803 and food service tables shall be cleaned or covered prior to use.

Having a picnic.

Strawberries outside at a picnic – what could be better?

A picnic on the grass.

Overview from the North Carolina Outdoor Learning Environments Alliance:

Anything you can do inside, you can do outside – but it may take some planning and forethought to do it in an early care and education setting. Picnics are a good example. The good news is that once the system is worked out, it is easy to repeat and even make having a picnic a regular practice. We often rush through meal time to move on to the next activity. Just taking the care and time to be outdoors to eat creates a more relaxing environment for appreciating food. It is a wonderful way to have time for conversations about the things children are seeing and hearing and clean-up is much easier outdoors.

This post is from a series of FAQ about child care outdoor learning environment regulations in North Carolina. Please see the intro post, here, for more information.