When the picnic runs out of steam . . .

If you're picnicking with kids, it's good to have a planned activity stowed away in the bottom of your basket. Tag and baseball can't consume the entire entertainment schedule. So when everyone is frazzled, try making some art rubbings. The activity is a quiet one, offering a change of pace. And it's a natural for almost any age. Even a three-year-old can tackle this. All you need are crayons (black ones work well) or pencils (soft lead) and large sheets of paper and tape.

Armed with these supplies, set off on a hike, looking specifically for patterns and textures. The obvious ones are rough bark on trees, bumpy rocks, manhole covers, and grillwork. If you're picnicking in a city park, the possibilities are broader. Cement sidewalks, fences, signs, and building faades can also come into play.

But let's say you've spotted a country elm that has interesting grooving in the bark. Tape your paper over the bark, making sure all four corners are secure. With a crayon or pencil at a tilt (don't use the point, it'll rip the paper), rub carefully in even strokes. The pattern that emerges will be in two tones.

Keep searching. Nature is a storehouse of fascinating textures. You can create your own patterns, too, by placing leaves, sticks, and objects on a flat surface. This demands a bit more planning.

What do the kids do with these masterpieces when they're finished? Lots. Some will be suitable for framing. Others can be turned into note paper or book covers. And if you're in need of a gift for Grandma or Grandpa, what more could you ask for?

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