Joacim and Karolina Winqvist, parents of twins and the couple behind the Matkoma (“Food Coma”) blog, live near Änggårdsbergen in Gothenburg, Sweden. A typical Saturday for the family usually involves a trip to the forest. And they always take fika – the ingredients for a traditional Swedish coffee break!
“The forest is the perfect place for kids,” says dad Joacim. “There’s so much to see and very little they can hurt themselves on. It’s also wonderfully relaxing for parents to take a timeout from policing their kids. In the forest, they can run, climb, jump and shout to their heart’s content without annoying anyone. The whole family can chill out.”
There’s so much to see and very little they can hurt themselves on in the forest.
Twins Klara and Sixten have come along on trips to the forest since they were born.
“The first summer, when they were about six months old, they mostly slept in the baby carriage,” recalls mom Karolina. “We took turns foraging for wild mushrooms. When fall came, we spread out a blanket for them to lie and crawl around on. As soon as they could sit, they played with pine cones and twigs. By the time they were 2–3 years old, they could start to help us by lugging a pail of water from the lake and gathering sticks for firewood.”
Pancake mix in a bottle – easy food for trips
On their Matkoma food blog, Joacim and Karolina share inspiration with other families for simpler and tastier everyday food. But the Matkoma family loves cooking outdoors just as much as they do at home in their kitchen.
“Eating outdoors is the best part of the whole trip,” says Karolina enthusiastically. “We always have fika with us and usually lunch as well, using either a thermos or a portable stove. It’s actually not as difficult as you might think.”
The twins need time to flap their way out of their pajamas and we won’t set off until around 11.
“We prefer cooking from scratch, but everything tastes awesome in the forest,” Joacim assures us. “Things we wouldn’t dream of eating at home – like instant mashed potatoes – taste delicious sitting on a stump in a forest glade. Our latest discovery is how easy it is to bring pancake mix in a bottle. Many lakes have barbecue grills, and a griddle isn’t heavy to carry in a backpack.”
“It’s astonishing that picky little eaters will happily wolf down food outdoors that they’d never dream of eating at the kitchen table,” Karolina continues. “Klara loves chanterelles now and she’s just started eating avocado again, things that were unthinkable a year ago.”
On a typical Saturday, the family takes a car trip to somewhere new and preferably near a lake.
“We take a long time to get going,” admits Karolina. “The twins need time to flap their way out of their pajamas, stuff needs to be packed and we might not set off until around 11. We often bring along both lunch and fika, and get started as soon as we arrive. We gather firewood, get the fire going and start cooking. The kids help out too. Gathering sticks is a perfect activity for kids. It’s also good for the parents when the kids are having too much fun to notice they’re getting hungry.”
Love the forest
Joacim and Karolina are both from the south of Sweden, and grew up in Västergötland and Skåne respectively. Ever since they met, they’ve loved visiting the forest, if only for a walk. Since the twins arrived, they’ve spent even more time there.
“A trip to the forest is so simple! A blanket, rubber boots, a packet of cookies (or two) and an extra sweater are really all you need,” Karolina says. “And fika! I don’t think we’ve ever been to the forest without everything we need for a traditional Swedish coffee break.”
I don’t think we’ve ever been to the forest without fika.
“It’s wonderful to eat out in the forest,” says Joacim. “And it’s even more amazing to eat food you’ve foraged yourself in the forest. Sweden’s right of public access is unique. Everyone is allowed to wander freely outdoors, pick berries and mushrooms, and build fires – so make the most of it! Fill baskets and pails with mushrooms and berries, and invite another family with kids over for Saturday dinner. It’s fantastic to be able to give this experience to your kids.”
“But from time to time you may need little tricks to keep the kids happy,” adds Karolina. “Make sure you have treats to eat on the trip home. They’re just kids, after all!”
Don’t miss Part 1, where the Matkoma Family introduces themselves and gives tips for kitchen bliss.
Top 3 must-haves for forest trips
- Fika! I don’t think we’ve ever been to the forest without fika. Also remember to pack some treats that you can magic up for the return trip, when the kids need extra energy for the walk back to the car and the trip home.
- Rubber boots. Soggy feet can really spoil your day.
- Wear layers and take a spare sweater, so you’re prepared for both a breezy lake shore and a sunny forest glade.
Top 3 lunches for trips
- Make a fire and barbecue hot dogs
- Bring a portable stove and make simple spaghetti carbonara or macaroni and meatballs
- If there’s a proper barbecue grill: take a griddle and pancake mix in a bottle.
Text: Katarina Gröndahl
The Matkoma Family
Joacim, 34, art director at an advertising agency. Likes baking bread, cycling and music. Karolina 33, professional communicator at a public transportation company. Likes coffee, DIY and yoga. Klara & Sixten, 5 years. Like popcorn, bathtimes and pretending to be cats.
When you don’t have much time: My best tip is to have grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. Tell the kids it’s a breakfast dinner – that sounds amazingly mixed-up! And you can smuggle all kinds of veggies into a grilled cheese sandwich.
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Forest trips with kids 0–6 years
Under 12 months – Take the baby carriage and let the baby sleep in the fresh air. When the baby is a bit older, it’s exciting to simply lie or sit on a blanket.
1 year – The most difficult year by far. Toddlers need carrying and lifting, and keep falling over. But a lush sprig of blueberries can keep them busy for ages.
2 years – Now they can get around by themselves. Picking blueberries or collecting pine cones is fun, fiddly and fascinating.
3 years – A three-year-old loves to help! Collecting sticks for firewood and sorting them in piles is a good activity before lunch is ready.
4 years – Now they can pick more ‘difficult’ berries from ouchy brambles, such as blackberries and wild raspberries.
5 years – Introduce little but important tasks. We began teaching our twins how to build a fire and fetch water from the lake. Under our careful supervision, of course!
6 years – The perfect age to start learning about wild mushrooms. Yellow chanterelles, funnel chanterelles, porcini mushrooms and sweet tooth mushrooms are our favorites.