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Published on April 30, 2021

35 Easy And Healthy Dinner Ideas For Kids

35 Easy And Healthy Dinner Ideas For Kids

Parents jokingly say that the most challenging part about raising kids is deciding what’s for dinner. While it’s funny, there’s also a lot of truth to it. Kids can be picky. They love something one day and despise it the next. They also don’t care if something is healthy or not. And good luck ever getting dinner “right” if you have more than one kid. More kids equal more opinions.

What can busy parents do to get their kids to eat healthy meals? How can mealtime be easier?

First, you might be wondering if new recipes will even help. Picky eaters are good at refusing anything and everything. Kid-friendly meals won’t be beneficial if your child isn’t open to new things. Even kids that aren’t overly picky tend to shy away from new foods. Ironically, they also hate eating the same things over and over.

So, what’s the best way to overcome meal-time frustration? Make it fun! Distract kids with a bit of creativity. They’ll be more likely to eat if everyone is relaxed and enjoying the meal.[1]

Before I dive into the 35 dinner ideas for kids, here are some tips for getting young kids to eat and break out of that dinner rut.(Mayo Clinic: Children’s Nutrition: 10 Tips For Picky Eaters))

  1. Make Breakfast for Dinner – Switch things up by serving breakfast for dinner. Kids will love the surprise. Use fruit, bacon, and sausage to make it more filling. Some days can be exceedingly rough, so oatmeal and fruit can even be an option.
  2. Involve Them – Kids love to help and will be more excited to try the food they helped make. Touching and seeing the ingredients during the process can help your child become more familiar with them and ease their uncertainty. The biggest benefit is you’ll be spending time together, not to mention the value of learning to cook.
  3. Do Dinner Buffet-Style – Set food and toppings out on the table buffet-style and allow kids to dish up their plates. What works well for a buffet?[2] Tacos, pancakes, pizza, nachos, finger foods and chili are just a few of the many ideas out there. Don’t be afraid to come up with your own.
  4. Creative Presentation – Turning a meal into art is another way to get kids interested. Nothing makes food more interesting than when it looks like a face, flower, or boat. Get creative with how you present the food!
  5. Have Fun With Themes – The options here are endless. You could base it on your child’s favorite characters or focus on a different culture, region, or even history. This is a great way to introduce your child to how and what others around the world eat.
  6. Bribery – Sometimes, parents have to resort to shameless bribery to get kids to eat. It’s okay to use a little extra motivation to get kids to try something new.[3] We all need a boost now and then. Avoid using dessert as a motive to eat dinner, but what are some harmless bribes to try? For instance, stickers, temporary tattoos, extra screen time or bedtime book.

Now, let’s get to the dinner ideas. Meal planning is just one more thing to do in an already busy day. This list of dinner recipes for kids can help. Remember, you can always make modifications to fit any dietary needs. These recipes are a good starting point and can give your tired brain a boost of creativity.

1. Cheeseburger Pasta

    Children love pasta and cheeseburgers, so mix the two for an irresistible dinner for kids. Make it even better by using fun pasta shapes like shells or rotini twists.

    Get the recipe for this instant classic here.

    2. Tacos on a Stick

      Sticks make everything better when you’re a kid—so, why would dinner be any different? This meal doesn’t get any easier, either, scoring major points with parents. All you need are bamboo skewers and a few simple ingredients.

      Get the recipe here.

      3. Nacho Pizza

        This is another creative twist on two classic meals most kids will quickly devour. Go as crazy or as simple as you want with this quick dinner.

        Find the recipe here.

        4. Gnocchi Chicken Skillet

          Pasta with a unique twist makes for a meal that kids will be curious to try. This one is so good, it might become a favorite for parents, too.

          Check out the recipe here.

          5. Hamburger Pizza

            Another mashup and more burgers, the hamburger pizza is just too good to pass up—all the flavors of a burger in the form of a childhood favorite.

            Go here for the recipe.

            6. Chicken Noodle Soup

              No list would be complete without this classic. Cheat a little by using rotisserie chicken, and have this soup done in under 30 minutes. Say goodbye to the canned version.

              Find the recipe here.

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              7. Hot Dog Roll-Ups

                Refrigerated crescent rolls, hot dogs, cheese, and bacon come together for a dinner for kids that can’t get much quicker.

                Find out how to make this fun hot dog dinner here.

                8. Tater Tot Nachos

                  Not your every day nachos, this recipe uses tater tots as a base. You can use whatever toppings you know that your kid loves to improve it.

                  Check the recipe out here.

                  9. Muffin Tin Lasagna

                    Muffin tin lasagna is just like lasagna but smaller. It’s perfect for little fingers and faster to make than the original.

                    Get the recipe here.

                    10. Frito Pie Casserole

                      Frito chips add crunch to this quick Tex-Mex meal. To make it extra special, turn it into Tacos in a Bag by mixing everything into individual bags of chips.

                      Find the recipe for this delicious meal here.

                      11. Cheeseburger and Fries Casserole

                        Cheeseburger and rise casserole—two fast-food favorites combined into one flavorful casserole. Why eat out when you can have a quick, hot meal at home?

                        The recipe can be found here.

                        12. Meatball Submarine Casserole

                          This dinner for kids may be a little less messy than the sandwich, but they will still love the meatballs, melted cheese, and warm bread.

                          For a quick midweek meal, check out the recipe here.

                          13. White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

                            The best of comfort foods gets a quick upgrade. Kids will still enjoy this favorite while parents can appreciate the grown-up flavor of white cheddar.

                            Get the recipe here.

                            14. Turkey Ranch Wraps

                              Easy, delicious, fun, and fast—what could be better? This meal is also easy to pack, making it great for those hectic nights when you’re on the go.

                              Find the recipe here, and give it a try.

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                              15. Big Mac Pizza

                                Just saying the words “Big Mac” will get little ears to perk up. A pre-made crust makes this dinner a fast answer to those mealtime frustrations.

                                Go here to find out how to make it.

                                16. Buttermilk Chicken Tenders

                                  Homemade yet easy to make chicken tenders—what gets better than that? Add a side of vegetables and fruit and you have a complete meal that kids will happily gobble up.

                                  Get this easy recipe here.

                                  17. Meatball Sliders

                                    Sliders are a great snack or dinner for kids—small hands, small sandwiches. Plus, the tiny size makes them more fun than the original.

                                    Try this recipe here.

                                    18. Ham and Cheese Pockets

                                      Don’t let the idea of making homemade dough keep you from trying this recipe. You’ll be glad you did when you see how simple it is. Everyone will love biting into a ham and cheese pocket made with fresh bread.

                                      The recipe can be found here.

                                      19. Dorito Taco Salad

                                        Swap out tortilla chips for Doritos and watch kids find a new interest in taco salad. Use single-serving bags as the bowl, add the toppings inside, and enjoy having to do fewer dishes.

                                        Get the recipe here.

                                        20. Spaghetti Nests

                                          Kids love spaghetti, but they’ll be surprised to see it as little “nests” they can eat with their fingers.

                                          Find out how to make them here.

                                          21. Mini Chicken Pot Pies

                                            With only four ingredients and done in half an hour, what’s not to love about this dinner idea for kids? Homemade doesn’t have to mean difficult.

                                            Get the recipe for this comfort food favorite here.

                                            22. Sandwich on a Stick

                                              Save the time slicing, spreading, and piling and instead, put everything onto a stick. Kids will love pulling each item off, and you’ll love the easy clean-up.

                                              Find the recipe here.

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                                              23. Tornado Dogs

                                                The name alone might be enough to make kids eat these. Hot dogs on a skewer are wrapped in a swirl of bread dough, making this a fun new way to eat an old favorite.

                                                The recipe can be found here.

                                                24. Homemade Spaghettios

                                                 

                                                  Make your own healthy version of Spaghettios at home with this simple recipe. It’s cheap, simple, and you have control over the ingredients. You might never buy the canned version again.

                                                  Find the recipe for this childhood classic here.

                                                  25. Kitchen BBQ Chicken

                                                    You don’t need anything fancy for this meal, though it will taste like you put a lot of effort into it.

                                                    Find out how to make this quick version here.

                                                    26. Puka Dogs

                                                      Polish sausages or hot dogs are used in this Hawaiian recipe. Pineapple relish and mango mustard add tropical flavors, and Hawaiian rolls are used for the bread.

                                                      Get the recipe here.

                                                      27. Instant Pot Chicken and Dumplings

                                                        Almost everyone loves dumplings, and it’s a nice side dish or dinner for your kids. Add chunks of chicken and creamy gravy—what’s there to complain about?

                                                        Get the quick version of this all-time favorite here.

                                                        28. Chicken Alfredo Casserole

                                                          Casseroles make for an easy dinner for kids, and this is one you might find making over and over. Pair it with a salad and you have a delicious Italian meal without the fuss.

                                                          Get the recipe here.

                                                          29. Pizza on a Stick

                                                            Bamboo skewers switch up yet another meal. This time, pizza gets a makeover in this creative twist.

                                                            Find out how to make these here.

                                                            30. Pita Tacos

                                                              Instead of taco shells, this recipe uses pita bread. Kids will have fun filling the “pockets” with taco ingredients.

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                                                              Go here for this delicious recipe.

                                                              31. Copycat Instant Pot Hamburger Helper

                                                                There’s something classic about Hamburger Helper, but now you can make it just as quickly from scratch. Noodles, ground beef, and sauce come together in this delicious instant pot meal.

                                                                Get the recipe here.

                                                                32. Cheese Fondue

                                                                  Fondues open up the door for creativity. Children might even have a few ideas for foods to dip into the cheese sauce. Pretzel bites, bread, vegetables, and meat make good options.

                                                                  Find more ideas and the recipe here.

                                                                  33. Egg in the Hole

                                                                    This recipe is one of those quick breakfasts that would make a great dinner for kids when you’re in a rush. Make it even better by using a cookie cutter to make a fun shape in the bread.

                                                                    The recipe can be found here.

                                                                    34. Instant Pot Egg Casserole Bites

                                                                      These casserole bites are filling and quick. The small size makes them easy to eat and their clean-up a breeze. Kids can add their favorite toppings, too. Cheese, peppers, sausage, and bacon are just a few options.

                                                                      Find out how to make this recipe here.

                                                                      35. French Toast Roll-Ups

                                                                        Sometimes, it’s the simple things that grab a kid’s attention. This french toast recipe is sure to be a dinner they love and one you don’t have to feel bad about making.

                                                                        Find the recipe here.

                                                                        My Kid Still Won’t Eat—Is This Normal?

                                                                        Remember that kids go through stages. There will be days when your child barely eats, and there will be days when the hunger seems nonstop.

                                                                        Focus on the big picture and ask yourself these questions:[4]

                                                                        • Is my child eating a variety of healthy foods over the course of the week?
                                                                        • Is my child undernourished or growing normally?
                                                                        • Is food (or lack of) interfering with my child’s quality of life?

                                                                        It might be time to see a doctor if you see signs of health problems due to pickiness or lack of eating. The problem may go beyond stubbornness and be a symptom of a medical issue.[5]

                                                                        Keeping Family Mealtime Stress-free

                                                                        The less stressed you are, the less stressed your child will be. Forcing food will make the experience negative, leaving kids less likely to experiment.

                                                                        Here are a few final tips on how to encourage positive eating habits that will follow your child through life:

                                                                        • Keep meals stress-free
                                                                        • Offer a wide variety of foods
                                                                        • Don’t force eating
                                                                        • Encourage older children to try new food at least three times
                                                                        • Set a good example by eating healthy, and being open to new foods yourself

                                                                        With a positive attitude, fun ideas, and new recipes, you can help your child learn to love new foods. You can start with these 35 dinner ideas for kids to help you out.

                                                                        More Kids’ Meals Ideas

                                                                        Featured photo credit: Karo Kujanpaa via unsplash.com

                                                                        Reference

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                                                                        Adrienne Koziol

                                                                        Adrienne is an educator, blogger, and mother of 9. She loves to help people reach their goals in relationships, health, and life.

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                                                                        Published on May 7, 2021

                                                                        20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids

                                                                        20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids

                                                                        From coaching martial arts to children as young as four years old, I very quickly came to the understanding that if I wanted to help kids progress their skills, I needed to find a way to help them focus more consistently in my class.

                                                                        There are two key ways I found when it came to improving my students’ level of focus:

                                                                        1. Make what we’re doing more interesting. Nothing is off the table here—from having ninja clowns on the rampage in a lesson to including popular games with a martial arts theme, tapping into the student’s love of fun to help them focus.
                                                                        2. Introduce brain breaks.

                                                                        Brain breaks are small mental breaks that help the kids stay more focused. Think of the brain as a fuel gauge that shows the information you can consciously hold in your mind at any given moment. When the kids are focused and working hard on their tasks, the meter is usually full. They can easily concentrate and pass experiences into their long-term memory.

                                                                        But when the needle starts to drop, you may observe that your kids are feeling anxious or looking restless. New information, experiences, and knowledge are not getting processed from the staging area or working memory into the long-term memory.[1]

                                                                        It’s here that brain breaks make the most difference, as they allow us to “top-up the tank” or reset the gauge so that we can continue to learn and focus and at a higher level.

                                                                        If you’ve been home tutoring, you’ll appreciate that brain breaks can help kids in many ways. They can reduce stress and frustration. Think of those times when you’re helping your kids solve a difficult problem. It’s taxing for you both and when compounded with the energy loss after a day at school or watching TV. The stress effect can be compounded, and it’s here that brain breaks can be a lifesaver.[2]

                                                                        The following is a selection of brain break ideas for kids. You’ll see that some are physical activities while others are more relaxing. It’s always great to test them out to see which ones connect the best with your children.

                                                                        It’s okay to repeat the same brain breaks. Having a clear name and mission to a break can help keep your child excited, knowing that they’ll have the opportunity to take part in a future round of the activity.

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                                                                        Active Brain Breaks

                                                                        Here are some active brain breaks for kids that you can try out.

                                                                        1. Swapsies

                                                                        Have the participants stand behind a chair. Call out a character trait, like “everyone with brown eyes.” You then swap places with someone else who has the same characteristic. If you have nothing that matches, you stay put!

                                                                        Examples: “Everyone with trainers on.” “Everyone who is left-handed.” “Everyone who is wearing yellow.”

                                                                        2. Dance Party

                                                                        Put five or six different types of songs on Spotify, including a classic like “baby shark or the hamster dance.” Dim the lights if possible and have the kids dance to the tunes. Then, change the tunes and change the dance style. It’s silly and fun.

                                                                        3. Freeze Dance

                                                                        Similar to Dance Party except that when the music stops, students have to stay perfectly still until the music restarts. You can make this even more fun by trying to make the students smile. If they smile, they are out and have to sit down.

                                                                        4. Keep It Up

                                                                        Students must keep a balloon from touching the floor. You can add multiple balloons. You can make it more competitive by having different balloons of two different colors and split people into teams. Whoever keeps the balloons up the longest or the team with the most balloons in the air with a timer of 60 seconds wins.

                                                                        5. Simon Says

                                                                        This brain break for kids is an old favorite. You can also mix it up with martial arts moves, Fortnite dances, superhero moves, etc.

                                                                        6. Animal Movement

                                                                        Move like different animals. It’s fun for younger children. We use Flamingo where you stand on one leg, crawl like a bear, stand like a meerkat, run like a cheetah, and walk like a penguin.

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                                                                        7. Find It Fast

                                                                        “Find It Fast” is a scavenger hunt variation. Call an item out in the room and kids have to stand by it. For example, find a clock, find something with a face, find something smelly, find some money, find a phone, etc.

                                                                        8. The Frog

                                                                        Physical Challenges can be excellent fun. We have one in the martial arts class called “The Frog” where you squat like a frog, then lean forward so your head and feet are off the floor. These are all old yoga poses, so have a look through a booklet or website for some safe ideas. Other examples are grabbing your nose with your left hand and touching your knee with your right elbow.

                                                                        9. Pizza Delivery Time

                                                                        Give the students paper plates and tell them to hold the plates above their head on a flat hand. They then run around the room and try to keep the plate in their hand. You can make it more challenging by having other students try to knock others’ plates off. There’s usually a 3-star jump penalty if your plate touches the floor.

                                                                        10. Limbo

                                                                        We use martial arts belts and the students take turns going underneath the belts. Fun music creates an awesome atmosphere here.

                                                                        11. Human Knot

                                                                        Split the group of people and have everyone link hands under and over. That’s making knots between everyone in the group. Have the other students try to untangle them and return everyone back into a circle.

                                                                        12. Feather Balance

                                                                        This brain break for kids works well with gentle music, and you can use a balloon or a straw if you don’t have a feather handy.

                                                                        13. Stack them high

                                                                        The students should have plastic cups and paper squares. The goal is to make a tower as high as possible, or it could be to make a triangle or even a pyramid.

                                                                        Relaxing Brain Breaks

                                                                        We talked about brain breaks for kids that are being used to energize the students. But they can also be used to calm and relax them. We’re more familiar with the term mindfulness, but it’s the same idea. These are brain breaks for kids that reduce stress and anxiety.

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                                                                        14. Meditation

                                                                        Meditation

                                                                        is a popular way to reduce anxiety. There are lots of great examples already pre-recorded on YouTube that you can follow along with. Below is a useful classroom meditation example.

                                                                        15. Kaleidoscope

                                                                        Kaleidoscopes are fun ways to relax. They are mesmerizing and like a peaceful vortex that sucks you into them. Below is a great example of a visual online one you can use.

                                                                        16. Reading/Listening to a Story

                                                                        When I surveyed the members of our martial arts club about how their kids employ brain breaks at home, there was a clear winner among the families—listening to a story or reading a story. The feedback was that the process of daydreaming a little helps the kids to recharge. But it goes without saying that the story needs to be engaging.

                                                                        17. Doodling

                                                                        My personal favorite way to brain break as a kid was to doodle. Doodling gives your child a few minutes to draw anything they want. It can be calming for them, and it’s a lot more fun if you have different types of pens or crayons available to use. Add some soft music, and you have a simple way to take some time to relax.

                                                                        18. Coloring Sheets

                                                                        Coloring sheets are another way to relax the mind. There’s lots of great coloring in pads available, but here are some links to public resources shared on the internet that are great examples.

                                                                        19. Deep Breathing

                                                                        Deep breathing

                                                                        is an epic way to help your child slow down. It is a quick way to relieve anxiety so that they feel more ready for the next task ahead.

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                                                                        Try this: put your hands on your tummy, breathe in through the nose, and feel your belly expand like a balloon. Hold it here, then slowly breathe out through the mouth while feeling your stomach get smaller. Repeat this 10 times. Use the following counts: breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and breath out for 4 seconds.

                                                                        20. Going Outside

                                                                        Go outside was the second most popular response from our parent’s survey about brain breaks for kids at home. Fresh air always feels nice. You can combine this with a treasure hunt, looking for different colored cars, types of birds, or even types of trees, if you’re familiar with these.

                                                                        My personal favorite is using a mushroom spotting app on our phones and finding a mushroom or toadstool, then using the app to identify its name. This is surprisingly engaging for children. But a few safety rules about not touching them is important. It gives kids a change of scenery and helps revitalize the senses, providing a welcome break from their homework.

                                                                        How Often Should You Introduce Brain Breaks?

                                                                        The key to brain breaks is their timing. If you can introduce them before you notice that your kids are entering deep fatigue or their loss of focus has set in. You’ll find a great balance between breaks and effort.

                                                                        I’ve observed from my martial arts coaching that younger students have a smaller amount of working memory than older kids. My formula is for five minutes of technical training, we provide five minutes of brain breaks for students under seven years old. Plus, we coach to 15 minutes of training to five minutes of brain breaks for children under 12 years.

                                                                        Final Thoughts

                                                                        Implementing calming brain breaks for kids is a really efficient way of introducing brain breaks. You have a quick way to allow your students to learn about regulating themselves. Balancing their mind and energy is a useful skill, and you can take this with you everywhere you go.

                                                                        Our martial arts center revolutionized our approach to coaching by using brain breaks for kids. We found that although we were teaching less technical skills, there was now consistent progress from the students. Plus, everyone was less anxious, happier, and are having more fun. This is a win overall.

                                                                        If you’ve been having challenges with your kids focusing at home, maybe try a mixture of the calming and active breaks to see which types work best for your kids.

                                                                        Featured photo credit: Robert Collins via unsplash.com

                                                                        Reference

                                                                        [1] SimplyPsychology: Working Memory Model
                                                                        [2] BrainFacts.org: Kids Need Brain Breaks — And So Do Adults

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