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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

                                                                        More by this author

                                                                        Adrienne Koziol

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

                                                                        Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide) 35 Easy And Healthy Dinner Ideas For Kids How Much Screen Time Should Kids Have And Why? How To Help Your Child To Cope With Anger

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                                                                        Published on May 21, 2021

                                                                        Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

                                                                        Bedtimes For Kids At Different Ages (Your Go-To Guide)

                                                                        Bedtimes for kids might be one of the most challenging parts of the day. Parents are tired and ready to relax, while kids of all ages seem to find extra energy and want nothing to do with sleep. One more story, one more trip to the bathroom, and one more question quickly make for a late-night, and no one gets the rest they need.

                                                                        If this happens often, you might start wondering if you and your child are getting the proper amount of sleep and how to make bedtime easier. Why is it so crucial for your child to get enough sleep? What does sleep deprivation look like? How do you improve bedtimes for kids?

                                                                        How Sleep Impacts Your Child’s Health

                                                                        Whether young or old, sleep is a vital part of staying healthy. There are many benefits to getting the right amount of sleep while not getting enough can have negative consequences. How does it impact your child?[1]

                                                                        • Brain Function – Sleep is linked to certain brain functions such as concentration, productivity, and cognition. These all impact a child’s behavior and academic success.
                                                                        • Weight – Sleep patterns affect the hormones responsible for appetite. A lack of sleep interferes with the ability to regulate food intake, making overeating more likely.
                                                                        • Physical Performance – Sleep impacts a person’s physical abilities. Proper rest means better performance, concentration, energy, mental clarity, and faster speed.
                                                                        • Physical Health – There are many ways sleep promotes health. Sleep heals the body but also helps prevent disease and health issues. Getting proper rest will regulate blood pressure, help prevent heart disease, reduce chances of sleep apnea, reduce inflammation, boost immune system, and lower risk of weight gain.
                                                                        • Improve Mental Health – A lack of sleep has a negative impact on mood and social and emotional intelligence. A child not getting proper sleep is more likely to experience depression, lack empathy and be unaware of other people’s emotions and reactions.

                                                                        Sleep, Risky Behavior, and Teens

                                                                        Studies found that teens were more likely to engage in risky behavior when they are sleep-deprived. They’ll have problems regulating their mood, making them more short-tempered, aggressive, and impulsive. Their inability to self-regulate can even look like the symptoms of ADHD.[2]

                                                                        Sleep deprivation becomes hazardous when teens are driving. The impulsiveness and risk-taking, along with exhaustion, put them at a higher risk for accidents. In fact, driving tired is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol content of .08.[3]

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                                                                        You can see why sleep is so essential to everyone’s health, but how much is needed? What do pediatricians recommend? Is it the same for all ages?

                                                                        Sleep Recommendations From Pediatricians

                                                                        Sleep requirements vary by age. It won’t be the same for every individual. Some people find that they need more sleep than others.

                                                                        Here is a basic guideline of what pediatricians now recommend:[4]

                                                                        • Ages 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)
                                                                        • Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)
                                                                        • Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)
                                                                        • Age 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
                                                                        • Age 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

                                                                        Increase the amount of sleep if your child isn’t thriving on the recommended amount.

                                                                        Signs Your Child Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep

                                                                        There are ways to tell if your child is getting adequate sleep beyond the usual grumpiness. Here are specific things to watch out for:[5]

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                                                                        • Excessive sleepiness during the day
                                                                        • Difficulty waking up on time
                                                                        • Hyperactivity
                                                                        • Depression
                                                                        • Inattention
                                                                        • Mood swings
                                                                        • Aggressive behavior
                                                                        • Irritability
                                                                        • Impatience
                                                                        • Impulse control

                                                                        As you can see, prolonged lack of sleep can cause relational problems and hinder your child’s ability to do well in school. What can you do if you realize your child is not getting enough sleep? How can you improve bedtimes for your kids?

                                                                        How to Set Up a Bedtime Routine

                                                                        Sleep hygiene or a bedtime schedule will help your child fall asleep faster. It will also improve the quality of sleep. You will need to adjust to what works for your family, but the following suggestions can help everyone have a more pleasant bedtime.

                                                                        For Babies

                                                                        Most people think they have to let their baby “cry it out” at bedtime. However, there are ways you can teach a baby to sleep without tears, making the experience more pleasant for everyone. In fact, studies show the faded bedtime method—or gentle sleep training—is just as effective as leaving a baby to cry but without the stress.[6] What is gentle sleep training?

                                                                        Gentle Sleep Training

                                                                        This method eases babies and young children into falling asleep on their own. There are two ways to do this:

                                                                        1. Positive Routines With Faded Bedtime

                                                                        Kids learn to fall asleep easily by using comforting, quiet, and predictable rituals, up to twenty minutes long. The key is to choose a bedtime that’s not too early. A child that isn’t tired will only fight sleep.

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                                                                        Start the process when your baby or child is sleepy, even if it’s later than you’d prefer. You’ll notice a pattern and quickly discover the time they naturally start winding down. Make this their bedtime for now. They will learn to associate sleep with the routine, and you’ll be able to start fifteen to twenty minutes earlier to slowly adjust their schedule.

                                                                        2. Sleep With Parental Presence

                                                                        With this method, you lie down with your baby or child until they fall asleep. Over time, you pay less attention to your child, gradually sitting up, then sitting in a chair. Eventually, your child will be able to sleep without you. A study showed that using this method helped infants sleep longer and wake up less.[7]

                                                                        Both of these ways take time but are effective and less traumatic than leaving an infant or young child to cry.

                                                                        More Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Better

                                                                        You want to build a routine, but how? What are practical things you can do to help your baby get ready for bed?

                                                                        Here are tips for a soothing and calm bedtime:[8]

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                                                                        • Help set their “internal clock” by exposing them to natural daylight, daytime activities, and the calmness of evening.
                                                                        • Block blue light exposure.
                                                                        • Make the hour up to bedtime calm, peaceful, and pleasant.
                                                                        • Learn how to keep stress minimal for you and your baby.
                                                                        • Don’t force sleep. It will increase anxiety and make rest more difficult.
                                                                        • Avoid late afternoon naps
                                                                        • Prolong the time between nap and bedtime.
                                                                        • Feed baby right before bed.
                                                                        • Avoid intervening too soon if the baby starts to wake up. Give your child a chance to fall back asleep without your help.

                                                                        For Elementary-Aged Children

                                                                        It’s easier to follow a routine if you start young, but it’s never too late to begin. The good news is it only takes a few nights to notice an improvement in your child’s sleep.

                                                                        These ideas will help you set up a schedule that will encourage your child to fall asleep easier, faster, and for a more extended period.[9]

                                                                        • Offer them a nutritious snack.
                                                                        • Bathe them.
                                                                        • Brush their teeth and go to the bathroom.
                                                                        • Read them a story.
                                                                        • Sing them a song.
                                                                        • Cuddle or massage them.
                                                                        • Talk about the day.

                                                                        For best results, choose a handful of activities and do them in the same order each night. Dim the lights and keep activity minimal to help everyone slow down.

                                                                        For Teens

                                                                        They might fight the idea of getting more sleep, but teens will benefit from a routine, too. They’re usually capable of overseeing their bedtime, but a little structure and oversight can help them get the sleep they need. By implementing the following tips, your teen can get better rest.[10]

                                                                        • Avoid caffeine in the evening.
                                                                        • Limit screen time.
                                                                        • Avoid late-night binging.
                                                                        • Exercise, ideally sixty minutes a day.
                                                                        • Keep the bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
                                                                        • Talk through problems.

                                                                        Quality Sleep for a Healthy Life

                                                                        Bedtimes for kids can be an enjoyable part of the day with proper sleep hygiene in place. Not only can it be quality time with your child, but it can also set them on the road to good health and high performance. By implementing these tips, you can ensure proper rest for the whole family and better bedtimes for kids.

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                                                                        Featured photo credit: Igordoon Primus via unsplash.com

                                                                        Reference

                                                                        [1] Medical News Today: Why Sleep Is Essential For Health
                                                                        [2] Child Mind Institute: Teens And Sleep: The Cost Of Sleep Deprivation
                                                                        [3] Depart of Health: Drowsy Driving Prevention, Teens Ages 16 To 19
                                                                        [4] AAP publications: AAP Endorses New Recommendations On Sleep Times
                                                                        [5] Journal of Excellence in Nursing Leadership: Sleep Deprivation In Children A Growing Public Health Concern
                                                                        [6] Parenting Science: Gentle Infant Sleep Training
                                                                        [7] BetterHealth: Solutions to sleep concerns (11) – babies 6 to 12 months
                                                                        [8] Parenting Science: 15 Evidence-Based Baby Sleep Tips
                                                                        [9] Sleep Foundation: Bedtime Routines For Children
                                                                        [10] NHS: Sleep Tips For Teenagers

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