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Published on April 30, 2021

35 Easy And Healthy Dinner Ideas For Kids

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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 September 24, 2021

                                                                        How to Teach Children About Respect When They’re Small

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                                                                        How to Teach Children About Respect When They’re Small

                                                                        When we enter into the journey of being a parent, we go through a rollercoaster of thoughts, looking a little ahead and worrying about keeping our kids safe. There’s that loop about wanting to be able to provide for them, giving our kids the things we wanted but could not have. But there’s also this nagging worry at the back of our minds about what will happen when our kids become teenagers. Do you remember Kevin and Perry and the moment Kevin turned 13 years old? Kevin went on the spot from this great kid to a monster that talked down to his parents all of the time.

                                                                        Think back to what you were like as a teenager. Was there a power struggle with your parents or was there mutual respect? The idea of having our kids respect us is usually at the back of our minds while our kids are young. It’s not usually a problem. Outside the occasional tantrums, there are just rainbows and unicorns. Learning about respect is probably less important than learning to tie shoelaces, right? Hell, no!

                                                                        The reality is that respect is one of the most important values that a young child can learn. It can help build good friendships with other children in the neighborhood and at school. Learning to be a little more tolerant of differences makes them more understanding when people do not act or behave as your kids expect them to. Respect helps children to focus more in class. Most importantly of all, it can build a stronger relationship with the immediate family.

                                                                        These are all qualities we want for our kids, and they are also the qualities of a leader. Teaching respect to our kids sounds great. But first, what is it and how do we teach children about respect?

                                                                        What Is Respect?

                                                                        Respect is a way of recognizing and appreciating the rights, beliefs, practices, and differences of other people. It’s a little more than just being tolerant of other people. It’s a feeling that comes from within about how you should treat other people. It’s about how you should think about yourself, too. More recently, respect has also become more visible with the idea of respecting other people’s personal space due to the pandemic.

                                                                        When our kids apply respect, they’ll make better decisions and avoid things or people that will hurt them. They are more likely to take care of the gifts that you’ve bought for them. Most importantly, they are more likely to earn respect from their parents as they become teenagers, rather than demanding it.

                                                                        How Do We Teach Children About Respect?

                                                                        My personal opinion is that you should not outsource teaching respect to other people. As parents, we have to own this responsibility. Even from a young age, there are a lot of poor influences on our kid’s attitude towards respect, such as terrible role models in the movies like Frozen. In this movie, Elsa takes no responsibility for managing her powers, hurts her sister and kingdom, and avoids demonstrating any respect throughout the story. So, where to start with teaching children about respect?

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                                                                        1. Teach Your Children About Sharing

                                                                        My earliest memory where I learned respect was at the age of four. I had an incredible red trike. It was epic, has a custom design, has faster wheels, and a decent steering lock. Then, one day, my dad took the trike and handed it over to my nursery. Other children were using it! This was a culture shock as it was one of my favorite things, but now I had to share it. It took a little time, but I was okay with the sharing as my dad rewarded me with cake for sharing.

                                                                        Sharing is one of the best ways to teach kids about respect. Our kids learn that if we give a little to others, we can sometimes get some of what we want as well. Kids will watch what the parents do. At the dinner table, do they pass things around like the ketchup or share items of food? Or does everyone have their phones out, sit in a silo, and quickly disperse? The dinner table is a great place to learn about sharing, but so are playing games with the kids.

                                                                        Playing games like Lego is a great way to introduce sharing and respect. You can build a tower together, something simple and fun, and take turns adding pieces onto the building or swapping pieces if you are building your own world instead.

                                                                        2. Let Your Children Answer for Themselves

                                                                        My job is as a martial arts coach, which is a fun job, by the way. We’ll get to this in a minute, but I wanted to share a really common observation that we see at the academy.

                                                                        When children come for their first class, they may be as young as four years old or as old as 12 in our kids’ programs. All the coaches are interested in why the kids want to try a class and what the parents want their child to learn. When we first meet a child, we’ll get down to their height level, as it’s not respectful to tower over the young kids and talk down.

                                                                        Now we’re at eye level, we’ll smile, greet the child by their name, and ask them a question like “who is your favourite superhero?” so we can build a little rapport before the bigger questions. After only a few seconds, the parents will often step in and answer for them.

                                                                        This can happen regardless of whether their child is four or 12 years old. To be honest with ourselves, we’ve probably all done this at some time with our kids and even our partners. It’s well-intentioned, but the problem is that when we step in.

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                                                                        We’re not showing our kids respect, as we’re not valuing their opinions. It may be that it just takes them longer to have their say in a new situation. We rescue our kids because we think of them as shy or low in confidence. But if we’re doing this a lot, we’re stopping the flow of respect.

                                                                        Let them struggle, let them think for themselves, and show them some patience. They won’t always reply, but you’ll be amazed to see that they’ll persevere more often than not to communicate in their preferred way.

                                                                        The problem is that when we interject for our kids, two things can happen:

                                                                        • We reinforce that their opinion isn’t valued, and/or;
                                                                        • We rescue the less socially confident (shy) children from an uncomfortable situation that inhibits them from developing skills for the future.

                                                                        Instead of jumping in to do things for our kids or answer for them, let them answer, struggle, and think for themselves. You’ll be amazed at how their sense of personal significance will grow. When children are more confident and capable—even in uncomfortable situations—the respect will flow more freely.

                                                                        The secret is not to make a big deal of it, whether they speak up or not. But let them have a little time to try, then continue if there’s no progress this time. Maybe next time, there will be progress as their confidence grows.

                                                                        3. The Role Model Soapbox

                                                                        Of all the ways that we can teach respect, leading by example is the hardest. Let’s face it, we all think that our kids should “just do as I say, not as I do.” But it rarely works like this in life.

                                                                        I remember taking my daughter out to a pub for lunch when she was of an age that she still used a high chair. We were meeting a friend of mine as he was having a few problems at home and wanted to catch up and chat. Hannah, my daughter, was served first at the pub with her lunch, myself next, and my friend who we’ll call Dave was served last. We were just about to start eating when Dave looked at his food, slapped the plate back at the waitress, and shouted “It’s the wrong order, go fix it now!”

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                                                                        Dave was tired and stressed, it’s why we were meeting up. However, it’s not an excuse to be a lousy role model not having empathy, respect, and self-control in front of Hannah. In this instance, I felt the need to apologize to the waitress and so did Dave.

                                                                        However, I appreciate that we all have those times in our lives, like Dave, when everything is going wrong. It’s easy to say, “you should stay calm, stay in control and show understanding to others.” But the reality is that the actions we should take are simple to talk about but harder to put into practice. But we have to try and find the energy to show our kids some respect and dig deep for those times that we need the energy to be patient.

                                                                        Give Your Child a Little Patience

                                                                        Many times, when our kids are behaving “out of sort,” they’ve just forgotten or missed the cue to show the right behavior. We’ve all been so deep into a task that we’ve missed our name being called or we’ve been tired and replied in a poor way out of instinct. A little patience with our kids is sometimes needed if this is the case. It’s the right way to demonstrate respect to them—asking good questions, especially if they mess up, rather than snapping and demanding that they listen the first time. We’re their parent, after all, they should do as they are told!

                                                                        You’re going to experience when your child says “I hate you” or “wish you were not my mum or dad.” You may even hear this from your kids when they are as young as four years old. Remember the movie I was talking about? Kids will mimic what they see and hear. It does not mean that they really meant the words they just used. It’s usually just a gut response when angry. You can reply, “what made you feel like this?” They will usually feel better and get a more useful response than when you use “go to your room, now!”

                                                                        So, leading by example is a little more than being a role model. It’s also showing your kids respect and treating them as a person rather than trying to completely control them and finding patience. This sounds like hard work, so maybe a little outsourcing of teaching children about respect is okay.

                                                                        A Little Outsourcing May Be a Good Thing

                                                                        I mentioned that you should not outsource teaching respect, but some activities can make a big difference. Yes, I’m about to contradict myself and talk about martial arts. When you think of martial arts, men in white pajamas bowing to each other, kneeling, and listening patiently to the sensei “teacher” often come to mind.

                                                                        Many martial arts clubs have moved on to t-shirts and jogging style trousers but kept the rituals that help build respect and character. There are a lot of routines within the martial arts that are great habits for kids to learn, which will guide them in learning about respect.

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                                                                        Training with a partner also helps improve yourself. It teaches your kid about being responsible for their uniform, training equipment, and even the academy. Our students all help clean the mats that they train on, tidy equipment away after each activity, and stand quietly at attention. These are great life lessons that teach your children respect as well.

                                                                        Only 3 Ways to Teach Respect? Is That All You Have to Do?

                                                                        We all want to teach our children about respect because we know it’s going to help them be more successful and happier in life. There isn’t an age that’s too early to start the learning. Sharing is an approach that you can start at a young age, but it’s okay to value your child’s needs, too. So, if they have a favorite toy and do not want to share it, this is okay as long as they’re sharing overall.

                                                                        Next, let your child answer for themselves. To be honest, this is the hardest as the silence can get uncomfortable, but you have to persevere and let them try to answer for themselves. This small activity makes a big difference in the long run and kids get better as they grow in confidence.

                                                                        Lastly, there’s the “role model soap box.” It’s probably the strongest influence on our kids at an early age as they look up to their parents a lot. Just remember that for those days when you feel cranky and tired, practice a little patience, and if you get something wrong, you may need to apologize.

                                                                        You can always outsource some of your kids’ learning to a great activity, such as martial arts. If you’re going down this route, look for a club that has a character development program. You’ll find that the lessons on respect are more direct rather than being just implied through traditions and rituals. My final remark on teaching children about respect is that if you have kids that are strong visual and audible learners, try to take advantage of them. Sesame Street has some great video lessons on the topic that can help.

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                                                                        Featured photo credit: Adrià Crehuet Can via unsplash.com

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