dinner ideas for kids

Have you ever wondered when your child gets on board with “real food” instead of another bag of frozen chicken nuggets? Don’t worry…we’ve got you covered. Check out these recipes for dinner ideas for kids that are sure to be a hit with everybody, especially on a busy weeknight.

When you’re looking for a kid-friendly meal, it can be tempting to turn to the box of mac-n-cheese in the pantry. We’ve all been there. However, with more time spent at home, making dinner together can be a great way to bond as a family. It’s also a great way to develop your kid’s life skills and independence! If they’ve helped make it themselves, they may also be more likely to eat it. Here are some dinner ideas for kids that may inspire you to venture outside your regular menu and try something new.

Pasta Dinner Ideas for Kids

1. Slow-Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs

Why spend your evening toiling away over a hot stove when you can dump all the ingredients in a pot in the morning and have it ready at dinner? And spaghetti and meatballs will always be a crowd-pleaser!

2. One-Pot Baked Pizza Pasta

Throwing everything together into one skillet makes life a whole lot easier when you’re cooking for kids. It’s one of those easy meals you can toss together and not worry about having a messy kitchen.

Start by Heating up 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add 8 oz Italian sausage (casing removed) and cook about 3-5 minutes (about 3-5 minutes). Make sure to break up the sausage as it cooks, and then drain the excess fat. Stir in 1/4 cup pepperoni and heat about 1 minute. Stir in 1 15oz can tomato sauce, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 8 oz pasta, and 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil and cover. Then reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked (about 12-14 minutes.) After you remove from the heat; sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup pepperoni. Broil in the oven until melted and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Healthy Dinner Ideas for Kids

3. Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Rice

Getting kids to eat their veggies can sometimes feel like the never-ending battle. The not-so-secret-weapon: cheese. Cheesy broccoli and rice is a great dish that you can add other ingredients to, like peas or carrots.

4. Spinach Stuffed Shells

This is something my mom made for us growing up, and every single person in my family loved it! Start by cooking 1 box of jumbo pasta shells. For the filling, mix 15 oz ricotta, 1 box frozen spinach, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, 1/4 cup grated pecorino, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tbsp chopped parsley and 2 cups mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper and stir in one egg. Spread 2-1/2 cups tomato sauce in a 9×13-inch dish. Fill each shell with 1 tbsp ricotta mixture and place upwards in dish. Pour remaining sauce over shells and sprinkle with 2 cups mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake for an additional  20 to 30 minutes. For or some extra protein, you can add ground turkey or Italian sausage to the recipe.

6. Honey Chicken Stir-fry

One of my favorite dishes to make is stir-fry because it’s so versatile. You can always modify the ingredients to suit anyone’s taste, and it’s easy to throw together. While this recipe uses frozen veggies, you can also use fresh veggies to enhance flavor like bell peppers and onions!

First, start by mixing 2 tsp of cornstarch with 1 tbsp cold water until smooth. Then, in a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 pound of chopped boneless skinless chicken breasts and 1 minced garlic clove and stir fry for 1 minute. Add 3 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp soy sauce (reduced sodium), and salt and pepper. Cook 2-3 minutes or until chicken is cooked all the way through. Remove from pan, then stir-fry 1 package of a frozen vegetable blend in the leftover oil until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Return chicken to pan, then add the cornstarch mixture to the pan and bring to a boil. Cook and stir until it thickens, about 1 minute. Serve over rice if you’d like!

Other Dinner Ideas for Kids

7. Chicken Tortilla Bean Soup

This is a Tex-Mex classic, and so easy! In a large saucepan, combine 1 (10.5 oz can) condensed chicken and rice soup, 1 1/3 cups water, 1 cup salsa, 1 cup each of rinsed and drained pinto beans and black beans, 1 cup corn, 1 cup frozen diced cooked chicken (thawed), and 1 tsp ground cumin. Cook over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes or until heated through. You can also let it simmer on low for longer. It’s best served with tortilla chips, sour cream, and cheddar cheese!

9. Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole

This has all the elements of the American classic, except swap the buns for tots and you have an easy-to-save-and-reheat casserole! With a cheesy roux, your kids are sure to love this homestyle masterpiece.

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Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole

This recipe will have everyone asking to "give me some of your tots!"
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beef, casserole, cheese
Servings: 8
Calories: 425kcal
Cost: 10

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef lean
  • cup diced onion
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard
  • cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp dill pickle relish
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • cup whole milk
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
  • 1 32 oz bag tater tots

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Cook beef and onion in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally until beef is brown. Drain the excess fat.
  • Stir in mustard, ketchup, and relish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into prepared casserole dish in an even layer.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Slowly add in the flour and whisk until smooth. Continue to whisk and cook until golden brown.
  • Slowly add in the milk, whisking it so it's fully incorporated with the roux. Keep whisking until the sauce is bubbly and thick (about 5 minutes). Add salt and pepper.
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in 1 1/2 cups of the cheddar cheese until it is fully melted and smooth.
  • Pour the roux evenly over the meat mixture.
  • Arrange the frozen tater tots in an even layer over the roux (you will have extras).
  • Bake in the oven for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle the rest of the cheese onto the tots. Bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
  • Garnish with parsley before serving if you'd like!

Nutrition

Calories: 425kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7.8g | Cholesterol: 75mg | Sodium: 815mg | Potassium: 230mg | Fiber: 1g

Pizza and Tacos and Nachos, Oh My!

10. Easy Taco Pizza

I firmly believe that crescent rolls and canned biscuit dough are single-handedly the best assets known to the modern home chef. While homemade crusts and doughs are stellar, the fabulous taste combined with the convenience makes them unbeatable. Try making taco pizza using crescent rolls as the crust. It’s a game-changer!dinner ideas for kids

11. Tater-Totchos

I’m convinced this is quite possibly one of the best “mash-ups” known to man. First of all, my love affair for tots began when I watched Napoleon Dynamite. They made those tots seem irresistibly crispy. My affinity for nachos has no start date as I’m pretty sure that’s sequenced into my DNA. Both in the same dish? It’s a match made in heaven.

For these, you’ll need 2 bags of frozen tater tots prepared according to the package’s instructions. Then, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Then add 1 lb beef and cook about 6 minutes (until no longer pink), then drain the fat. Return the skillet to the stove and add 1 tbsp taco seasoning. Then, add the beef to the top of your tots along with your favorite nacho toppings like diced tomatoes, black beans, jalapeno, cheese, guacamole, and sour cream. 

12. Chicken Taco Bowls

No matter what age you are, the frustration of eating a taco can be real. You bite one side, all the filling falls out the other. Then your taco cracks and you have to shove the whole thing in your mouth before it disintegrates. Solution: taco bowls. Everyone in the family will love this balanced, tasty meal. You can buy the taco bowls from the store, buy taco bowl molds, or toast tortillas in muffin tins. For the taco filling, use your favorite ingredients like chicken, beef, carnitas, shredded lettuce, cheese, rice, salsa, guacamole, or sour cream.

8. Pizza Quesadillas

While I’m sure the classic cheese quesadilla is something you’ve had requested more than once, this recipe takes it to a whole new level! First, preheat a greased skillet on medium heat. Fill a tortilla with marinara sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and any other toppings of your choice. Add another layer of mozzarella over toppings, fold your tortilla, and cook 2-3 minutes on each side. You can even dunk your quesadilla into your favorite pizza dipping sauce!

“What’s for Dinner?”

If parenthood had a soundtrack, one of the top tracks would definitely be, “What’s for dinner?” Now, answering that question just became a little easier to answer. Do you have a favorite recipe that’s always a hit with the kids? Let us know in the comments! And be sure to share these recipes with your people on FamilyApp!

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Jayne SchultheisAuthor posts

Jayne Schultheis

Jayne is a Virginia Beach native who loves her local community. She’s a thrift store enthusiast, musical theater fan, amateur hiker, and lover of all things creative and artsy. You can often find her combing the racks at the local thrift store searching for a fun and unique outfit or spending time getting lost in a good book.

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