08 October 2021 (updated)

What's Cooking? 13 Easy Dinner Ideas for Kids

Have you ever wondered when your child will get on board for "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 the whole family, especially on a busy weeknight.

When you're looking for a kid-friendly dinner recipe, it can be tempting to turn to fast food the box of mac-n-cheese or can of sloppy joes in the pantry. Or scramble to find slices of bread for sandwiches again. 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.

So you don't have to reheat old wontons from last week's Chinese takeout or the fried chicken macaroni casserole from the neighborhood potluck. Here are some dinner ideas for kids that may inspire you to venture outside your regular meal menu and try something new.

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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! Bonus points if you serve some Hydrox or Oreo cookies for dessert!

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 on a weeknight and not worry about having a messy kitchen. And it's picky-eaters approved!

Start by heating 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add 8 oz Italian sausage (casing removed) and cook for 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 for 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 of pasta noodles, 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 meal immediately and enjoy!

Healthy Dinner Ideas for Kids

3. Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Rice

Getting kids to eat their veggies can sometimes feel like a 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. It's also something you can easily make in the Instant Pot on those busy nights. With pieces chopped up small enough into bite-sized pieces, this makes a great toddler meal, too!

4. Dinner Ideas for Kids From My Childhood: Spinach-Stuffed Shells

This is something my mom made for us growing up (with a green salad on the side), 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 9x13-inch dish. Fill each shell with 1 tbsp ricotta mixture and place it upwards in the 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. You can add ground turkey or Italian sausage to the recipe for some extra protein.

5. 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 fry 1 package of a frozen vegetable blend in the leftover oil until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan and then add the cornstarch mixture 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

6. 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!

7. 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! Your kids are sure to love this homestyle masterpiece with a mouth-watering cheesy roux. It's one of my top kid-friendly recipes, no doubt!

Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole

This recipe will have everyone asking to "give me some of your tots!"

4.8 from 57 votes


PREP TIME

20 mins

COOK TIME

40 mins

TOTAL TIME

an hr





COURSE

dinner

CUISINE

American

SERVINGS

8 people

CALORIES

425.0 kcal

INGREDIENTS

  • 1

    lb

    ground beef (lean)

  • 1/3

    cup

    diced onion

  • 2

    tbsp

    yellow mustard

  • 2/3

    cup

    ketchup

  • 2

    tbsp

    dill pickle relish

  • 2

    tbsp

    butter

  • 2

    tbsp

    flour

  • 1 1/2

    cup

    whole milk

  • 1/4

    tsp

    salt

  • 1/4

    tsp

    fresh ground pepper

  • 2

    cups

    sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)

  • 1

    32 oz bag tater tots

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole

    1. Prep.

      Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

    2. Cook.

      Cook beef and onion in a large skillet over medium heat, occasionally stirring until beef is brown. Drain the excess fat.

    3. Stir.

      Stir in mustard, ketchup, and relish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into a prepared casserole dish in an even layer.

    4. Melt.

      Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

    5. Whisk.

      Slowly add in the flour and whisk until smooth. Continue to whisk and cook until golden brown.

    6. Arrange.

      Arrange the frozen tater tots in an even layer over the roux (you will have extras).

    7. Whisk.

      Slowly add in the milk, whisking it to be fully incorporated with the roux. Keep whisking until the sauce is bubbly and thick (about 5 minutes). Add salt and pepper.

    8. Cool.

      Remove from the heat and whisk in 1-1/2 cups of the cheddar cheese until it is fully melted and smooth.

    9. Pour.

      Pour the roux evenly over the meat mixture.

    10. Bake.

      Bake in the oven for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the rest of the cheese onto the tots. Bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

    11. Garnish.

      Garnish with parsley before serving if you'd like!

NUTRITION

Calories:

425.0 kcal

Carbohydrates:

26.0 g

Cholesterol:

75.0 mg

Fat:

28.0 g

Fiber:

1.0 g

Protein:

21.0 g

Saturated Fat:

13.0 g

Serving Amount:

1

Serving Unit:

serving

Sodium:

815.0 mg

8. Falafel

This may be a new food for your kids, but it's important to broaden their spectrum a little bit when it comes to cuisine. These are middle-eastern chickpea (a.k.a. garbanzo bean) fritters with a mild flavor. The perfect protein-packed meal for the kid who will eat anything as long as they can "dip it in sauce" or ketchup.

9. When You're Out of Dinner Ideas for Kids: Oven-Fried Chicken Tenders are a Crowd Favorite

If chicken tenders are one of your child's main food groups, you're probably looking for ways to change things up. Instead of the processed, high-sodium frozen tenders you get from the store, try making this feel-good version with your kid. You only need 6 ingredients, too!

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!

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 for 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 will love this balanced, family-friendly, 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.

13. 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 for 2-3 minutes on each side. You can even dunk your quesadilla into your favorite pizza dipping sauce! These sweet potato quesadillas sound delicious, too! Just fill them up, fold them over, and fry on both sides! 

"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. No rummaging through the pantry for cereal, applesauce, or junk food. Put that bag of corndogs or chicken patties back in the freezer! You've got some great ideas to choose from for dinner tonight!

Do you have a favorite kid-friendly recipe and always a hit? Let us know on social #getfamilyapp! And be sure to share these crowd-pleasing recipes for family meals with your people on FamilyApp!



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