These reliable dinner ideas for kids will help you feed picky eaters and little ones delicious family meals all year long.
As the author of The Totally Awesome Ultimate Kids' Cookbook, I know that a family dinner needs to be both kid-friendly and something the adults at the table actually want to eat, too.
Food is expensive, your time is limited, and you're trying to raise kids to make healthy choices. That's a lot to juggle all on one plate.
I believe that easy dinner ideas for kids can be quick to prepare, simple to serve, and an incredible way to spend time as a family at the end of a long day.
Whether you're looking for new dinner ideas for your own kids or you're hosting an event with kids you haven't met yet and want to be sure they like what you serve, I've got 70+ easy recipes to help you plan the perfect meal.
Easy Foods Most Kids Will Eat
Once you've spent any amount of time with a mixed group of kids, you'll quickly learn that each one has their own food rules and preferences.
However, take a glance at the kid menu available at most restaurants, and you'll spot familiar patterns of easy foods most kids will actually eat.
If you're hosting a dinner with a bunch of kids and want to plan dishes you'll know they'll all enjoy, here are a few staples you should keep on hand to help make sure they leave the table with full bellies:
The safest bet is usually going to be plain buttered noodles in a short noodle shape like farfalle or penne. But you'll see TONS of kid-friendly pasta ideas in my recipe list below. Stay tuned.
Biscuits, dinner rolls, bread slices, toast, pitas, and bread sticks are all going to fill up a picky eater during a meal. Be sure to have a full bread basket on a holiday table when kids are around.
Plain white rice or chicken flavored Rice-A-Roni style rice dishes are usually pretty popular with most kids. Just be sure to keep them separate and put any stir fry type toppings on the side.
Veggies with Dip:
Dip is such a magic trick when it comes to getting kids to try a veggie. Be sure to have simple baby carrots and ranch on hand if you've got kids coming over.
A plain cheese pizza, pizza bagel bites, English muffin pizzas, or even French bread pizza are all usually a safe bet with kids. Avoid fancy toppings unless you know the kid.
Serving Tips to Encourage Kids to Eat
How you serve dinner to a kid can make or break how much food they eat during the meal. Presentation totally matters! After all, we all eat with our eyes first, don't we??
- Keep it Separate: Grab a divider plate or at least make sure the individual foods don't touch.
- Make it Cute: This can be as easy as using a cookie cutter on a piece of cheese to add to the plate or cutting the food to be finger sized for easy pick-up.
- Use a Clever Utensil: I keep colorful, fun utensils in my drawer to entice kids with. Kid-friendly food picks poked into bite-sized food always works like a charm, too.
Most Popular Recipes: Family Dinners for Kids
Now let's get to the good stuff!
Here's my list of 70+ delicious dinner ideas for kids that you'll turn to again and again for meals all throughout the year.
Broiled Chicken Tenders
You can marinate or season these broiled chicken tenderloins in countless different ways and then cut them into chicken nugget sized pieces and serve with a dipping sauce cup.
This is a much more nutritious recipe than breaded chicken nuggets and one of the safest bets for dinner tonight.
Kids love pasta and spaghetti is usually a safe bet. Add some ground chicken for a boost of protein, too.
Pro Tip: Kids can struggle with twirling long pasta noodles like spaghetti, you could swap out a box of penne or farfalle to make it easier to eat.
Baked Chicken Tacos
With just 5 ingredients and 10 minutes, you can make a big pan of baked chicken tacos for the family.
Be sure to serve all the toppings separately and let the kids top their own.
Ham and Cheese Sliders
Kids love small slider sandwiches and I make them in tons of different flavors but we keep coming back to this classic ham and cheese combo.
My kids love the poppy seeds on top, but you might want to leave it off on half the pan.
My thick ground beef chili bowl recipe also makes an amazing hot dog topping.
You could offer it as a soup side dish to a plain hot dog or ask your kids whether they want to scoop it right on top.
Kids can be picky about even the most basic recipes. When it comes to pizza, they may prefer a certain ratio of sauce to cheese.
Your best bet? Make a homemade pizza together and let your child help determine just how it gets assembled! BONUS: Fun in the kitchen together for pizza night.
Make Ahead Mac and Cheese
Boxed mac and cheese is super popular with kids because of its smooth texture but this baked mac and cheese recipe with buttery breadcrumbs on top is my kids' favorite version of all time.
Chicken Wild Rice Casserole
Creamy chicken wild rice casserole includes two kid favorites: chicken and rice. You could easily scoop a serving without the toasted almonds on top.
Creamy Taco Pasta Skillet
This Mexican style homemade Hamburger Helper skillet is made with lighter ground turkey. Everyone at my table loves it.
Make crispy chicken chimichangas in the air fryer with just the right fillings your kids will love. You can customize your own chimichanga with all the extras and everyone at the table is happy.
Classic sloppy joe mix is delicious on a regular hamburger bun but you could even serve it on smaller slider buns to make it cuter.
Bake a pan of tater tots or frozen french fries and let the kids turn it into a potato bar topping.
Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
A simple grilled cheese with my homemade tomato bisque soup is sure to be a kid favorite.
Go the extra step and cut the grilled cheese into fingers or cubes for easier dunking.
Cheese Tortelloni with Pesto
This is an easy upgrade from plain buttered noodles. Use a store bought pesto sauce with cheese tortellini. You can keep the roasted tomatoes off to the side.
Creamy fettuccini alfredo is delicious by itself but tastes even better with chunks of chicken on the side.
Baked Chicken Parmesan
When I make my baked chicken parmesan for the kids, I always have to leave one without the cheese on top. We're all still eating the same dinner, it's ok to customize a small detail like that!
Baked Turkey Burgers
I load my turkey burgers up with arugula, tomatoes, and cheese, but this light and zippy turkey burger gets the perfect texture when baked in the oven and the kids can eat theirs just plain.
Roasted Sausages and Potatoes
My husband and I love spicy sausages but the kids like them mild. This recipe lets you bake just the right combo so everyone at the table is happy.
Minnesota Tater Tot Hotdish
My old fashioned Minnesota tater tot casserole has perfectly crispy tater tots on top of a tender ground beef filling with sweet corn hiding inside. Kids love the ratio of topping to filling here, it's just right.
Chicken Tetrazzini (No Mushrooms)
Tetrazzini is traditionally made with mushrooms but that's the big one on our family's No Cook List.
My chicken tetrazzini casserole is the safest bet when serving picky kids.
Cheesy chicken enchiladas are a great next step for kids who love tacos. It's all the same flavors but in a new presentation.
Open Face Turkey Sandwich
Thanksgiving can be a challenge for kids, there's a lot of unknown at the table. Keep it welcoming for them and suggest they turn their turkey into this simple open face turkey sandwich and you'll be a holiday hero.
For the kids who don't like or can't eat pasta, why not serve the Italian meatballs with party picks??
Saucy Pork and Noodle Bake
This is my mom's most famous recipe of all time. It's fed generations of kids who all learned to love it.
Easy Chicken Gyro Wrap
Another great family recipe is this warm chicken gyro wrap. I load mine up with all the veggies but the kids can eat it assembled just how they like with the veggies on the side like a salad.
BBQ Chicken Pizza
A great next step after a classic cheese pizza is to try making a homemade BBQ chicken pizza. The tangy barbecue sauce is similar enough to traditional marinara but new enough to be an adventure.
Pineapple Teriyaki Meatballs Stir Fry
While I might toss all the elements of this stir fry bowl into one big heap, when I serve it to kids you can bet each piece is separate. Meatballs, rice, and veggies, all in one easy dish.
Tacos you can dunk?? YES, Please. These delicious turkey taquitos are great finger food for kids.
Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Classic chicken noodle is always delicious but this chicken pot pie soup has sweet tender veggies in the mix and comes together quickly.
Red Chicken Chili (No Beans)
Another tricky ingredient for kids is soup beans, my easy red chicken chili has no beans and I've sold it to the kids by calling it "taco soup" since it is served with shredded cheese and sour cream.
Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti Casserole
This freezer friendly casserole helps ensure you always have a kid-friendly dinner on hand. You could bake it separately on the off chance you want to make a true adult adventure dinner but need a safe back up for the kids.
Baked Meatball Subs
Baked meatball subs start with frozen Italian meatballs. You can keep them warm in a crockpot or back a big pan of subs all at once for a big family dinner.
Chicken and Rice Soup
Creamy chicken and rice soup is much thicker than traditional chicken soup broth and can be easier for kids to eat with a spoon.
Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup
My take on classic chicken noodle soup actually has just a hint of tomato in the broth to add more flavor and color to the meal. Kids love those tender wavy egg noodles floating on top.
Cheesy Chicken Roll Ups
Another easy bite-sized sandwich you can bake up quickly is this cheesy chicken roll ups made with refrigerated dough from the grocery store. Serve it with raw veggies and dip for a quick kid-friendly dinner.
Sweet apricot chicken with fresh herbs is a cozy dinner for kids. I love it served over a bed of herb butter rice that soaks up all that saucy goodness, it might be a great introduction to food touching for the kids.
Chicken Parm Sliders
Bite sized chicken parmesan for little fingers, show me an adult who wouldn't love this, too! For me? It's all about that dusting of parmesan cheese on top of each bun.
Chicken Pot Pie
A traditional two-crust pot pie usually makes kids suspicious about what is hiding inside. I put everything out in the open with this lighter chicken pot pie and serve it with biscuits on the side.
Italian Wedding Soup
While there are a lot of veggies hiding in this soup broth, my kids still count this as one of their favorite soup recipes because the meatballs inside are sooooo tasty. They also love the plump Israeli couscous noodles I use to mix things up.
If your kids only want to eat plain tacos without any toppings, try serving this veggie-heavy taco skillet instead!
I plop the skillet right down on the table trivet and serve it with a big bowl of tortilla chips for dunking. They eat soooo many more veggies this way.
Stuffed Pizza Buns
You can prep ahead these stuffed pizza buns with different fillings and bake them when the kids are ready.
I serve them with a big green salad on the side.
Chicken Fried Rice
Another way to get kids to eat more veggies is to tuck them inside this chicken fried rice recipe. The scrambled egg and chicken ensure they get a good boost of protein from the meal, too.
Ham & Cheese Stuffed Potatoes
For kids who love ham and cheese, these stuffed potatoes bake up quickly by starting in the microwave but then get a crispy finish in the oven.
I use thick cut deli ham and a bag of shredded cheese to keep it easy.
Pasta Rosa with Sausage
The touch of cream in this "pink pasta" dish makes the whole meal just a little sweeter. Add bulk Italian sausage for a boost of flavor when you want something a little more delicious than regular spaghetti.
Kids love forking that corkscrew pasta shape!
Ground Beef Stir Fry with Noodles
Elevate a package of ramen by making this easy ground beef stir fry with veggies. Kids love eating those curly noodles with their fork, they stick so much easier than regular long noodles.
Healthy Dinners for Kids
For kids who don't want their food to touch and prefer to eat all the elements separately, dinner planning is actually as easy as 1, 2, 3:
- Pick a Main Dish Protein: I have recipes for chicken, pork, and fish.
- Pick 1 - 2 Easy Vegetables: It's easy to say no to one veggie, but the more options there are on the plate, the more likely you'll get them to try one.
- Pick 1 Simple Side Dish: Stick to plain rice, bread, or potatoes.
Here are a few great options to help you check off all those boxes:
Roasted Pork Tenderloin
For the nights when you just can't look at another piece of chicken, my juicy roasted pork tenderloin is the next best thing.
The delicate texture and mild flavor is acceptable to most kids, especially when you slice the pork thinly for their servings.
Baked Chicken Breasts
Though chicken tenderloins are our go-to chicken dish for kids, a sheet pan of baked chicken breasts is great to prep for family meals all week long.
You can mix and match this recipe with 12 easy seasoning variations included in the recipe here:
Oven Baked Salmon
My kids love to call this "pink fish" and it was the first seafood dinner I was able to successfully manage to get my picky eaters to enjoy.
Easy Grilled Meatball Skewers
For kids who love meatballs, grill them up on skewer kabobs for a fun presentation.
HINT: Grill all the veggies on separate kabobs so they don't touch. This also ensures that each kabob cooks for the perfect time.
Romano Chicken Meatballs
My homemade chicken meatballs in a delicate romano lemon sauce pairs really well with green vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, and green beans.
Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs
Mask the darker color of chicken thighs with this sweet and savory honey garlic glaze. Chop it into smaller pieces and serve along plain white jasmine rice.
Garden Lasagna Cupcakes
My kids LOVE to help make this easy vegetable lasagna recipe that uses wonton wrappers instead of pasta noodles for a quick prep.
A classic garden salad is one of the easiest ways to get kids to eat vegetables. They can build their own salad or just eat a bowl of greens until they get used to it.
For the dippers, serve a platter of raw veggies or just simple baby carrots with a light dip like my zesty dill dip.
Roasted Broccoli and Carrots
As much as I love my farfalle primavera, that's a lot going on in one bowl for a kid.
Instead, I roast the veggies separately and keep the pasta served on the side.
Air Fryer Green Beans
When you cook green beans in the air fryer they get awesome crispy edges. My kids gobble these up every time!
Glazed Baby Carrots
My mom got my sister and I to eat veggies by serving up this brown sugar glazed baby carrots on holidays. It's a great way to introduce the texture of cooked carrots for kids.
Herb Butter Rice
When you're ready to move up from just plain white rice, this herb butter rice is delicately seasoned and pairs with almost any of the main dishes listed above!
Oven Roasted Mini Potatoes
These crispy potatoes make an excellent dinner side dish with any of the meaty mains listed above.
Crispy fingers of homemade garlic bread are sure to entice any kid to enjoy their family dinner.
Dinners for Kids to Make
While all the recipes I've mentioned so far are great for parents to make for the kids, when you're ready to teach the kids to cook, you need easy recipes they can make on their own or with a little assistance from you on the side.
My list of easy dinner ideas for Yo Yo Nights is filled with simple dishes the kids can prep and eat all by themselves with no help from you.
The list of easy recipes for kids to make for dinner include family-friendly dishes that might require a little oversight from an adult in the room if your kids are younger but would be perfect for an older teen to make all by themselves.
More Family Dinner Tips
If you're looking for dinner ideas for kids that means you understand the importance of gathering around the table as a family.
You're doing the best work raising the next generation to have a positive attitude towards meal times.
Here are a few more helpful tips I hope will encourage you along the way: