Some of the best family bonding happens around the dinner table, and when you lighten things up with a special theme, it’s all the more memorable. While we could probably do Taco Tuesdays forever (it never gets old!), we’re always on the hunt for unexpected, fun dinner ideas for kids to shake things up.
From a “backwards dinner” night to a playful indoor picnic and mini-everything menu, here are a week’s worth of fun dinner themes you can pull out of your pocket when the mood strikes.
Ready in: 23 minutes
Why we love it: These Cheddar Bacon Cauliflower Pancakes are a fun but healthy dinner recipe and a perfect compromise for kid-favourite “breakfast for dinner.” More nutritious than the regular morning variety, these savoury pancakes are also less starchy than the potato version.
How kids can help: Kids love mixing pancake batter, so let them! (And trust us: You can’t really mess up this batter.) If they’re a bit older, they can even help you flip the pancakes under careful supervision.
How to play up the theme: If you want to go the extra mile with this fun dinner idea, see what else you could do “backwards” during the meal. You can wear your clothes backwards, have dessert first, speak in pig Latin (“Esethay ancakespay areway eliciousday!), and even swap roles between parents and kids so your child acts like you and you act like them.
Missing any ingredients? Order Green Giant Mashed Cauliflower with Cheddar and Bacon, all-purpose flour, green onion and more through Walmart.ca Grocery Pickup & Delivery.
From Food Network Canada
Ready in: 35 minutes
Why we love it: Bite-sized foods are cute, which makes them even tastier! Think your kids don’t like salads? Just try to keep them away from this kid-friendly appetizer: Caesar Salad Bites. But if they’re too high-maintenance, there are other easy ways to make cutlery obsolete, like Caprese salad skewers with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.
How kids can help: Kids can easily take care of the Caesar dressing in this recipe. In a large bowl, they can whisk together the mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, lemon juice, anchovy paste and parmesan. Then they can toss the lettuce in.
How to play up the theme: Keep the mini finger-food menu theme going with a main course and dessert. Mini stuffed mushrooms, hamburger sliders, mini quiches, tostada cups, mini ice pops—you get the idea. The smaller the better for this fun and kid-friendly dinner idea.
Ready in: 10 minutes
Why we love it: It’s such a fun dinner idea for kids because it means you can have a picnic any time of year. For summer, we love this Spicy Watermelon, Cucumber and Mint Salad. The addition of feta cheese goes great with this recipe, too (and you can always skip the spice for the kids).
How kids can help: Put your little prep chef to work mixing up dressing and tossing those salads. (Hop tip: You can shake up your salad and serve it in the same container with a pretty mixing bowl with a lid.)
How to play up the theme: The whole idea of an indoor picnic is to keep kitchen (and clean-up) work to a minimum. Just spread out a blanket on the floor and take out any fun accessories you have like a wicker basket or an ice bucket for the drinks. In the spirit of having a little fun at the dinner table, stick with easy dishes like salads, sandwiches and dips.
Ready in: 30 minutes
Why we love it: Soup night! Soups are so easy, delicious and totally underrated when it comes to brainstorming fun dinner ideas for kids. This recipe for Instant Pot Thai Curried Butternut Squash Soup is everything we want it to be—flavourful, silky, creamy goodness. It’s a cinch to make in a pressure cooker and you can easily swap red curry paste for yellow, which has a milder, sweeter flavour.
How kids can help: Kids will love garnishing the bowls of soups with toppings like roasted almond slices, chili flakes, chopped cilantro or their other favourite ingredients. (A squeeze of fresh lime and a dollop of plain yogurt are delicious, kid-friendly options too.)
How to play up the theme: Soup parties are a thing! The whole idea is a fun, casual and effortless way to entertain. If you want to make your soup nights even more interesting, whip up a few different batches of your family’s favourites for a soup buffet and freeze the leftovers for a rainy day.
5Sandwich Shop Saturdays
Ready in: 35 minutes
Why we love it: Everyone loves sandwiches! Prepare a selection of your kids’ favourite sandwiches or surprise them with a giant family-sized one, like this Muffuletta Sandwich stuffed with vegetables, Dijon tuna salad and a garlic-caper spread.
How kids can help: If your kids aren’t already making their own sandwiches, it’s time to change that! Bonus: If they make it themselves, they’re more likely to eat it.
How to play up the theme: If you want to do more with this fun dinner idea for kids, you can set up a whole sandwich bar with the works: a colourful spread with different meats, cheeses, veggies and condiments.
From Today's Parent
Ready in: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Why we love it: These Rainbow Hasselback Potatoes are almost too pretty to eat! They need a while to bake in the oven, but the prep time is only 30 minutes—totally doable as a fun dinner idea for family night.
How kids can help: The slices on these potatoes require a very sharp knife, so keep little hands off for this step. Kids can still help by washing the potatoes well to remove any extra starch that prevents the slices from opening up like they should.
How to play up the theme: There are so many delicious ways to make potatoes. Another fun dinner idea for kids is a baked potato party. Or you could turn your fun Friday dinner into “French-Fry Fridays,” with oven-roasted fries and all the fancy fixings.
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Ready in: 25 minutes
Why we love it: Whether you’re nostalgic for outdoor dinners cooked over a flame or just the taste of a good ol’ hot dogs, this is one of those fun dinner ideas for kids that brings out the inner child in all of us. You can make them as gourmet as you want—like this recipe for Roger Mooking’s Mango Curry Lamb Dogs to please the whole family.
How kids can help: If you’re making your own dogs, kids can help by mixing together the ground lamb with shallots and spices. They’ll also love shaping the kebabs into cylinders—just make sure they wash well before and after handling the raw meat.
How to play up the theme: Why stop at the dogs? Grill up some veggies like corn on the cob, make s’mores for dessert (there are easy oven s’mores recipes so you can skip the campfire) and start a sing-along!
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