It’s summertime! The perfect time to encourage our kids to develop skills that are harder to focus on during the school year.
We want our kids to enjoy their summer and fill it with lazy days, outdoor play, and getting lost in library books. But we also want to help them keep their minds sharp.
Also, since they are home all day and want to snack 1,467 times a day, it’s only fair they learn how to be independent, creative, and confident at meal-time.
Years ago, Katie shared something brilliant that she started with her kids: Kids Cook Dinner Night. Every week, her kids cooperate and make dinner together for the family.
If that doesn’t say you’ve done something right raising your kids, I don’t know what does.
Kids Cook Dinner Night turned into one of my goals for my younger kids. We started simple, slowly building their skills and giving them more and more control. Now, my 10-year-old, 8-year-old, and 5-year-old can prepare all kinds of dinners all by themselves.
Today I want to show you a bunch of real food dinners your kids can help prepare on their own this summer.
You can use these ideas to help your kids make their own dinner, or use them to help your kids learn to make summer dinner recipes for the whole family.
Cooking is an important skill kids will need as they grow up, so just like we teach them how to clean their bedroom and brush their teeth, children should learn how to feed themselves good food that fuels their bodies well.
Healthy Summer Dinner Ideas
When teaching kids to cook, we started with the basic skills from Kids Cook Real Food. The first lessons are so inspiring that after watching the first video, my 8-year-old asked if he could bake some cookies. Then he went into the kitchen and made them almost completely by himself!
Making summer dinner recipes is a little different, but kids just need a few skills and a few favorite foods to start making healthy summer dinners.
Make a List of Your Kids’ Favorite Dinners
I found that the best way to empower my kids in the kitchen was to ask them to make a list of their favorite summer dinner recipes. After that, we can choose which ones they want to make and which ones they may need more help preparing.
What skills do they need to learn? Do you have an easy-to-follow recipe they can read and use themselves?
Dinner Recipes Kids Can Make
Here’s a list of some of my kids’ favorite dinners they can help make:
- Macaroni & Cheese and Salad
- Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Salad
- Big Salad with Rice and Chicken or Beef
- Breakfast for Dinner
- Sandwiches and Salad
- OYO – On Your Own
- Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
- Greek Salad with Chicken
- Tuna or salmon patties with peas
Can My Kids Make Dinner?
Kids are far more capable than we think. Even a very young child can spread peanut butter on a slice of bread or slice a piece of Cantaloupe with a butter knife.
Making dinner usually involves kitchen skills like slicing, some basic stovetop and oven skills (sauteeing, boiling, putting things in and taking things our of the oven safely), measuring, stirring, and the ability to read a recipe.
Young children can help rip lettuce leaves into bite-size pieces or shred carrots. Slightly older children who know how to safely handle a knife can chop vegetables and read recipes in order to make salad dressing. Older children usually just need a little supervision and a reminder to turn the oven off when they are done using it.
No one cooks perfectly at first, but the idea here is to empower our kids in the kitchen so that when they grow up and are responsible for feeding themselves, they can do it easily.
Not sure your kids can handle it? Teach them to cook with the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse and see how much they can do in the kitchen! If your kids have already gone through the course there’s an additional SkillLab just on using the Instant Pot and slow cooker for quick dinners!
Summer Dinner Recipes Kids Can Make
Here is how my kids have helped in the kitchen at different stages of development:
- Salad (chopping)
- Wash vegetables
Slightly Older Kids:
- Brown ground beef
- Make grilled cheese sandwiches
- Make quesadillas
- Make salad dressing
- Make salads
- Spaghetti meat sauce
- Pancakes or eggs (for breakfast for dinner)
- Macaroni & cheese
- Baked chicken
- Tuna or salmon patties
- Steamed veggies or roasted veggies
- Instant Pot/slow cooker: Roast, whole chicken, chicken breasts, beans, rice, bbq chicken
With older kids, it’s just a matter of teaching them the skills they need to prepare their own food. Kids are far more capable than we think they are. Consider having older kids choose a day to make dinner for the whole family like we do!
Really, once your kids have some basic cooking skills and are old enough to handle tasks like putting pans in the oven or using an Instant Pot, they can make pretty much anything they like!
A Cookbook for Kids
Sometimes our kids just need the right inspiration. We love the cookbook Chef Junior because it’s a from-scratch cookbook for kids, written BY kids. They use real food ingredients, list out the equipment as well as ingredients, and the instructions are written in simple, steps that kids can understand.
My 10-year-old is working his way through the cookbook this summer, and he’s been able to make every single recipe with minimal help from me, including homemade meatballs, from-scratch macaroni and cheese, and homemade real food cheesecake.
Get Your Kids in the Kitchen with These Summer Dinner Ideas
Summer is the perfect time to teach life skills with these dinner recipes kids can make. Use these summer dinner recipes to empower them and build connection, confidence, and creativity in the kitchen.
Want to see what happened when I let my kids plan all their own meals and cook them for a whole month?