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Cooking Themed Dinners with your Kids

Any time spent cooking with your children is time well spent! Kids love to be involved in the cooking process and early exposure to cooking can create not only a life-long love of the culinary arts but also an interest in trying new foods, something that is often an issue with kids.

While the logical thing to do is to limit your children’s cooking experiences to making cookies and other simple things, kids can really do so much more, especially as they progress into the late elementary school years. So, if you’re willing, let them participate in the entire dinner making process. It’ll give them an appreciation for what you do each evening and no doubt they’ll feel proud about their accomplishments.

A fun way to get kids involved in making dinner is to create a series of themed dinners you can make together. You and your children can come up with a unique theme and then design the menu to match. If time permits, you can even make some creative decorations or centerpieces for the table and even find some appropriate music you can play while you eat. Here are some theme ideas to explore.

Mexican – Have a fiesta with a menu that includes simple Mexican foods everyone can pitch in to create. Tacos are a favorite with kids and not tough to make. You can even create a taco bar with all the toppings you like including diced tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, homemade guacamole, and salsa. Other potential dishes include nachos, easy enchiladas or quesadillas, bean dip, and non-alcoholic strawberry margaritas made in the blender. Ole!

Nature – This is a huge favorite with kids and an easy one for little ones. Look to nature for your inspiration. Make a volcano with mashed potatoes and ketchup, make a forest landscape with broccoli trees and pea grass, and create animal faces on your burgers. And how about some chocolate bugs for dessert! (You might be able to find bug-shaped candy molds at your local craft store.)

Hawaiian Luau – This is a great one for the summertime or when you want to add a little sunshine to a cold winter’s night. Slice up fruit for a tropical salad, make a simple ham and pineapple main course, and include some tropical blender drinks. Top it off with a coconut or macadamia nut cake.

Under the Sea – You don’t have to serve seafood for this theme but it might be a good way to introduce your kids to some kinds of fish. However, you can also make fish-shaped pizzas (just buy pre-made pizza dough and shape and top it as you wish), serve goldfish crackers mixed with other snacks for a trail mix-type creation, and create a seascape cake with blue frosting and fondant fish. Ocean water-colored drinks are fun, too!

Space, the Final Frontier – Here’s a fun one, especially for the science or science fiction fanatics in your family. Make meteors or planets by molding soft cheese into balls, create star-shaped burgers or have them make their favorite sandwiches and cut them in star shapes. For dessert, craft a solar system out of sugar cookies. You’ll just need lots of different sized circles and some edible paint (food coloring and egg).

Cowboy Cuisine – This dinner can include some foods that are very easy for kids to make, like hot dogs and baked beans. You might also have the little ones help you mix up a batch of corn bread or make some Texas Toast by spreading thick-sliced white bread with melted butter and shredded cheese and then toasting it in the oven.