20 Super Easy Family Dinners Kids Can Assemble Themselves

Jess Richardson | Jun 17, 2019 Food & Party
20 Super Easy Family Dinners Kids Can Assemble Themselves
Image: iStock

Chicken and waffles

In our fantasy world, we'd have big, sit-down family dinners that are perfectly prepared -- not necessarily prepared by us, but definitely perfectly prepared -- every single night of the week. But the truth is, with everyone in our family's schedules being as wild and different as they are, and with reality being ... well, reality, and not our fantasy version of life, we rarely get to have that treat of everyone sitting down to the dinner table at the exact same time and enjoying one another's company. 

But this summer, we're going to try to make it happen more often -- and one way we're going to do that is by addressing what can be addressed. We can't change everybody's schedules, but we can make family dinner night easier on ourselves by having fun with some awesome, super easy, DIY family dinners, where we just lay stuff out and either make it all together as a family, or assemble it on our own plates. 

This way, dinner can be interactive fun with the kids and our partners, and can also be as easy for us as hitting the grocery store (or sending someone else out to pick things up, for a change)! For those who have struggled with wishing they were having the ideal family dinner -- like the kind we see on TV -- rather than the ones they consistently have with their real families, we hear ya. And for moms looking for more easy dinner options for families on budgets, it is possible to make delicious, nutritious dinners that won't break the bank. Or, try Crock-Pot dinners kids can serve themselves on nights when the family is all rolling in at different hours and family dinner is impossible. 

  • Assemble Sheet-Pan Nachos Together

    Assemble Sheet-Pan Nachos Together

    Who doesn't love nachos? For picky eaters, create two separate trays and let kids top their own sides with their favorite flavors, like pickled jalapenos and olives, and then have some less spicy toppings, like cheese, fresh-chopped tomatoes, and sour cream or Greek yogurt.

  • Turn Dinner Into Stuffed Baked Potato Bar Night

    Turn Dinner Into Stuffed Baked Potato Bar Night

    We love a stuffed baked potato -- and we firmly believe in eating the potato skins, which is where all the vitamins are! Just wash them first. This guide for a baked potato bar is a good one, but we usually just use whatever ingredients are handy. 

  • Set Out a Flatbread Bar

    Set Out A Flatbread Bar

    This blogger's idea for a flatbread bar for a dinner party is a smart one because it takes so little from the host -- just buy some flatbreads from the grocery, toast them in the toaster oven, and spread out different topping options. Simplify the flavors for a family dinner night!

  • Make an Avocado Bar

    Make An Avocado Bar

    For nights when it's just too hot to imagine cooking, throw together a little avocado bar. Everything tastes better in an avocado! Put out chicken salad and/or tuna salad, chopped onions and tomatoes, some fresh cilantro, and enjoy!

  • Make Savory Crepes Together

    Make Some Savory Crepes Together

    Crepes seem fancy, but they're basically thin pancakes with a bunch of fillings that can be added while they're hot -- or just folded in later while cold, like fancy French burritos. This recipe is a solid one, but lay out a spread of whatever cold cuts are in the fridge, fresh and/or roasted veggies, mustard, whatever ... it'll be great!

  • Throw Together a DIY Taco Bar

    Throw Together A DIY Taco Bar

    Use this easy ground beef taco recipe as a base, and let kids assemble their own tacos from a pile of fixin's spread out on the table: a jar of salsa, some shredded cheese, lettuce, onions, chopped tomatoes, olives ... whatever sounds good!

  • Grab a Few Boxes of Frozen Appetizers From Trader Joe's

    Grab A Few Boxes of Frozen Appetizers from Trader Joe's
    Trader Joe's

    Turn family dinner night into a fancy cocktail party (and on the cheap!) by grabbing a few boxes of those little frozen apps from TJ's. We love the mac and cheese bites, pastry bites with feta cheese and caramelized onions, the chicken gyoza potstickers ... we could go on. 

  • Make It a Lettuce Wrap Night

    Make It A Lettuce Wrap Night

    Throw together lettuce wraps in a snap -- this recipe for chicken lettuce wraps has an Asian spin, but we also love using the same ingredients we'd put in a taco in our lettuce wraps, or pulled pork from the slow cooker. 

  • Make Pulled Pork Sandwiches Together

    Make Pulled Pork Sandwiches Together

    Pick up a container of pulled pork and some cole slaw on the way home, or DIY with this easy slow cooker recipe (it uses Dr. Pepper!). Then let the kids assemble the sandwiches themselves!

  • Make a DIY Polenta Bar

    Make A DIY Polenta Bar

    Polenta is basically fancy Italian grits, and as such, it can be topped with almost anything: barbecue shrimp, warmed-up leftover veggies, tomato sauce and sausages, leftover chili, or stew.  

  • Create a DIY BLT Station

    Create a DIY BLT Station

    When it comes to BLTs, we're fans of keeping it classic with some simple mayo -- but throwing a variety of sauces on the table from the fridge doesn't take a ton of extra time, either. Bake the bacon on a cookie sheet instead of frying it to reduce mess!

  • Put Out a Build-It Burrito Bar

    Put Out a Build-It Burrito Bar

    A bowl of refried beans, some leftover rotisserie chicken, guac, black beans, cheese, a pile of tortillas, and whatever other fillings the family loves ... it'll all come together as a great, DIY burrito the kids can put together for themselves (and everyone will be happy). 

  • Try Some DIY Quinoa Bowls

    Try Some DIY Quinoa Bowls

    Make quinoa or pick some up pre-cooked, and serve with toppings like rinsed chickpeas from a can, a chopped avocado, and whatever veggies are in the fridge. An older kid can make the simplest, tastiest sauce imaginable: lemon juice, tahini, and water, whipped together with a fork -- and then sprinkled with a little salt. 

  • Make Grilled Cheese Feel Special

    Make Grilled Cheese Feel Very Special

    Grilled cheese is basically the easiest hot meal to make, but make it feel special by putting out an array of toppings -- basil leaves, jam from the fridge (trust us -- strawberry jam with melted cheese is great!), slices of ham ... whatever might work!

  • Throw a DIY Ramen Bowl Party

    Put Together A DIY Ramen Bowl Party

    Ramen can have tons of different toppings on it. Just make the broth in a slow cooker (or pick up some premade broth and throw in the noodles), and when it's hot, let kids add whatever they want to their bowls -- slices of roast beef, chicken, veggies, hardboiled eggs, dumplings ... there are no wrong answers! 

  • Create a DIY Mac & Cheese Night

    Create a DIY Mac and Cheese Night

    Mac and cheese is great on its own, but make it feel fancy by putting out options to top it with. This is a smart way to use up leftover chili or taco meat from the fridge. Warm up a few different leftovers and let kids mix in whatever they want (and maybe encourage them to throw some broccoli on it)!

  • Put Together a Pasta Salad

    Put Together A Pasta Salad

    Put out a bowl of cold, cooked pasta, some jarred sauces, like pesto and an olive oil vinaigrette, and whatever veggies, meats, and other toppings the family likes, and everyone can make a perfect pasta salad. 

  • Make Waffle for Dinner Night 

    Make Waffle For Dinner Night

    Pick up some fried chicken and get the Bisquick out -- making waffles for dinner can be a sweet experience, a savory one, or both. Either way, kids can assemble their own plate and make their own choices!

  • Put Out a Rice Bowl Bar

    Put Out A Rice Bowl Bar

    Put out a big bowl of cooked white rice (it can be made in the Instant Pot so quickly!), a container of teriyaki sauce, some mixed veggies, and some leftover cooked chicken, and kids can assemble their own bowls!

  • Make DIY Pizzas

    Make DIY Pizzas

    Pick up some premade pizza dough and let kids top with their own favorite toppings -- put out a range of options and a package of sliced pepperoni and let them have at it! This one is also great for older kids to make for their younger siblings. 

  • Pin It!

    Super easy family dinners kids can assemble themselves Pinterest image

    Add this graphic to your Pinterest boards to save these 20 family dishes for having dinner with your kids.

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