A List of Dinner Ideas

By Zora Hughes

It's easy for families to fall into the usual dinner routine; Meatloaf Mondays, Leftover Thursdays, and so on. Families looking for a way to switch up their dinner menu can do things like eating in the backyard, or letting the kids take over and choose the menu one night. There are many ideas out there that will spice up the dinner routine.

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Shake the up the family dinner routine.

Kids Make Dinner Day

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Let the kids cook dinner.

Let the kids cook for once, supervised of course. A parent can be their children's sous chef, allowing them to choose the menu for dinner. A children's cookbook is a good thing to have standing by to guide the children in their menu planning. Kids will enjoy getting their hands dirty, rolling meatballs for spaghetti or putting the pepperonis on a pizza. This is not only a great bonding experience for parents and their children, but parents can also teach kitchen safety and healthy eating habits while having fun.

At-Home Restaurant

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Take orders in advance for a fun family dinner.

Perhaps your family has decided to cut back on their eating out for financial or health reasons. A family can enjoy a restaurant-type experience by creating a restaurant in their own dinning room. Plan a menu in advance with a few options for entrees, main courses and dessert, and hand them out to family members the morning of the dinner. When they have made their choices, cook everyone's specialized dinner and set up the dining room. Families may want to break out the fine china for this special occasion, or get a checkered table cloth and light candles for a cozy, Italian-style restaurant experience. The kids can make up a name for the restaurant and put up signs. Let the kids pretend to be waiters and allow them to serve everyone their customized meals.

Breakfast for Dinner

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Serve breakfast for dinner.

Surprise the family with a Sunday brunch spread as the sun is going down. Kids will love feeling like they're breaking the rules, eating pancakes and scrambled eggs for dinner. If parents are concerned about children eating sugary syrup close to bedtime, they can adjust the menu to healthier breakfast items such as fruit and oatmeal.

Backyard Picnic

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Have a backyard family picnic.

Another idea the kids will love is to get away from the dining room table and have a picnic dinner in the backyard. This is great idea for families with a great view to watch the sun go down while enjoying their dinner. For a more camp-like feel, serve baked beans and hot dogs. If allowed in your area, build a fire pit. Kids roast hot dogs and marshmallows on stick over the open fire, or if you don't have a fire pit, over the barbecue grill. For inclement weather, have the picnic indoors in the living room.

Make Your Own...Night

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Make-your-own taco night

There are several make-your-own dinner ideas that will spice up your dinner routine and allow everyone to customize their meals. The taco bar is the most popular; kids can choose their tortilla, meats and vegetables. Remind the kids that vegetables are a mandatory topping if that is important to you. Other make-your-own dinner ideas are sandwiches, mini pizzas and stuffed pitas.

Fondue Night

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Have fun with fondue.

Basic fondue pots are inexpensive and make for a fun and very different family dinner experience. A small Crock-Pot can do the job as well. Show the kids how to safely use the fondue forks and fondue etiquette (no double dipping!). For cheese fondue, choose basic kid-friendly cheeses such as Velveeta cheese and American cheese. Serve with cut vegetables and cubed bread. For a fondue entree experience, cook meat in oil in the fondue pot. Cut meats such as steak and chicken, and watch as they cook in seasoned oil while you wait. The highlight of a fondue dinner is the dessert. A simple chocolate fondue served with strawberries and cubed pound cake is a crowd pleaser.