Post by Kelsey Nixon of Kelsey’s Essentials
If you’re like most parents, you’ve recently sent your kids back to school for another school year. This can be such an exciting time for some kids (and parents!) or a dreaded time for others. Whether you’ve got kids who are thrilled to be back in school or kids that are requiring a pep talk each morning, one way to celebrate the big change is with a back to school family dinner. It’s a great way to celebrate your kiddos as they embark upon another year and discuss things like goals. Below you’ll find my best tips for pulling together a fun dinner that is sure to be memorable and may even turn into a tradition for your growing family.
When it comes to the menu, let your kids be in charge! By making their favorite recipes you can really make your kids feel like a big part of this event. If you get requests like boxed macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches, consider making a grown up version of these kid favorites. Dishes like my Grilled Cheese with Bacon, Apple and Cheddar, Spaghetti and Meatballs, and my Skillet Bacon Mac and Cheese are great options.
Decorate the table with a school theme to get your kids in the back to school spirit. A crown is always a fun accessory that will make any young kid feel special. Traditional items like a school bus, desk supplies (1,2), books, and a globe are a great way to pull off this fun yet simple look. Or maybe you turn over the decorating responsibilities to your kids completely!
Plan a few simple activities for your dinner that will help generate conversation amongst you and your kids. Depending on the age of your children you can take a simple Alphabet book and play a game where they identify one thing that they’re looking forward to this school year based on the letter that they flip to. For example, if your 2nd grader flips to “R” they might enthusiastically exclaim “Recess!” While your 7th grader might flip to “S” and sheepishly mention that school dances should be a lot of fun. This can be a great way to discuss all of the positive things to look forward to.
To get the whole family involved, consider picking a theme for the year. Something that the entire family can focus on as a whole. Think of it as a yearly mission statement. Creatively displaying this theme with something like this darling banner is a great way to remind your kids of the theme day in and day out. You could also make an effort to set some personal goals with each of your children as well.
A back to school dinner is also a great time to fill out a memory book recording your kid’s stats as they enter their respective grades. Whether it’s as simple as their age and height or a bit more detailed like their favorite foods and subjects in school, your kids will get a kick out of the documentation.
For dessert, try this simple cooking craft that will get everyone in the spirit to hit the books and head back to school. Make these flashcard graham cracker cookie sandwiches by simple spreading chocolate buttercream frosting in between two graham cracker cookies. Decorate the tops of the cookies by using white frosting to pipe on traditional numbers and letters that you’d find on flash cards. These cookies are best if you make them a day in advance and let them sit in an airtight container overnight. They get soft and chewy and are so delicious! It’s a great alternative to a traditional cookie or cupcake and easy enough that your kids can help make them. My own mom made these cookie sandwiches for me and my siblings growing up!
Kelsey Nixon is the host of Kelsey’s Essentials on Cooking Channel and author of Kitchen Confidence. Kelsey’s Essentials is also currently airing Mon-Thurs at 3pm on Food Network. Kelsey, her husband Robby, and son Oliver (“Ollie”) live in New York City. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.