Dinner Diva: Slow cooker meals with kids

As many of our readers know, I am big on involving the children in dinner prep. Cooking is an invaluable life skill and I’m a firm believer in getting the kids in the kitchen at a very young age for many reasons.

dinner diva leanne elyHaving the children help with dinner teaches them many things, including:

  • what goes into putting a meal on the table
  • basic cooking skills that they can practice over time
  • to try new foods
  • that everyone needs to play a part in the family dinner

The crock cooker is a wonderful appliance to use for involving young children in the cooking process. That’s because unlike with stove top cooking or cooking in the oven, the slow cooker insert isn’t a hot surface!

You can have the children involved in every aspect of crock cooker meal prep from reading the recipe and measuring the ingredients to chopping vegetables (an age dependent step!) and putting everything in the crock insert then adjusting the setting to high or low.

If your children help assemble the meal in the morning before school, they’ll be amazed at the transformation of the dish when they get home that afternoon.

Tips to involve the whole family in dinner prep

Choose a slow cooker meal with five ingredients or less and let the spouse who doesn’t normally cook dinner put it together with the children!

Have one family member make a salad while you take the main course out of the crock cooker.

For children too young to do much chopping, table setting or cleaning up, have them make placemats out of white paper and draw a picture of what dinner will look like!

The family meal is a family affair so there shouldn’t be one person involved in the whole process from start to finish!

In my house the slow cooker practically deserves a seat at the table itself, it’s such a big part of the family!

Here’s a slow cooker meal for the whole family to enjoy!


Lasagna Shells

Serves 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4-5 hours


  • 1 pound lean ground beef, browned and drained
  • 2 cup low sodium beef broth, divided
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cups uncooked shell pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated



In a large crock cooker, place the first 8 ingredients (ground beef through onion). Stir well, cover, and cook on HIGH for 4-5 hours or on LOW for 6-7 hours. During the last half hour of cooking time, add uncooked pasta, re-cover, and continue cooking until pasta is tender. Serve in bowls topped with mozzarella cheese.

Serve with a tossed salad, and dinner is done.  Enjoy!

For more easy and delicious slow cooker meals, go to www.savingdinner.com

Leanne Ely is a NYT bestselling author and the creator of SavingDinner.com, the original menu planning website, bringing families back to the dinner table for over 15 years.

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