Putting a piece of meat on a stick and holding it over a fire is just about as old-school as cooking can be. It’s fun, though, and having a kebab night with your family is a great way to get the kids interested in food and cooking. Once they’re old enough to safely put food on a sharp skewer under your supervision, you can light the fires of your — and their — imagination.

family kebab night

Skewers For Your Little Carnivores

Things you’ll need:

  • Metal or bamboo skewers
  • Meat of your choice, such as chicken, beef or pork
  • Meatballs
  • Hot dogs
  • Grape tomatoes
  • BBQ sauce
  • Rice for serving

Short skewers are best for little hands, and they help control portion size as well. Choose 4- to 6-inch skewers whenever possible. Metal skewers get dangerously hot when cooking, so wood or bamboo is a better bet. Check them first for splinters — bamboo’s especially prone to them — and any skewers bound for the grill should be soaked in cold water so they won’t char.

If your kids are old enough to understand sanitation and good hand washing, they can help you make meat kebabs. Slice chicken, pork or beef into squares or cubes and thread them onto the skewers. A cherry or grape tomato between each piece of meat adds color and moisture, and they’re kid-friendly. If your kids are too young to handle raw meat, take turns. You can put on the meat, and they put on the tomatoes. ‘Cause they’re your helpers.

making kebabs with your kids

If you’d rather not see your kids handling raw meat for a few more years, bake a batch of meatballs ahead of time and cut up some low-sodium franks. Even small children can put those on a skewer — call ‘em sticks and stones — and they’re not the food safety risk raw meat would be.

kebabs

Pick barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce or a fruit-based glaze, and brush it on the skewers when they’re nearly cooked. Serve your meat kebabs with plain rice and some of the vegetable kebabs detailed below.

prepared kebabs

Festive Vegetables

Things you’ll need:

  • Metal or bamboo skewers
  • Peppers
  • Squash
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Tongs or spatula

If your kids aren’t always good vegetable eaters, kebab night is an opportunity to improve your odds. Select bright, colorful vegetables, such as multicolored bell peppers or slices of yellow and green summer squash. Cold-weather vegetables are less-suited to grilling, but you can still use them if that’s what your kids will eat. Pre-cook diced carrots, winter squash or sweet potatoes until they’re almost tender, then set them out for skewering.

vegetables for skewers

You’ll need to mist the vegetables lightly with oil so they’ll brown without sticking or drying out on the grill. Cook vegetable skewers on the side away from your meat kebabs to avoid mingling the flavors. Most cooks turn their skewers with tongs, but you might find it easier with a broad barbecue spatula. That way there’s less chance of your veggies breaking up and falling off the skewers.

grilling kebabs

A Salad Kebab

Things you’ll need:

  • Metal or bamboo skewers
  • Raw veggies such as cherry tomatoes, baby carrots or broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Dips/dressing

Another alternative is salad kebabs, made with uncooked vegetables. Get out a cutting board ahead of time and cut up enough of your kids’ favorite veggies to fill several skewers. Use “dippable” items such as cherry tomatoes, halved baby carrots, segments of celery or even broccoli florets with a piece of the stem left intact for skewering.

chopping vegetables

Set out the bowls of vegetables and let each kid assemble a personal selection of favorites. If you find that some of the more fragile vegetables aren’t holding up well, wrap them in a strip of lettuce first and then slide them on the skewer.

salad skewers

Set out a small finger bowl of dip or dressing for each kid, so there’s no problem with double-dipping. Serve the personalized skewers before your main course as a starter or alongside it as a side dish.

salad skewers with dip

The Fun Part

Things you’ll need:

  • Metal or bamboo skewers
  • Pieces of fruits like apple, grapes, grapefruit or banana
  • Cake balls
  • Doughnut holes
  • Dips such as caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, whipped cream or yogurt
  • Toppings like peanuts, coconut or sprinkles

Of course, for kids the best part of any meal is dessert. Follow through on the night’s theme by making kebabs your dessert, as well.

Cut up your kids’ favorite fruits for skewering. Apple pieces, grapes, chunks of grapefruit and segments of banana are all good choices. Dip apples, bananas and other quick-browning fruits in diluted lemon juice first to keep them pale and pretty. To make the skewers a little “treat-ier,” set out a few cake balls or doughnut holes to go between the fruit.

cutting apples and other fruit

Set our squeeze bottles of caramel sauce, chocolate sauce and whipped cream or whipped topping and let them dress up their own kebabs or go healthy with a yogurt-based dip. Set out crushed peanuts, toasted coconut or candy sprinkles, if you wish, to scatter over the top.

toppings for fruit skewers

This isn’t going to be the easiest or most practical of meals, but that’s beside the point. You’re encouraging your kids to love food and cooking, and to understand the love you put into cooking for them. After all, that’s something that’s best learned hands-on. Wearing an apron that touts that idea — like this Reasons I Love apron — lets them know just how you feel.

reasons I love to bake apron

Share Your Experiences

Try out these ideas or draw on your own creativity to come up with something better. Use the comments section to share what you’ve learned and what brilliant inspirations your own kids provided.

fruit skewers