Giving Thanks Before Meals
Berkeley Parents Network >
Religious & Spiritual >
Giving Thanks Before Meals
Anyone have any nondenominational type Grace rituals that
they can share, that are toddler friendly and fun? Wanting
to embrace and teach gratitude and thoughtfulness before our
meals. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!!
We started doing what we call 'appreciations' when we get a chance to all sit
down to eat...
It is super fun and the kids got into very easily and my 3 1/2 year old
sometimes spontaneously jumps in and wants to do them..
We sometimes begin with holding hands and a moment of silence which can
feel a bit odd at first, but again, its really very sweet, the sound of silence
room and the kids like it too.
Each of us gives an appreciation about each other- from simple things, '' I
appreciate mommy for making this yummy dinner' to ' I appreciate xx for really
working hard at saying please and thank you today'...' I appreciate xxxx for
helping me today when I was not feeling good''....etc...
IN fact, we need to do them more!
Good Luck! I'm sure you will get lots of interesting advice!
We say ''Thank you food for keeping our bodies healthy and strong, and thank
you family for sharing this meal with me.'' It has a sing-song-y rhythm that
remember. Then we each share 1-3 things we are grateful for that day. Did this
faithfully until my daughter was 3.5 or so and she rejected it. It's back on now
that she's five.
About a year ago, when my son was five and a half, we started doing
''thankfuls'' with our evening meal. We simply go around the table and say
something we are thankful for. It was my suggestion that we begin this,
because while I'm not at all religious, I was raised by parents who are
devout Christians and say grace at every meal. The practice of saying
grace is one of several aspects of religion that I missed. Surprisingly my
atheistic and secular husband was on board. Sometimes the thankfuls are
silly or mundane, like ''I'm thankful it's Friday.'' But sometimes amazing
things come out of my son's mouth, like ''I'm thankful that we had a baby,
and I get to be a big brother.'' What's been great about this entirely non-
theistic approach is that it rarely makes any of our guests (of any age or
persuasion) uncomfortable the way that grace can. In fact it's often simply
fun. It also has the nice side-effect of appeasing my parents when we visit
with them. I can't say if it makes my son recognize how privileged we are,
but I hope it's a start.
Grateful without the grace
Good food, good meat. Good God, let's eat!
Last year when my daughter was 3 we started a little
mealtime ritual, as I was also wanting to introduce some
kind of gratitude and thoughtfulness practice. We hold
hands around the table and one of us says ''Thank you for
our food and our family.'' That's it. We're Unitarian and
we've never used the word 'God' or thanked any being in
particular. My daughter usually insists that she be the
one to say it and it's been very sweet to see how excited
she gets about such a simple moment. She calls the
practice ''Happy Meal'' and will remind us if we forget: ''We
forgot to say happy meal, Mom!'' She has even added to it
spontaneously, thanking her dad if he did the cooking or
me if it was my night to cook. Sometimes we take turns
sharing our best and worst moments of the day after
saying ''Happy Meal.'' It's very touching seeing how
children resonate with even the simplest ritual. It has
been a great practice for me too, a welcome shift in
perspective if I've had a tough day.
How about something along the lines of: ''We give thanks for
[or ''to''] the earth and sun and rain that grew and nourished
this food, for the many hands that brought it to our table,
and for our togetherness as a family.'' If you want to make
it more interactive, you could ask: ''What helped to grow
this food?'' and kids call out: ''The sun!'' ''The rain!''
''People who watered the ground!'' ''People who fed the
In my family we like to sing:
''I thank the earth for feeding my body
I thank the sun for warming my bones
I thank the trees for the air I breathe and
I thank the water for nourishing my soul''
(I learned it from this CD:
Also, there's a book called Earth Prayers which has some
nice blessings and poems from various religious, spiritual,
and humanistic traditions.
earth-based spiritual mama
In this home all are one,
As are the earth, the stars and the sun.
With head and heart and hands be blessed
That each with all may do their best.
The sun, the earth, the rains and the work of many hands
have brought us this food.
We say ''thank you''.
Blessings on this meal and peace upon the earth
These are three that we use - my children learned them at
their Waldorf school. We also light a candle for each
evening meal - makes it nice.
Here are a few that our Unitarian Universalist community and
our family use. We end each blessing with a shared ''Thank you!''
Earth who gives to us this food
Sun that makes it ripe and good
Dear Earth, Dear Sun, by you we live
To you our loving thanks we give.
For the food before us,
For the friends beside us,
For the love that surrounds us,
We are truly grateful.
This food is a gift from the earth, the sun, the rain, the
It comes to us through the hard work of many people
May we live in such a way as to be worthy of it
May it give us energy to do the work of love
From you I receive, to you I give
Together we share, and from this we live
(This is a song from the Unitarian Universalist Hymnal that
we sing together
If we're having meat of any sort that night, we usually give
a special thanks to the animal, too. My 4 yo daughter is
really into that part.
Albany UU Family
This is the grace I grew up with, I think from Rudolf Steiner?
''For the earth that cradles the seed,
For the clouds that bring forth the rain,
For the rain that brings forth the green leaves,
For the sun that ripens the fruit,
For the stars that give form to the flowers,
For all this goodness and beauty
(Our heavenly Mother and Father)
We thank thee.''
You could use this and take out the part in parens.
We have a non-denominational dinner grace ritual: we all
hold hands and each person says in turn one thing we're
grateful for that happened today. It could be anything, like
making it to yoga class, or seeing a dog chase a ball, or
the sunny day, or the rainy day, or the joy of being
together and eating dinner. My son is the last one to go
and he ends with a flourish - ''bon appetit, now we may eat!''
A favorite in our family is the Johnny Appleseed song. If
you don't know it here is a link to a YouTube version.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_IrdS-zu48 and a link
where you can get the music and lyrics http://www.dltk-kids.com/crafts/miscellaneous/johnny_appleseed_grace.htm
My nonreligious cousin holds hands with her 3 yr old and anyone else at the
table. Everyone there shares ''something they are happy for''. It's sort of a
gratitude practice. My kids were so impressed by it that we also did it for a
I really like this idea! We're a nondenominational (slash
Athiest) household as well, and as my son will be 2 in a
few months I'd like to do something like this with him at
some point. The first idea that comes to mind would just
be to just change the lyrics of some of the traditional
songs about giving thanks.
Like the Johnny Appleseed song (Oh the Lord is good to me,
and so I thank the Lord...), changing ''the Lord'' to ''the
earth'' keeps the same message without the Godstuff. Or
the short and ubiquitous, ''Good food, good meat, good God,
let's eat!'' Changing ''God'' to ''my dog!''...er...or
I think there's lots of room to make traditional religious
ways of giving thanks into nondenominational messages
while keeping the same root lesson. Good luck!
When everyone is seated and the dinner is on the table hold hands and
say: ''Thank you earth, rain and sun for helping this good food to grow.
Thank you farmer.... '' You can make this part of the Grace, shorter or
longer and more or less specific inviting your child to add thanks as they
get older... thanking cows for milk, truckers for driving food to store,
chickens for giving their lives... etc. Then add, ''Thank you family for
being here to share this delicious meal.'' Take a silent moment, pass a
hand squeeze around the table, release hands and begin your meal.
We learned the following ''blessing'' at a parent-child class
at the East Bay Waldorf School and say it before dinner
every night. The first part is sung to a little melody and
the second part is spoken. Even our young toddler looks
forward to saying it with us at the dinner table.
Blessings on the blossom
Blessings on the fruit
Blessings on the leaves and stems
and blessings on the root.
Blessings to our friends and family and have a happy (insert
day of the week)!
One family I know used to think of one positive thought
(anything) before dinner, they would take turns night after
night. The kid might say, ''Joe brought me a turtle today at
school.'' Then without comment everyone would raise hands in
the air in a big family wave and wiggle their fingers, then
start to eat. It was usually impossible not to laugh and
Our pre-school coop had a really sweet non-demoninatinal
grace that went something along these lines to the tune of
open, shut them (hands)
Open, shut them, give a little clap
Now it's time to thank you for our snack.
Cub scouts also had some sweet non-denominational sunday
services for camping trips.
hope this helps
My dad's family (Congregationalist/Unitarian) holds hands
before meals and says the following grace, which I've always
liked: ''For food and friends and family, and all the good
things that we see, may we always thankful be, amen.''
We hold hands and say ''Thank you for our dinner (or whatever relevant meal),''
and then blow each other a kiss. In the last few months, my four year old added,
''Thank you to the chef,'' and ''Thank you for our family'' to the ritual. It
a minute, and feels like a nice way to enjoy being together and to be grateful
what we have.
We often say this one together, and our 7-year old daughter likes it a lot. I
understand it to be from the Rudolf Steiner tradition. We hold hands in a
circle around the table while we say it.
''Earth, who gave to us this food,
Sun who made it ripe and good,
Dear Earth, dear Sun, by whom we live,
To you our loving thanks we give.
Blessings on the meal!''
(and we lift our linked hands up to each word of the last phrase which gives
it some energy...)
I love this one. It has a lovely tune:
''The silver rain, the shining sun
in fields where scarlet poppies run
and all the rippling of the wheat
are in the bread that we do eat.
So when I sit at every meal
with grateful heart I always feel
that I am eating rain and sun
in fields where scarlet poppies run.''
I like that we get to be thankful, and be reminded that our
food comes from somewhere, without thanking god in particular.
One family we know just starts in eating, but makes sure to
ask near the beginning of the meal, ''What made you smile
today?'' That tends to bring out smaller, more personal and
concrete reflections of gratitude.
I also know folks who hold hands for a moment of silence.
During the silence, rather than closing your eyes, you
deliberately look around the table until you've made eye
contact with each person you're sitting down with today. It
becomes a simple and unexpectedly powerful moment of
connection, often full of small forgivenesses after the
inevitable stubbed toes and hurt feelings of a busy day.
thankful many ways
''Thank you for the food we eat,
thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you world for everything.''
not religious but grateful
this page was last updated: May 9, 2012
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network