Giving Thanks Before Meals

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Nondenominational Grace/Giving Thanks before meal

Jan 2012

Hello parents, 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!! - Lisa

Hi there- 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 int he room and the kids like it too.

Each of us gives an appreciation about each other- from simple things, '' I really 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! deirdre

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 kids 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. grateful

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! Grace

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. Grateful Mom

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 animals!'' etc.

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. marwoo

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 whole universe 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. Grace

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!'' Jane

A favorite in our family is the Johnny Appleseed song. If you don't know it here is a link to a YouTube version. and a link where you can get the music and lyrics Eileen

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 while. Happy Mom

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!'' something else.

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! also thankful

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. amma

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 feel happy. anon

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.'' agnostic mom

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 takes just a minute, and feels like a nice way to enjoy being together and to be grateful for what we have. J

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...) Kate

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

We say:
''Thank you for the food we eat, thank you for the birds that sing, Thank you world for everything.'' 
not religious but grateful