What are mealtimes like at your place? Do you have family ways of serving, eating or talking together? Would you like some fresh ideas to make the most of the gift of family meals? Here are some ideas for giving thanks at mealtimes. 

There are a bunch of studies that show that eating together is good for families and good for kids. Children who have family mealtimes are physically healthier, with lower obesity rates.

And kids and teens who regularly eat with their families are more resilient in other ways. Family bonds are stronger and kids are better able to resist negative influences outside the home.

There are plenty of great resources at Kiwi Families for eating together, from recipes to celebration ideas (just use the search bar on the top right).

In this post, I’d like to add another element into the mix in case it’s helpful for your family: ‘saying grace’.

Gratitude and grace

Saying ‘grace’ is often thought of as something just Christian households do. But saying grace is really just about being thankful and showing gratitude, and it’s very common in lots of non-Christian households too

There’s so much to be grateful for in a family meal. From the food itself, to the person who cooked it, from the farmers that harvested it, to the rain that helped it grow.

And that’s really all grace is. Just taking the time to consciously think about the meal, and being thankful for the sustenance it will bring us. And then verbalising our gratitude with words, which makes it more powerful.

In our family we have a handful of different ways of saying thanks for the food. We can say grace just by talking, and we can sing or chant.

It provides an extra element of ritual to the meal. It says in capital letters that we are deliberately present with each other, sharing this food together.

For our family it’s an expression of gratitude to God, and a way of weaving our Christian spirituality into everyday life.

For other families, it’s a spiritual act in a different way, where the family’s awareness is drawn to something bigger and outside us – like the sun, rain and earth that have provided the food, and the many hands from farm to table that prepared it for us.

Giving thanks at mealtimes

Our toddler gets to choose each night what kind of grace we’ll say or sing – which is great for a small person who has limited control over what happens in his life.

If you have more than one child, the privilege of choosing what grace to do could go to the person who helped set the table or make the dinner – or be on a roster along with those kinds of jobs.

Here are some of the different graces in our repertoire that you might like to add to yours. Ask your kids what they like best.

Banquet Earth Grace (or just ‘Chapati’ as we call it)

This satisfying chant by Linnea Good is done with clicking fingers and finishes with a big clap, so anyone who is visiting can join in whether they know the words or not.

It doesn’t refer to God, so can be used by families with any kind of spirituality who want to build some gratitude into family mealtimes.

The words are below. Just click your fingers and chant:

Chapati! Chapati! Puri and rice!
Burrito, taquito, spaghetti and spice!
Dim sum, egg foo yung
Two all-beef patties, special sauce on a bun!

Hands across the table,
Hands across the sea,
Sharing in the banquet of the Earth!

Thank you, Lord, for giving us food

Probably most churchy people in New Zealand – and elsewhere – know this simple song. It’s repetitive and easy to learn, so guests are able to join in almost immediately.

Our boy could sing most of it before he was two, so it’s definitely a good one for littlies.

Thank you, Lord, for giving us food
Thank you, Lord, for giving us food
Thank you, Lord, for giving us food
Right where we are

(Optional second verse)

Hallelujah, praise the Lord
Hallelujah, praise the Lord
Hallelujah, praise the Lord
Right where we are

To the tune of ‘O for a Thousand Tongues’

The classic grace words:

For life and health and daily food
We give thee thanks, O Lord
For fellowship and all things good
We praise thy name, O Lord

This can be said without singing, of course, but it’s also sung to the tune of the old hymn, ‘O for a Thousand Tongues.’

If you have people around your table who love singing, this is a great one to learn. It even splits into two parts (traditionally sung by the men and the women) at the end, so it’s fun and dramatic.

I used to think of this as a grace for older kids, but we sang it to my toddler the other night and he adored it, so do give it a go!

Brian and Shirley’s Graces

My mentor when I was at college was Brian Smith. He and his wife were ministers and they’d written their own family graces to try and build some thoughtful words into family prayers. Words that would be personal and meaningful for their kids as they grew. With their permission, I’m sharing 3 of their family graces here:

Our Father in heaven,
You make the sun to shine on all people good and bad,
You give rain to those who do right and those who do wrong.
For this food provided by sun and rain on your earth,
We thank you and pray that we may learn to be kind
as you are kind.

Our Father in heaven,
For this food,
The earth to grow it
Electricity* to cook it
And our sense of taste to enjoy it,
We thank you.

*Or whatever fuel is used

Our Father in heaven,
The kowhai and the tui remind us that you
care for your children without their worrying.
As we thank you for this food
help us to set our hearts on your
kingdom and your goodness.

Just ‘thanks’

Some nights our boy elects just to say:

Tantoo God for the yummy food.

And that’s fine by us.

There’s a few more examples in the comments below from Kiwi Families readers. If you say grace or use other words or rituals, we’d love to know what they are! Just add to the comments.

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Thalia Kehoe Rowden began 2011 as the minister of West Baptist Church in New Plymouth and ended it as the mother of a charming newborn baby. She's also an awesome parallel parker, a wannabe runner and enthusiastic but rubbish at gardening. She blogs at Kiwi Families on the spiritual practice of parenthood: listening to God as we parent our children, hearing God's voice through them and through the delights and despairs of bringing them up. Thalia also blogs at www.sacraparental.com

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Our 4 year old loves the “superman grace” too. Sing “thank you God for giving us food” twice to the tune of the superman theme music followed by “for our daily bread, we need to be fed, thank you God for giving us food. Amen.”
All this is done while lifting arms in the air like superman.

Anna G

We call it the “Chicago grace”, Mum learnt it during her time studying there.

Thank you Lord for happy hearts
For rain and sunny weather
Thank you for the food we eat
And that we are together

not a wild hera

Oh, I like that! Thanks, Anna!


We use the same Grace, which we learned from my Sister-in-law. My Little Miss Six loves this one.

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