I recently heard a statistic (I don’t have the source, I’m sorry!) about how among those who were raised in Christian homes and profess faith in adulthood, one of the common denominators in their homes was regular participation in Sunday worship, and (this was a bit more surprising_ eating meals together daily. Did you know that? Eating daily meals together at a shared table, where we “bump elbows” each day, is somehow related to the way that faith takes root in our kids hearts and lives.
But here’s what hard. I have toddlers at my table. TODDLERS! They’re messy, unpredictable, and often poor eaters. Mealtime, for all our efforts and all my cooking, sometimes don’t feel very fruitful. Can you relate? Does mealtime feel more like a battle than a discipleship opportunity?
Because of this statistic, I wanted to double-down on our family commitment to eat together. But I also want to make it fruitful and as peaceful as possible (though peacefulness isn’t the ultimately goal). So I sat down and wrote out some helpful steps for us to follow as we eat together.
Here are three practices for more fruitful mealtimes with toddlers, aligning with our shared Christian values:
Engage in Meaningful Conversation:
- Talk to Them, Not Over Them: Engaging toddlers in conversation during mealtimes is a wonderful way to nurture their social and spiritual development. Instead of ignoring them or simply talking amongst adults, involve your toddlers in discussions that are age-appropriate. Ask them about their day, share simple Bible stories or verses, and encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings.
- Prayerful Moments: Take advantage of mealtime prayers to teach your toddlers about gratitude and thankfulness. Encourage them to participate by thanking God for the food and the blessings of the day. This practice instills a sense of spiritual connection from a young age.
Establish Family Mealtime Rules:
- Loving and Clear Communication: Setting family rules for mealtime is essential. Explain these rules with love and clarity, emphasizing the importance of these guidelines in building a loving and respectful family atmosphere. Use this time to teach biblical values like kindness, patience, and listening.
- Examples of Family Rules: As you mentioned, rules like listening to each other when talking and asking for permission before leaving the table are excellent choices. These rules not only promote good manners but also reflect biblical principles of honoring one another (Romans 12:10).
Set Expectations Regarding Food Choices:
- Balanced Choices: As a Christian family, you can set expectations about what is eaten while still allowing some flexibility. Encourage your toddlers to make healthy choices from the options provided. Teach them about the importance of taking care of their bodies, as the Bible suggests in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
- Consistency: Consistency is key in mealtime expectations. By consistently offering nutritious choices and modeling healthy eating habits, you’re instilling values of self-control and stewardship of God’s gift of health.
Incorporating these practices into your family’s mealtime routine can help create a nurturing and spiritually enriching environment for your toddlers. It not only supports their physical growth but also lays the foundation for their spiritual development, helping them grow in faith and love within the Christian family context.