Try This at Home Tuesday: Eat and pray with your baby!

The spirit of Thanksgiving inspired me to write this post. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s filled with family, love and fellowship. It’s a time to reflect and think about the things we are grateful for. I’m so thankful for the life I’ve been granted and having the privilege of being a mother is icing on the cake.

Thankfulness and appreciation are learned behaviors which must be taught. This can be taught by role-modeling the behaviors you want and expect from your child. The meal environment is a great place to instill values, morals and appreciation. It’s an excellent time to teach by doing. I want my son to understand the power of prayers and thankfulness, so we’ve started saying prayers together when our family sits down to eat. This only happens a few times a week, though my goal in the new year is to do it more. The reality is, it’s very difficult to get everyone around the table at the same time, especially when a cranky, hungry toddler is involved. I’m sure any parent can attest to this. But babies are part of the family and it’s important to include them in family dining times. It’s never to early to do this. When you can make it happen, it’s good for all involved. Here’s why.

1. Prayers of Thanksgiving: We started engaging our son in mealtime prayers when he turned twelve months old. I realize he doesn’t have a clue what’s going on, but it’s all about creating value and painting the bigger picture. One year olds understand way more than they can express. You can believe that your baby is learning everything you are putting down. We want our son to recognize the importance of being thankful and the power of prayer, so we model for him. We don’t do it everyday, but every chance we get. The more we pray together, the more engaged our son gets. We don’t do a serious, long church prayer. We make it fun by saying a short, sweet rhyming prayer/blessing, usually God is Great. The key to engaging babies in prayer is holding their hands, swinging their arms, and making a big deal when finished by clapping, smiling and saying “yay, we said our prayers!” Do whatever you can to make it a positive, light experience and you will be on the road to a respectful, appreciative little being.

2. Bonding: I’m the first to admit that sitting down to eat together as a family is tough to organize, but when we do, magic happens. We talk, laugh, get frustrated (when baby throws food), problem solve, act silly, make sound effects and learn from one another. We bond and you will too! Instilling the importance of prayer and family meals together at a young age will carry over to ongoing family bonding as your little gets older. Make it a goal to sit down and eat along with your baby as much as possible. My heart melts every time we do this with our son.

3. Language: My favorite! Meal times are great times to incorporate expressive and receptive language. You can practice signing “more, milk, eat, all done, etc.” Babies will also play with their voices, making sounds or talking. It’s important to take turns vocalizing and talking back to babies. Ask babies to follow simple directions during meal times such as, “It’s time to pray, hold daddy’s hand,” “give mommy your milk,” “get your spoon” or “eat your banana.” Better yet, drink milk, use spoons and eat bananas together! Name everything on baby’s plate.

4. Demonstration: Babies learn by watching. This is how they learn to pray and encourages eating. When they see others praying and eating, they are likely to mimic these behaviors. This results in food in your baby’s belly- win, win!

5. Eating Habits: All babies know, is all they know! Getting in a routine of praying before eating helps to prepare babies for the next step, a yummy meal with their family. When babies know what’s happening next, they are more likely to be relaxed and sit down for longer than two minutes and complete their meal. Demonstrating good eating behaviors for babies helps them to develop a healthy, nutritional lifestyle. Providing healthy choices such as fresh veggies and fruits, lean meats, and whole grains gives babies the opportunity to learn how to eat healthy.

Engaging babies in prayers and dining etiquette early on builds the foundation for appreciation, respect and compliance during meal time experiences later on. When babies are engaged in prayers and mealtimes with others, they develop the cognitive skills of attention, listening, memory, problem solving and language. Yes, please! Babies learn by example, I challenge you to be the example you want a baby to be. You will be thankful you did!

Cheers to eating with babies! (Our son loves to cheers 😊)

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