Mindfulness activities for kids. Wondering how to help your child be more present with their food and in-tune with their needs? Try these mindful eating practices to help kids.
You’ve probably heard of mindful eating as an adult, but how can you apply it to your child’s relationship with food? Spoiler alert: it does NOT involve restriction, labeling foods as healthy or unhealthy, or tracking any numeric component of their diets.
Instead, it’s truly a practice of getting back to the basics, which can take some work. Here are some ways to help increase mindfulness at mealtimes with your kids.
Why Mindfulness Matters at Meals
We all live in a work full of busy schedules, noise, and what can often feel like non-stop obligations. Kids feel this, too. While they may not have a job to go to or a household to manage, they do have school, homework, social experiences, and a lot of personal development that’s happening. And when the family is running around, typically, so are they.
Mindfulness is an intentional practice of increasing one’s presence in the moment. You can incorporate mindfulness activities for kids into any aspect of your life, but we encourage it around mealtimes especially.
Why? One of the most important things you’re teaching your kids right now is how to nourish their bodies and minds as they grow up. Learning how to listen to their bodies, honor their own hunger-fullness cues, and discover their individual likes and dislikes requires being present with their food.
Mindfulness for Toddlers and Preschoolers
We’re very familiar with the attention span of toddlers and preschoolers, so this can be short and sweet.
Young kids are much more intuitive with their eating habits than adults. Infants make it known when they’re hungry and they stop eating when they’re full. So, toddlers are still naturally inclined to practice mindfulness with meals and snacks.
The biggest factor that starts to derail this natural mindfulness in young kids is adult influence. Don’t feel guilty – we all do it. But keeping in mind that our children need their innate mindfulness to be nurtured despite external influences, it’s important for us to separate our own relationship with food from those of our children.
In other words, do things to help your child honor their own cues, rather than following your lead for yours.
A great way to encourage mindfulness for toddlers is to use their five senses. Little kids learn so much about the world using sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch, all of which can be incorporated into their mindful eating habits.
For example, ask them some of these questions to help them focus on one sense at a time:
- Close your eyes and notice how your tummy feels. Is it full, a little hungry, or is it growling?
- Do you see any foods on your plate that make you really excited to eat?
- Smell the banana on your plate. What does it smell like?
- Pick up your broccoli and examine it (you can give them a magnifying glass for this). What do you see?
- Do you think that rice would taste differently when you chew it while plugging your ears?
Incorporating food play can also be helpful for enhancing presence at meals. See our post on 15 Food Play Ideas to help make mindfulness and mealtime more fun for kids.
Mindfulness Activities for Elementary-Age and Tweens
As your child gets a little bit older, they not only have a parental and social influence on their eating habits but also technology influence.
This makes it important to help them bring the focus back to the table and nurture their hunger-fullness awareness.
Mindfulness activities for kids may look different at this age. This age group may respond well to more interactive questions versus sensory ones. For instance, asking them what the best thing they ate that day was, or what they’ve been craving lately so you can use it to plan the week’s meals.
You can also start helping them practice the art of slowing down at mealtimes to encourage mindfulness. For example, putting their fork down between bites, taking smaller bites versus shoveling for fast eaters, and encouraging them to take a drink several times throughout the meal rather than just when they’re done.
You might also implement a rule that everyone stays seated at the dinner table until everyone eating is done. This allows an intentional opportunity to be present with their body and decide whether they’re full or need seconds.
The Mindful Eating Orange Activity
If you’re interested in a mindful eating activity to bring focus to your food, here’s one that the whole family can do together. All you need is an orange, either a regular one or a clementine, for everyone participating.
Follow these steps:
- Hold the orange in your hands for a moment and just examine it. What does it look like? Is it heavy? Notice the craters and shine on the outer peel.
- Begin to peel the orange by making a small hole. Notice how the aroma starts to rise.
- Continue peeling the orange and notice how it feels in your hands. Are you starting to notice juice on your skin?
- Once the peel has been removed, close your eyes and intentionally take a big whiff of the orange. Does it feel relaxing to you? Are you starting to salivate thinking about eating it?
- Slowly separate all of the orange segments, taking note of the colors and textures.
- Take one segment to your mouth and taste it. Place it onto your tongue and refrain from chewing for a moment. What do you notice about how your mouth responds? What does it taste like?
- As you begin chewing the orange, notice how your body feels. Does your mind feel excited to eat another piece?
- As you swallow that piece, pay attention to how it slides down your throat and into your belly.
- Continue with the remaining orange segments for as long as you would like the practice to continue.
Note that if you don’t have (or don’t like!) oranges, this can be done with pretty much any food. We suggest choosing one that has plenty of sensory characteristics to offer for your sight, smell, taste, and touch especially.
Mindfulness activities for kids should be engaging but short. Try to do them consistently and as a family as much as possible! This helps create not only more presence for your child but a bonding moment for everyone at the table.
Chime In: Do you practice any similar activities at home? Share them below!
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