The practice of mindfulness is not only beneficial for adults seeking to slow down and be more present as they live. Teaching kids to live mindfully allows them to adopt healthier eating practices and makes them more equipped to recognize hunger and fullness when they experience it.
When children are not taught to mind what and how they eat, it becomes harder to build discipline as they grow up. It could also lead to incidents that require urgent care for children.
The awareness and self-control that comes with mindful living—and eating—does not come automatically. It takes some practice and reinforcement, especially for kids.
Ways to Teach Your Child to Eat Mindfully
Mindful eating can feel like an intimidating concept to relay to your child, but it is much simpler than it seems. These are activities that make the practice more digestible for your young ones.
1. Use the five senses.
Teach your kids that they should not just eat to finish a meal and move on to the next activity. Help them be aware of their meals by having them pay attention to each of their five senses while eating.
Ask them questions that guide what they should notice. For example:
Sight: Have you seen this kind of dish before? What colors and shapes can you find? What does it remind you of?
Hearing: Does it make a unique sound? Do you hear anything when you mix or slice it?
Smell: Can you describe the smell? Does it smell like another food you know?
Touch: What is the texture of the food? Is it soft or hard?
Taste: What is the first taste that you notice? Are there other flavors that come out when you start chewing? Can you name the different flavors that you can distinguish?
2. Have them try different foods.
Give your children more opportunities to use their senses by introducing a variety of food items and dishes to them. Practicing mindful eating is a great way to let them become more appreciative of different flavors and accustom their tastes to more cuisines while they are still young.
Following fruits and vegetables that are in season makes meal planning easier. Visit your local markets and buy the season’s best produce to get the most affordable prices for various items while being able to come up with different ways to serve them. Locally sourced ingredients are also usually friendlier to the environment and help support small businesses in your community.
3. Turn off the TV.
Distractions are the biggest enemies of mindfulness. Let them maintain their focus on the food in front of them by removing things that could take their attention away from it.
One of the habits people in this day and age enjoy during meals is to watch something enjoyable at the dinner table. Unfortunately, this practice could make your kids eat their food too quickly. Limiting screen time helps them be fully present as they have their meals, while also helping them maintain a good attention span and get better sleep.
4. Let them make their own meal decisions.
Mindful eating should ultimately be the decision of your kids, and not something that they were just told to do. Reinforce this practice by giving them room to make choices for what they eat and how they eat.
First, give allowances for them to choose the meals they will eat for the day. This helps them assess how healthy their preferences are and how much food they can manage to consume.
When they decide when they should eat, it lets them listen to their bodies and acknowledge when they are hungry. Mindfulness also makes it easier to tell when they are full, which helps to avoid overeating.
5. Cook and make food with them.
Mindful eaters do not only develop better eating habits. They also cultivate a greater appreciation for the food they eat. Help your kids understand the work that goes into the food they eat by having them help out in the kitchen now and then.
When you let them watch you cook or assist you, they get to witness the process of a meal coming together from the raw materials to the finished product. Older kids can even begin learning to make simple dishes that they can have for their meals or snacks.
Ultimately, mindful eating is just one aspect in living a more mindful lifestyle. By getting them started on mindful eating, children learn not to rush through their days. They learn to be fully present in every moment and not become overwhelmed by their surroundings.