The key to mindfulness is focusing on the present moment calmly and accepting the feelings and thoughts and bodily sensations. It is our way to taking control of ourselves even when things around us are happening without our control.
In a child’s life, there is little that they have control over. When they get up, what they wear, what they eat, what they watch, etc. controlled or semi-controlled. Then, add the actions and reactions of other children to situations and there is a perfect storm. Our job is to help them realise there are things they can control and giving them strategies be aware and mindful of their minds and bodies; learning how to live in a chaotic world.
Mindful eating is one way that allows a child to become aware of the positive and nurturing foods we eat by using our senses. By using all of our senses in choosing to eat food that supports our bodies growth and development, we are acknowledging the foods we like or dislike without making a fuss about the taste. Additionally, they become aware of signals the body gives us to lets us know we are hungry or we are full. So, in addition to the mindfulness with the eating of foods, we also start to see food in a different way; as nourishment.
As an adult, you may choose to eat an entire meal in a mindful way. However, for children, the process could be very tedious, particularly in the beginning.
Mindful Eating Exercise:
(The parent needs o verbally guide the children through the exercise.)
You can use a raisin, a slice of apple or orange, pomegranate seed, dried fruit, a piece of chocolate or any food you wish.
1- Have the children LOOK at the food they will be eating. Silently, they are to observe what it looks like? What do you notice?
What colour is it?
Is it small or large?
2- Have the child smell the food.
Does it have a smell?
What does it smell like?
3- Have the child direct their attention to how it feels.
Can You squeeze it?
Is it firm or soft?
Is it smooth, sticky or rough?
Warm or cold?
Does it make any sounds?
4- Have the child, very slowly, put the piece of food in their mouth but not chew it! Leave it on the tongue.
How does it feel on the tongue?
Can you taste anything?
Does it smell differently in your mouth?
5- Have the child begin to chew slowly; one mindful chew at a time.
Does the taste change?
How does it feel in the mouth?
6- Try to get them notice when they swallow, and see how far you can feel the food into your body.
7- Finally, discuss what they felt during the activity or turn on some meditation music and allow them to write about their experience.
Try this with a number of different foods either in one sitting or over a period of time.
In addition, encourage them to mindfully eat their first bite of lunch each day. It is lovely to see children mindfully eating their food.