Food is a phenomenal way to integrate mindfulness into a child’s daily life.
Every child eats, and many children eat without really thinking about or understanding where their food comes from.
If you’ve read my blog, you probably know that I do mindfulness workshops for parents.
Most of the parents who participate already know mindfulness to some degree.
What they really want out of the workshops are simple and short activities they can easily integrate into their busy lives.
I know exactly how they feel. In fact, I have felt the same way. I have struggled with the same challenges.
When I first started mindfulness practice with my son, I wasn’t sure how to make it work at home.
So, I do my best to share simple activities we’ve been able to integrate to our routine at home with my own son.
Listening to raisins
Two weeks ago we had a fun workshop with a group of parents where we listened to raisins together.
Yes, you read it correctly… We listened to raisins.
Imagine eight grown-ups sitting around a conference table listening to raisins :-)
Yes, it’s pretty funny. And I get paid to do that!
We were doing a popular mindfulness meditation where we used all our senses to experience food.
After picking a raisin, we took a few slow breaths and focused with each of the five senses:
What color is the raisin? Is it translucent? Does it have ridges?
Does it feel bumpy? How about those ridges?
Does the smell remind you of anything? How is it different from other foods? Does it smell sweet?
Can you hear sounds when you bring the raisin close to your ear and squish it gently?
Can you taste flavors while holding the raisin on your tongue? How about when you bite into it?
Are there any flavors left lingering in your mouth after you swallow?
Paying attention to senses like this helps us to…
Feel a bit calmer
Train our brains to stay present
I’m sure you can appreciate these effects if you have kids.
But how did the raisin meditation work out for the parents?
All the parents were able to get fully immersed.
And yes, all of them could hear sounds when they squished a raisin.
I know you want to try it out—and I encourage you to listen to a raisin today!
The parents learned that…
…they can still their minds by simply focusing on their senses.
…it can be this easy to take a break from all the busyness and worries occupying our minds.
…all it takes to gain calm and clarity is to pay attention to their senses.
Then I shared a big secret that blew their minds …
Are you ready?
Here it is:
You can in fact do the raisin meditation with a piece of chocolate too :-)
Yes, you can actually meditate and eat chocolate.
The eight parents attending the workshop learned firsthand to meditate with food… and they liked it a lot.
And I brought chocolate with me to the next workshop.
Anyway, the raisin (or chocolate) meditation is a lot of fun and a great way to introduce mindfulness to both kids and grown-ups.
It’s an eye-opener for many. It shows how we can focus and calm down with the help of our senses by doing something simple and ordinary.
Okay, so here are 5 simple food-related mindfulness activities that I love … so that you can integrate more mindfulness into your busy routine at home.
Mindfulness activities for kids, teenagers and grown-ups alike
1. THE MINDFUL SNACK BREAK
My three-year-old son Anton loves to do these little picnics. We pack different nuts and dried berries, like goji, raisins, and mulberries in a small plastic bag and go out and play.
We take a break sitting on the porch and practice eating mindfully. It’s super relaxed and fun…
We pick one thing from the bag, observe it, smell it and taste it slowly.
Sometimes we close our eyes and try to discriminate the textures as well as the tastes.
Sometimes we see if it tastes different from how it smells.
We discuss the difference between the berries and nuts.
Sometimes we mix them and to see what kind tastes we can notice and what happens when we combine salty and savory.
Sometimes we sit like this for a minute or two, sometimes we just devour the berries like panthers—yes, we growl like panthers occasionally.
A mindful mini-picnic is a fun way to connect, and it has become a habit for us. It’s like a mini version of the raisin meditation that feels completely natural and fun to do.
2. THE MINDFUL DRINK
This is a favorite of mine! I do this myself with a cup of tea almost every day.
What you do is you fire up your senses:
You smell the tea / coffee / hot chocolate brewing,
you feel the warm cup,
smell the hot beverage,
pay attention to the color of the drink, the tea leaves and the steam rising from it,
and then you finally taste it,
and notice the feelings of warmth as you swallow the beverage.
It’s simple, it’s easy, and you can make a habit of it at home and at work to add a few mindful minutes to your day.
You can do it with kids too with almost any beverage to slow life down a little bit.
3. GRATITUDE FOR FOOD
We can be thankful for the wonderful taste sensations and for having food in the first place. You can remind your kid that the food she is eating involves many people and hard work. Remind her of the farmer, the people working at the grocery store and the people who work to prepare your food.
4. COOKS IN THE KITCHEN
What you need: a recipe (or part of a recipe) that your child can safely help cook
Cooking with children can be a simple, fun and engaging way to introduce them to mindfulness and help them begin to use their senses (particularly smell and taste) to experience the world around them.
Baking may be the easiest form of cooking to do with a child because it generally involves preparation away from a hot stove or sharp knives, etc., but any recipe will do. If it is age appropriate, have your child help pour, measure and mix, and explain to him the effect of each of his actions.
All children – from the smallest toddler to the biggest teen – can “help” by experiencing the taste and smell of specific ingredients during the cooking process.
It’s a great idea to have your child smell and taste ingredients before they are combined in a recipe; he will then better understand how the items come together to make a delicious, united whole.
This simple act that we devote time to every day can become a soothing routine as your child grows and becomes an adult.
Food, its preparation and consumption, is a sensory experience. Help your child see this by encouraging them to feel, smell and taste the ingredients.
Let them see the transformation of the beginning ingredients into the final dish.
Remind him that with attention, focus and care, we can turn these otherwise ordinary ingredients into food that nourishes our bodies and is enjoyable, just as we can turn life situations into nourishing and enjoyable experiences.
5. TASTING GAME
What you need: 5 different foods that fit inside a child’s palm (apple slices, raisins or other dried fruit, oranges, lemon, cookies, popcorn, grapes in halves for small children, etc.)
This is similar to the raisin meditation, but the difference is that you can easily make this into a game for a group of kids.
Tell your child this is a tasting game and that the idea is to use her senses to focus on the food and guess what it is. Ask her to try to be silent during the activity and share her experiences only after she’s eaten the food.
Ask your child to close her eyes and carefully place a small piece of food in her hand. Ask her to notice how the food feels in her hand—to simply think about it.
Is it soft, hard, squishy, wet, dry, smooth or bumpy? Is it cold or warm?
Ask her to lift the food up to her nose and smell it. Does it smell like anything?
Next, ask her to put the food in her mouth…but not to take a bite just yet.
How does the food feel? Can she feel a texture? Does the texture feel different when it’s in her mouth compared to when she held it in her hand?
Ask her to bite into it. Is it soft or hard? Is it crunchy? Wet or dry?
What does it taste like? Is there more than one flavor? Sweet? Sour? Salty? Spicy?
Ask her if she’s ready to swallow. Is she able to feel her throat getting ready to swallow?
After she has swallowed, ask if she could feel the food sliding down her throat. And if there are any flavors left lingering in her mouth.
When ready, ask her what the food was. Ask her how it felt to focus like this and if she’d like to continue with another piece of food.
I hope that you enjoyed these ideas. May you be happy and healthy :-)
If you are new to mindfulness with children we recommend that you read our guide: How To Practice Mindfulness With Children – The Essential Guide
Chris Bergstrom is the co-founder of BlissfulKids.com and a dad who is thrilled to practice mindfulness with his son. He is a certified mindfulness facilitator, and trained to teach mindfulness to students in K-12. He’s also an executive consultant, and has taught meditation for more than 10 years.