Free Mindful Eating Exercise
According to the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) for Australia, communication is crucial to belonging, being and becoming. Therefore, it is important to develop ways for children to develop their communication skills.
Practicing mindful eating with a parent or caregiver can be a wonderful way of developing these skills, while also developing the ability to stay present when eating in order to truly enjoy the experience. Developing this skill may also safeguard against over eating due to eating meals too quickly or gobbling down yummy food too quickly.
Please take the time to enjoy this experience with your children.
The mindful tasting exercise: This exercise combines seeing, touching, feeling, smelling and tasting and communicating.
Have the children wash their hands between they begin.
Sit the children at a table and give each child a sultana (or a grape, or slice of fruit). Before they receive the food let them know they are going to use food to practice their mindfulness. Then as you hand out the fruit tell them not to eat it just yet and to follow along with you as you demonstrate the exercise. Also, let them know you will be asking them questions along so they can communicate their thoughts and feelings with others.
Step 1. Hold the sultana between two fingers and look at the sultana. Think about whether you can you see grooves, dents and lines on it. Notice it’s colour – whether it’s all one shade of brown or whether it has light brown and dark brown through it. Notice if parts of the sultana are shiny. Hold it up to the light and see if you can notice whether the light is coming through it. Now please put your hand up if you would like to tell me what the sultana looks like to you.
Step 2. Now focus on slowly and gently rolling the sultana between your fingers, being careful not to squash it. Notice whether it feels hard or soft. (Hands up) How it feel?
Step 3. Smell the sultana. (Hands up) Can you smell it? Can you describe its smell?
Step 4. Put the sultana in your mouth (but don’t chew it). Using your tongue, rolls the sultana around the roof of your mouth, being careful not to squash it. Think about how it feels in your mouth and we will talk about that later. Think about whether you can taste it without chewing it. If you need to swallow then try to swallow without chewing or swallowing the sultana.
Step 5. Now close your eyes and very slowly using your tongue, put more pressure the sultana so that it releases its flavour. Think about that flavour and how it makes you feel. Now, using only your front teeth gently chew the sultana for as long as you can without swallowing it and stay focused on the taste of the sultana and how it feels in your mouth as you gently chew it. When you have completely swallowed the sultana, sit quietly with your hands together and focus on breathing in and out slowly while we waiting until everyone is finished.
Step 6. After all the children have swallowed the sultana have a group discussion so they can further communicate what they experienced: How did it feel when it was in their mouth? Was is tempting to start chewing? How did it taste? Was it hard to keep rolling the sultana around in their mouth with their tongue? Did they enjoy the experience? Did they slowly chew it or was it too hard because they just wanted to swallow it?
Don’t forget to mention all the times you saw your children communicate through the non-verbal gestures that you noticed from their facial expressions and/or their body movements.
After this exercise have a short discussion about mindful eating. That it, let the children know that when they eat slowly, or take their time to eat they get to experience the present moment in a more meaningful and enjoyable way. Let them know that mindful eating also prevents us from mindlessly over eating, or gobbling down delicious food without enjoying it as much as we could have if we ate it mindfully.
Tip for parents: If you are wanting your child to consume less sweets than they are currently consuming, next time you watch a movie and the kids want you to spoil them with treats, grab a pack of chocolate Malteser’s to share and tell them they need to eat each one mindfully.
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Author: Elizabeth Mulhane
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Elizabeth Mulhane B.PsySc(Hons)