Got Hunger?

Teaching a child about Hunger and Fullness may not typically be part of your education session with a family or child. To most kids, the concept of hunger and fullness is often not taught, discussed or explored. I notice this in both my professional role as a dietitian and as a mother with my children. This lack of basic teaching may be why many kids struggle not only with overeating but poor food choices.

“Helping children understand the sensation of hunger and fullness is an important goal of mindful eating.”

Helping children understand the sensation of hunger and fullness an important goal of mindful eating. The Principles of Mindful Eating, state it is necessary for you to “Become aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.”

Mindful Eating for Kids can help you teach this concept by using a kid appropriate Hunger and Fullness scale. In this scale we use peas instead of numbers. Pictured below are nine cute peas, each with a facial expression to help kids connect a physical experience with a level of hunger or fullness.

“Check in with your hunger or fullness peas”

Check in with your hunger or fullness peas

Tips: How to Use the Graphic

Ouchie Hungry and Ouchie Full are the two extremes to teach your child to avoid. To do this have your child look at the faces of the nine peas, starting with Ouchie Hungry. See if they can relate to this level of hunger? You might tell a story about your experience to help the child learn.

Next, jump to Ouchie Full and help the child connect with this level of fullness. You can use your family stories or use a popular children’s story. For example, In The Three Bears, Goldie Locks didn’t choose Papa Bear’s porridge Why? (It was too much food!)

You can continue a Hunger to Fullness pair comparison until you are at the 3rd and 7th pea. At the third pea pause. Explore with the child what a comfortable hunger might feel like. It is the amount of hunger that tells him/her, “Let’s stop and eat”. It is not a hunger that feels painful. Depending on the age of the child you can continue the discussion or stop. End the conversation when the child has been exposed to the concept that a comfortable level of hunger is the goal. Whenever possible, repeat the concept that hunger = comfort.

This same process is repeated for fullness. The 7th pea represents a level of fullness that is too full, but not painful. Ask the child if the 6th or 5th pea looks happier to them? Keep working with your child and explore what level of fullness is comfortable to them. Again, use their words, stories and questions about hunger and fullness. Familiar stories help learning, so ask about Goldie Locks. Why did she choose Baby Bear’s porridge? (Because it was just right size of porridge for her!) Repeat that this is an amount of fullness that isn’t painful. Depending on the age of the child you can continue the discussion or stop. End the conversation when the child has been exposed to the concept that a comfortable level of fullness is the goal. Whenever possible, repeat the concept that fullness = comfort.  Keep your eye on the goal of eating: To care for your body by eating foods that nourish the body and are enjoyable to eat.

By using kid-friendly activities and examples, you are able to gracefully connect with your child on complicated topics such as overeating and mindless eating. Discover Mindful Eating for Kids gives you the right tools to give your child a healthy foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating.

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