- A food that can be enjoyed by everyone in the classroom
- A way to serve that food item to each student (e.g., plates, napkins, etc.)
- Take the food item and place it in front of every student.
- Ask students to keep their hands in their laps until you begin the practice.
Begin by placing your left hand on your stomach and your right hand on your heart.
Let’s take two deep breaths together.
As you breathe in, notice how your hands rise as the air fills your lungs.
As you breathe out, notice how your hands fall as the air leaves your body.
Wonderful. Take another breath in, this time noticing where in your body you feel discomfort.
As you breathe out, imagine that you are breathing all of that discomfort out of your body.
Great job. Let’s take a moment to think about all five of our senses. We have the ability to see, smell, hear, touch, and taste.
Today we’re going to practice eating using all five of our senses to experience the food.
Remember not to eat the [food item] until I tell you to.
First, take a moment to examine the [food item] with your eyes. Look at it up close. Now, look at from another angle. Try looking at just a part of the [food item]. Then look at the whole thing. Does your experience with the [food item] shift as you examine it from different perspectives?
Now explore the [food item] with your nose. Bring it toward your nose and take a small sniff. Now breathe it in deeply. Move it farther from your nose and then bring it back closer. Notice whether the smell changes at all when you do so. Notice whether you find the smell pleasant or unpleasant.
Now take a moment to listen to the [food item]. Does it make any noises? Place your ear up close. Do you hear anything?
Now lightly touch the [food item]. Push on it. Gently squeeze it. Does it change its form when you do so?
Slowly bring the [food item] to your lips. Before putting it in your mouth, notice what happens inside your mouth. What does your mouth want to do?
Now begin to taste the [food item] very slowly. First simply lick the [food item]. Then, place a small amount in your mouth and let it slowly dissolve. Does the taste change as you hold it in your mouth? Pause for a moment before you take the next bite. Then practice chewing slowly and deliberately. Notice how your tongue feels. Notice the [food item] going down your throat toward your stomach. Feel the sensations that arise throughout your body as you eat the [food item].
Now take a deep breath in, and then let it out. Notice how you feel after that experience.
You do not need to read the included script verbatim. Adapt the language so that it is appropriate for your students in particular.
Some of your students may be hesitant to try a new food and say that they dislike the food. If this situation arises, consider using some of the suggestions below to help you respond to the student(s).
Reassure the student that you are not going to force them to eat the food. Then invite them to participate in the experiment using their other four senses (omitting “taste”).
Ask the student whether they have ever changed their mind about food. Is there something that they like to eat now that they did not like before?
Let the student know that they can always change their mind and choose to give this food another chance, even if they choose not to do so today.
For younger students, invite them to imagine that they are aliens who just landed on the planet. Invite them to pretend that they are observing the food for the very first time.
If time allows, bookend this experience with group discussions. Before introducing the exercise, discuss the similarities and differences between eating and mindful eating. This will offer them a foundation from which to engage the exercise. Once students have completed the practice, invite them to reflect on their experiences.
Younger students may enjoy a simplified version of this exercise. Consider using the script below.
Today we are going practice mindful eating. We’re going to use all of our senses to experience the [food item].
I’m going to put a(n) [food item] in front of you. It is important to keep it there until I tell you to do something with it.
We have five senses. Can anyone remember what they are? That’s right, they are: sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste. We are going to experience the [food item] using all five.
First, let’s start with sight. I want everyone to look at the [food item]. Look at it from above, and below. Spin it around and see if there is anything different about it from a different side. What does it look like? What word would you use to describe it?
Now we are going to smell the [food item]. Carefully put it up to your nose. Take a big breath in through your nose. Is there a strong smell? Move it away from you face. Can you still smell it when it’s far away?
Let’s move onto touch. Rub the [food item]. What does it feel like? Is is rough on the outside? Are there oils on it? How does it feel against your palm?
Now I want you to put the [food item] up to your ear. Listen to the [food item]. Do you hear anything? Be very quiet so that everyone else can hear the noises.
And now put the [food item] in your mouth, but don’t chew it! Let it sit on your tongue. How does the [food item] feel on your taste buds? Is it cool or warm? Slowly begin chewing. Think about how you feel in this moment. Do you feel the [food item] moving to your belly?
We are eating mindfully! Let’s continue doing this until the [food item] is gone.
When you are finished, take a deep breath in, and then let it out. Notice how you feel after that exercise.
Authors: Megan Downey and Anna Basile
Adapted from: Compassionate Schools Project