Engaging a child in some sensory stimulation prior to a new task enables them to prepare their body for it. – Simone
Imagine this?! You are about to take on a grueling 10km obstacle race filled with unidentified hazards, lots of people making noise around you and it’s raining really heavily. How does that make you feel? What if I gave you no notice and you just heard me say “Go – Run Now”? (BTW: I’m trying to have you put yourself in a sensory challenging situation). For some, you may be thinking “Oh yeah! Bring it on!” and this is probably because you’ve experienced it before, you know you can attempt it well and you’ve had a previous positive experience. For others, you may hit the fight or flight button in your head. Which one is your first response – flight or fight? If you do feel uncomfortable with this scenario (like many of us would) consider this – What if you were prepared, engaged and helped to get ready for the event? What about trying some stretching, chatting about it with your coach and given some strategies for how to safely navigate the 10km run (and even some strategies on how to give it a try but safely opt-out)? This does sound a whole lot better, right?! As always, getting ready for any challenging task is important.
And this “getting ready” is particularly important at mealtimes. Before sitting down to a meal, we like to be prepared for the job at hand. Sometimes (and due to a range of reasons) fussy eaters (or children in general) need a bit more help preparing for meals. Having a routine before mealtimes helps your child empty their sensory cup. The things that make their day crowded and full of sensory inputs build up over the day and fill this cup more and more and more. I like to use the sensory cup analogy because you can only fill a cup so much, right?! If a cup is full, it’s hard to add more into it. If you are feeling overloaded, you will struggle to take on a new task. Eating is one of the most sensory engaging tasks we have to do, especially if we are being offered something new or something we perceive as difficult. So, before we eat, it’s a great idea to make some room in our sensory cups. Making room can be done with a range of sensory inputs from auditory (music/singing), physical (clapping), vestibular (swinging), smells (cooking) and (what research and my experience in SOS feeding therapy deems to be most effective) proprioceptive system stimulation.
Our body is best at processing new sensory information when we have engaged our proprioceptive sensory system beforehand. Proprioceptive inputs are sensations from joints, muscles and connective tissues that underlie body awareness. This means that we are getting information and feedback about what our body is doing in space. Proprioceptive input can be obtained by lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy objects, including one’s own weight. This is why kids yoga is the perfect and a simple addition to your prepare-to-eat routine. Not only have you helped move your child on from the task they were doing, you have engaged their proprioceptive system, emptied their sensory cup a little and you have engaged them with you and the process at hand. This doesn’t even cover how great it is for you! You benefit so much by adding a mini burst of yoga into your day when you probably need to clear your mind too, restore your own balance and your own connection with your family before meal time.
I am so excited that Andy and Kate from Yoga Mamas (facebook page / website) have designed some amazing pre-mealtime kids yoga cards. They are inspired by the shapes of different fruits and vegetables. They will start some great conversations about healthy foods.
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We hope you appreciate these cards and feel free to use them and tag us in your social media pictures – I am @playwithfood_au on Instagram, Andy is @yoga_bebe and Kate is @aussieyogamama. I have loved connecting with these two amazing mums this month from Yoga Mamas. I love their 2016 focus on #balance and being reassured that you can still find time in your busy days for #MiniBurstsOfYoga. You can subscribe to their email list via their website and get a wonderful video yoga routine each Monday to your inbox (for free!). I think that keeping the notions of balance, mindfulness and happiness at the forefront of your mind helps you work on strategies to keep your mealtimes on track. If your mealtime does go a bit pear-shaped, try these tips to reset. This is the link to the yoga mamas 2016 balance campaign.
What do you do to coach your kids and get them ready for mealtimes? If you want more information happy mealtimes with your family, please consider doing this holistic Happy Mealtimes eCourse or chat to Simone about how she can help you out more either via Skype or in a private class setting. I have also written about the sensory systems and preparing young minds and bodies for mealtimes in this post – park play helps fussy eating.