When I set out to share mindfulness with my kids last year, I started with the raisin exercise. On the way home from school, I told them we’d be having a snack and my son asked what we would be eating, was it something new? I told him it was raisins and he groaned. “Those are disgusting.”

I told him we were going to be eating them in a whole new way, a way that might make them taste entirely different than before, and somehow that was enough to get him on board.

The exercise of eating a raisin mindfully is a staple of most adult mindfulness education programs. This exercise underlines the point that mindfulness be done anywhere just by tuning into your senses. And the raisin exercise can be really interesting to kids, especially when you adapt it just for them.

Tailoring This Exercise Just for Kids

I brought out the raisins and we sat down at the table for our snack. My kids are young, so I told them to pretend they were space aliens, and their rocketship just crash-landed on Earth. (Cue kids making “alien noises” that sounded a whole lot like dinosaurs roaring.) “I’m going to give you something. Since you’re from another planet, you’ve never seen one of these things before. You should probably use all of your senses to examine this thing and make sure it’s okay to eat. Start with your eyes – what do your alien eyes see?”

Sample Script

Mindful Schools has a sample script they use when teaching schoolchildren:

  • Start by looking at what you are planning to eat. What do you notice visually?
  • Now, smell the food carefully. What do you notice?
  • If applicable, do you notice any sounds? If you’re eating something like a raisin, try holding it close to your ear as you squeeze it gently. Or if you’re unwrapping a chocolate, listen to the crinkles of the wrapper as you unfold it.
  • What do you feel with your fingers? Is the food warm or cold? Is it smooth, rough, or sticky?
  • Now, put the piece of food on your tongue, but don’t chew on it yet. Just leave it on your tongue and notice how it feels in your mouth. Do you taste anything yet? What activity do you notice in your mouth?
  • Start chewing it, very slowly, just one bite at a time. Notice how the tastes change as you chew.
  • Try to notice when you swallow, and see how far you can feel the food into your body.

My daughter, 2 at the time, ate her raisin just as she was bringing it to her nose to smell it. We all had a good laugh and I handed her another raisin. We made it all the way through the script in just a few mindful minutes, and only 3 of the raisins were eaten before their time. The kids enjoyed it so much, I offered for them to do it again, but with Craisins. When we finished the exercise the second time, we ate more raisins and craisins, and compared our experiences of the two dried fruits.

No Ordinary Apple: A Story About Eating Mindfully introduces kids to mindful eating. When Elliott wants candy and is offered an apple, he isn’t excited about an ordinary apple. But when his neighbor Carmen guides him through eating his snack with all of his senses, he notices it’s not ordinary at all.

Alternatives to Raisins

If raisins aren’t a big hit in your home or if there are allergies in your family, you can substitute any small morsel of food. For beginners, I recommend something fun or sweet that your kids already like, although — when there is strong resistance to a certain food and your kids have already been exposed to basic mindfulness concepts — there’s value in coming into the present moment, becoming aware of the thoughts they have about the food and discussing how hard it is not to drag past experiences into the present moment.

If you’ve done this exercise with your kids before, try going through the script twice with two foods that have completely different tastes (salty and sweet), two foods that have really similar tastes (such as tangerines and clementines), or the same food prepared a different way (for example, grapes cut in half and whole grapes).

Here’s a list of 25 foods you could use instead of a raisin, and hopefully this list will inspire you to think of other foods you and your kids could try as well:

Clementines (unpeeled, or not)
Apples or apple slices
Mini-bananas (unpeeled)
Blueberries
Grapes
Raisins
Craisins
Dried cherries
Gummy bears
Chocolate (chocolate chips and Hershey’s Kisses are a favorite for this exercise)
Chocolate-covered or yogurt-covered treats
M&Ms
Red Hots
Skittles
Baby carrots
Celery sticks
Kettle corn
Popcorn
Pretzels
Sunflower seeds
Cheerios
Nuts
Olives
Pickles
Wasabi peas

Discussion Topics and Questions

After you’re done with the exercise, and possibly enjoying more of the food you just mindfully ate, there are a few discussion topics you can bring up with your kids:

  • What are other times that you could be mindful of eating?
  • Could you be mindful for an entire meal? With practice?
  • If you did the exercise twice in a row with the same food, talk about the differences between the first and second time.
  • If you did the exercise twice in a row with different foods, talk about the differences between the foods.
  • What thoughts did these foods bring to mind?
  • Discuss the senses, and how mindfulness requires the use of your senses.
  • Brainstorm more descriptive words (bitter, salty, sweet, crunchy, squishy, etc).
  • Do you know why we slowed down to eat the raisin? Share what mindfulness is, and what practicing it can do for us.

Now it’s time to share your experiences with us! Have you tried the raisin exercise with your kids? Did you use raisins or something else? How did it go? Let us know in a comment below.

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