Lately my 2 1/2 year old daughter has been saying she’s hungry. A LOT. It’s difficult to know when she is truly hungry and when she is just wanting to eat. Boredom seems to be the going trigger these days.
It’s made me think about how to explain what it means to be hungry and full. I’ve just figured it out and I’m 30. Here’s a helpful exercise to help kids of any age (including the grown-up ones) understand a difficult to describe sensation in a more concrete way.
How Full Is My Tummy?
The human stomach is approximately the size of a fist (of the body it belongs to). How’s that for a portion size guide? Purchase one small-ish and one larger-ish container. I got $2 jars at the Container Store.The exact size is not important, this is just a basic visual exercise that helps to understand the concept of the stomach. Grab a stash of Cheerios (you can use anything, but stick with something that wouldn’t be considered a choking hazard if doing this with young children).
Bring your empty jars (larger for you, smaller for your child) and your Cheerio stash to the table when you sit down for a meal or snack. Your stomach is now as empty as the jars. As you eat, take a few breaks to add Cheerios to the jar, illustrating how your stomach is filling at the same time. The amount of Cheerios is of course an estimate, but by the time the jar is filled, your stomach should feel full, too. Any more volume would be too much.
You can do this as often as you’d like, or sporadically for an occasional “check-in” with hunger. Visualizing your jar throughout the day will help you recognize when you are physically hungry and when you might have the urge to eat for some other non-physiologic need.