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Hungry or Bored?

Lisa Hinz PhD • PhD • Jan 30, 2013

choosing healthy foods for kids

How many times has your child wandered into the kitchen and restlessly rifled through the cupboards whining, “What is there to eat?” or “I’m hungry!”  You know that lunch was just an hour ago, you might even reply angrily, “Lunch was just an hour ago, you can’t be hungry!”  If your child ate a good lunch, chances are she or he is not physically hungry, but feeling a need for sensation or stimulation.  The next time this happens, you could ask your child, “are you hungry, or are you bored?” 

Boredom is a common trigger for adults who describe themselves as “compulsive eaters” or “emotional eaters.”  These adults describe themselves as looking to food for entertainment; Food is a quick fix and a quick fill.  As children, these compulsive eaters might have been bored and looking for stimulation.  Finding a well-stocked pantry within their reach, they might have filled empty time and space with food.  You can help your child avoid eating out of boredom by having a “boredom box” in the pantry filled with a changing, engaging array of stimulating art supplies and other resources. 

  • Art is the natural language of children and creating an image with paint, crayons, or markers usually will be fulfilling.bored child  Allow younger children to pick their own subject matter so that they do not become frustrated with their perceived inability to fashion what you are asking.   School-aged children can be challenged by your ideas of what to create.
  • Small bottles of bubbles can be used inside or out to chase away the doldrums.  Take your time blowing and allow your young child to run and chase the ever-changing spheres.  If your child is old enough, teach him to patiently blow the bubbles for himself (or for a pet to chase).  You can add a drop or two of food coloring to a one-ounce bottle and allow the colored bubbles to pop on a sheet of paper to create a picture.  When the paint dries, use crayons or markers to add details to the images found in the lines.
  • When choking isn’t a hazard, a jar of colorful bouncy balls can stimulate games of indoor or outdoor soccer or basketball using plastic containers for baskets and goals.  
  • A jar of colorful marbles can be used to teach the old-fashioned game that used to entertain grandpa.  And don’t forget jacks, the game that grandma used to play!
  • Cover a large jar with opaque paper or paint and fill it with several small toys of varying sizes, shapes and materials.  Keep a list of the toys or print their names on small cards.  Blindfolded children can search for each toy using just the sense of touch.  The person who finds the most toys in a specified time wins a prize (maybe one of the toys).

It’s good to change the items in the “boredom box” every now and then.  This way they do not become so familiar that they are boring too!  By providing the materials and short instructions, your children can become active problem solvers.










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Written by Lisa Hinz PhDWritten on Jan 30, 2013Last updated on Aug 27, 2013




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