Hungry or Bored? Teaching Children To Listen To Their Bodies

Last week’s record shattering temperatures in New York City certainly showed us how quickly extreme weather can change our winter wonderland into not-so-fun conditions (hello Polar Vortex!).  Thankfully, we had the chance to go sledding, build snowmen, and be active outside before the single-digit freeze.  We also had many days when the extent of our outdoor time was spent bracing ourselves for school drop-offs and pick-ups.  I think we’ve all been a bit nostalgic for the carefree days of summer, especially when our after-school time is spent huddled inside.

Despite my best efforts, cabin fever can create boredom.  More so than ever, I see Lucia and Adrian reaching for the refrigerator or asking for something to eat shortly after a meal.  I understand the feeling of gazing at the cupboards (when truly not hungry) all too well.  Like all parents, I want my children to have proper nourishment to support their growth and development.  But I don’t want unhealthy snacking to ruin mealtime.  Most importantly, I want them to listen to their own bodies to recognize true signs of hunger and fullness.  It’s a delicate parental balance to have the kids consume healthy foods, try new things and moderate their own hunger levels.  I truly hope that I’m setting the foundation for healthy eating habits in a non-pressured way.  I’ve recently been inspired by Tips For a Great Start With Team Kellogg’s to help my kids determine if they are truly hungry, bored, or simply feeling a craving.


  •  Boredom Cravings:   I’m striving to have Lucia and Adrian learn to identify boredom cravings and learn to redirect themselves.  If  they gaze aimlessly into the refrigerator shortly after consuming a meal, chances are, they are not truly hunger.  However, if they are fully immersed in a fun activity and they stop to ask for food – I know that it’s time for them to eat.   When boredom is expressed as a desire to eat, sometimes the kids just need a simple re-direction.  A fun art activity or change of environment typically does the trick.
  • Hunger vs. Thirst:  Sometimes three-year-old Adrian says “I’m hungry! No, I’m thirsty!” Dehydration can be confused for hunger, and it’s amazing when little ones become cognizant of that fact.  I always shake the kids water bottles when they come from school to see if they stayed adequately hydrated throughout the day and sometimes a big glass of water is what their body is really asking for.
  •  Staying Active: During the warmer months, little sun-tired bodies practically collapse in their beds at night – exhausted from the days activities.  It’s a bit more work in the winter to stay active as a family – but the kids love when we engage in physical activity together.  We love having family dance parties, and it’s amazing how much better we all feel when we’ve made sure to include more than just our daily walks to school and back.
  • Eating Because It’s There and Eating Because of Location: I completely understand the feeling of craving something because it’s in the house and I’m pretty sure that my kids do too!  I know some families that can have a pack of cookies in a visible jar forever.  Every now and then, we make treats or buy them – but I generally prefer not to have them in the house at all.  When heading out to special events I think it’s important to have a solid meal or snack ahead of time.  We definitely allow the kids to indulge every now and then, but some things are always off limits regardless of the occasion.

As a parent, it really all comes down to wanting my kids to consume three solid meals every day.  Breakfast is essential, and one of Lucia and Adrian’s favorite starts is a bowl of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes with milk and selected toppings.  It’s a breakfast they will happily eat before we rush out the door, ready to greet the day’s adventures.

Kellogg's Corn Flakes #GreatStarts Team Kellogg's

Check out more great tips at

 Kellogg's Team Kellogg's

Kellogg’s® believes that From Great Starts Come Great Things®. So we’re helping Moms start every day with a tip from the top athletes of Team Kellogg’s™ and Team USA dietitians. The thirty days leading up to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games will each feature fun pieces of advice to help families fuel just like the athletes of Team Kellogg’s. To see all 30 tips, visit


Compensation was provided by Kellogg’s via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Kellogg’s.



  1. I like the infographic, and the message behind it. My teen daughter has taken to going to the kitchen when she’s bored, and the cold weather doesn’t help that one bit. I stock up on healthy snacks, but she’s still eating them out of boredom, and not for truly being hungry.

    Also, I think I saw in my e-mail that you were getting a birthday shout out. If so, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  2. This is something that I struggle with daily. As a child I was pretty much allowed to eat whatever I wanted, whenever. There were few limits in my household. This mentality has transferred to my adult years. I am now seeing and feeling the effects of this. Needless to say, it is imperative that I change my eating habits. This has to be a conscious effort on my part and I love your suggestion of listening to our bodies. The extra tips that you have provided are fantastic as well. Thank you Monica. 🙂

    • I too need to be conscious of this as well Tami! Conscious eating is key – and I’m trying my best to teach my kids to listen to their bodies.

  3. One of my kids does not drink enough water and it is such a great point that he can be confusing thirst with hunger. I too check the water bottles when they get home and will ask him to have a big drink before I organise our afternoon snack.
    Great tips.

  4. Awesome tips for sure 🙂
    I always ate what ever I wanted, now I suffer for it

  5. I love your tips for staying active. We are stuck inside a lot here in michigan and its great to have some alternatives. Family dance party just got added to the calendar!

  6. I still struggle with knowing when I’m truly hungry, but I definitely do a lot better than I used to.

  7. I’m totally guilty of eating when I’m bored, eek, and it’s definitely worse in the winter because we’re home more often. I think my kids are too busy to eat when they’re bored lol but it will be something we talk about when they get a little older! The thirst one is a good tip, too!

  8. These are such great tips! Especially while being cooped up inside in MN!

  9. I was visiting my parents who live in Rockland County during the polar vortex and I can tell you we did a lot more eating than normal. Heck I even baked for everyone. I couldn’t help it. We were SO bored. I should print this out and paste it on my fridge and send a copy to my parents. It will probably help before we snack unnecessarily.

  10. The chart gives some good advice on discerning the two. That’s worth printing out and sharing with friends!

  11. I think the hunger vs. thirst concept is hard for kids but it’s always good to just start with water and see where things go from there! Great tips! Thanks!

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