This week I had a request to chat about how to incorporate Ayurveda with your kids. I will start with the early years and build up to teenage years and tips to help you notice your child's dosha.
First 6 months
The early years when they are just born there really isn't much for them to do via Ayurveda besides enjoy breastmilk or formula, sleep & poop. Now one thing to notice is be aware if they are gassy, or fussy after feeding them and start making connections back to what you are eating. What you eat will affect how they feel and if there little digestive system can handle spicy or hot foods, or even dairy at a younger age. That is the first thing you can do when they are really little besides take care of yourself which I did a postnatal episode 102 on the podcast to learn more about how you can set yourself up for success during those early postpartum period. One last thing you can do at this stage is give them daily massages. It helps their lymph system flow better and they crave human touch so giving them a few extra cuddles is always appreciated usually by the baby and by the momma or daddy as well.
Starting Solid Foods
In Ayurveda there are 6 tastes- sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent, pungent the goal is to try and introduce these tastes when they starting eating solid foods. How you start feeding your child whether it's mashed up baby food, or baby led weaning is up to you but trying to expose them to as many tastes as you can. Also not giving up if they don't like it the first few times. It will take a little bit of time for them to get used to all of those tastes.
Toddlers through Elementary age
Here are examples of food items for each of those tastes listed above as they are entering this stage you can start making sure you have some of these items on hand to keep encouraging your child to enjoy many different tastes. (I also know this doesn't always work as my 3 year old is still in a picky stage and he was exposed to many food items which he used to love as a baby)
Sweet- Grains, root vegetables, nuts, meats, fruit - Best seasons to enjoy these foods- summer, fall & early winter
Sour- Yogurt, sour fruits, fermented foods, citrus, pickled foods- Best seasons to enjoy- Fall & early winter
Salty- Seaweed, pickles, celery- Best seasons to enjoy- Fall & early winter
Pungent- Onion, garlic, radish, cabbage, most spices, peppers & horseradish- Best seasons to enjoy- winter & spring
Bitter- Leafy greens, bitter vegetables- Best seasons to enjoy- Spring & summer
Astringent- Beans, dried corn, millet, rye, nuts- Best seasons to enjoy- spring & summer
Next up around this stage you will really start to notice which dosha your child might be. For me I could tell my son was pitta pretty much since he was born. He came out competitive, firing, and knowing what he wants. While the vata temperament might be one of a more airy, spacey, creative, enthusiastic and love to do art projects. While the kapha energy might look like nurturing, unconditional love, softer energy. Once you notice those trends you can start setting up your child's schedule like you would for that dosha.
Vata- Make sure they have their schedule, art/craft time built into the day, meditation or yoga will help calm the anxious and excited energy that often comes with the vata dosha.
Pitta- Making sure you teach your child calming techniques as they can be more prone to anger outbursts, taking deep breaths can be a form of meditation for the pitta child, and getting outside to burn off some of their ample amount of competitive fiery athletic energy.
Kapha- Making sure you have movement time in their day as this child might not be a huge fan of spending hours at the park, having a routine of reading and cuddling to help nurture their need for showing affection to their loved ones, and limiting the sweet and salty flavors as the kapha dosha tends to become out of balance with those sugary foods (as do most kids with extra sugar).
All three doshas benefit from outside time and teaching them to have open ended play using their imagination to create games and let them explore the elements. Teaching them about mama earth and letting them learn plant and tree names if that is something that you can help with or even taking a class at a local nature center with them to help teach them the love for being outside early on.
Another idea to incorporate into the younger kiddos routines is knowing they are in the kapha stage of life through around the age of 18 they are more prone to mucus filled colds, coughs and the flu. So making fire cider, elderberry syrup or teaching them why drinking a warm turmeric, ginger, honey, lemon water when you start feeling run down helps you feel better. I still gargle warm salt water when I have sore throats as that's what my mom taught me to do. So the more we can do hand me down preventive care the more our kids will keep those traditions alive vs. needing to go to the doctor for antibiotics which is a discussion for another day.
Middle-High School years
Now my son is not this old yet but one thing you can do at this age is just be the example for them if you want them to understand why you practice Ayurvedic habits and how it can benefit them. They might start to think those habits are really strange as none of their friends parents do them but at least you can keep encouraging those habits to your child. The one thing I have found after many years of personal training is those who came from a home that was more strict about eating healthy usually go through a rebel phase in their late teens and early 20's but almost all of them come back to what they know and do prefer to eat healthy and move their bodies but they just needed to try something else to see how it felt. Knowing that just keep modeling it for them and teaching them why you do a morning meditation, or why if your a vata you love to stick to a schedule to stay balanced, and why as a pitta making time for self-care is so important and why as a kapha movement to start the day really helps you stay in balance.
At the end of the day they will make up their own minds as they get older but providing those foundations as a young child will help teach them the ways of another way to look at life. As I truly see living life from an Ayurvedic lens is a preventive medicine system and learning to listen to our bodies will help us at every stage of our lives.
What is one thing that you can incorporate this week to help your kids become more mindful, or start a new Ayurvedic habit with your kid(s)?