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Experiments: Taste

What Kids Learn

In these experiments, kids learn two important things about the sense of taste.

First, in experiment 1, kids find out that chemicals from the food must first dissolve in saliva before food can be tasted. Once these chemicals are dissolved, receptors on our taste buds can identify the food.

In experiment 2, kids learn how our sense of smell helps us taste foods — yet another example of how our senses work together as a team to help us identify things. Without the nose, we may not be able to tell the difference between foods that have the same texture.

Check with parents before doing these experiments. You need to be sure that kids don't have food allergies.

Experiment 1: No Flavor Without Saliva

What You Need

  • Paper towels
  • Foods to taste (cookies, crackers, pretzels, or other dry food)
  • Drinking water for everyone

What to Do

  1. Tell kids to use a clean paper towel to dry off their tongue.
  2. Have the kids taste each food, one by one. How does it taste? (Remember to watch out for foods that kids may be allergic to. You don't want an emergency on your hands!)
  3. Tell kids to take a drink of water and then taste each food again, letting their saliva do its magic!

Experiment 2: Tasting With Your Nose

What You Need

  • A blindfold
  • Foods to taste, such as different flavored jelly beans, different fruit and vegetable slices, or a variety of yogurts and puddings. Try to find foods that have the same texture. (Jelly beans in various flavors make a good test. Or try comparing yogurt and pudding, or slices of different fruits and vegetables.)
  • Spoons, if necessary
  • A cup of drinking water for everyone

What to Do

  1. Ask the kids to put on a blindfold.
  2. Ask each child to pinch his or her nose.
  3. Offer each kid one a taste of one food at a time.
  4. Can he or she identify the flavor? (Kids might want a drink of water between the different foods.)
  5. Offer the same food and tell the child to unpinch his or her nose. Now does the child know what the flavor is?

Reviewed by: Eric H. Chudler, PhD