This article was produced in partnership with Ada Twist, Scientist. Stream now, only on Netflix.
There are only five different kinds of taste buds on the human tongue—sour, salty, sweet, bitter, and umami—so how are people able to tell the difference between thousands of different foods? How can we tell the difference between a lime and a lemon, both sour fruits? What, beyond salt and umami, makes a steak taste like a steak?
Part of the answer lies in the role that our sense of smell plays in how we taste things. This activity is designed to get kids excited about how, using the scientific method, they can better understand why things taste the way they do, specifically how smell contributes to what we experience as taste.
Getting kids excited about science is also the goal of Ada Twist, Scientist, the Netflix animated series based on the blockbuster children’s book. It chronicles the adventures of a young Black scientist who stages experiments at home and uses scientific discovery, collaboration, and friendship to help others.
Ada Twist is a great way to get kids excited about science. And like the other Saturdays We S.T.E.M. activities, Test Your Taste is a great opportunity for families to get hands-on experience by performing an experiment. Here’s how.
Prep Time: none
Entertainment Time: 10 minutes
Energy Expended by Child: minimal physical, plenty of mental
What You Need:
- An assortment of similar-but-different foods that have the same texture and temperature but different flavors (fruit-flavored candies are perfect for this activity)
- A blindfold
- A clothespin
How to Play:
Sit your child down at a table and explain the rules of the game. Their job is to guess which flavor the food they’re eating is without seeing it. Have them put on a blindfold and, one by one, have them try a few different flavors. They won’t be able to see what they are, but they should still be able to say what everything is based on taste.
Repeat the experiment, but spring a surprise on your children. For the second round, they’ll be tasting the foods with a clothespin on their nose. (They can even be the same foods.) As long as their senses of smell and sight are properly blocked, kids will have a lot more difficulty in identifying which food is which than the did the first time around.
Talk about why the clothespin made this activity so much harder, reinforcing the strong link between taste and smell and the relatively small number of flavors that we have taste buds to detect. That way, you’ll know you’re encouraging and reinforcing your child’s interest in the “S” part of S.T.E.M., and that you’re well on the way to raising your own Ada Twist.