#TWKatHome Activities

Becoming a Sensory Sleuth

This week’s theme: Taste Exploration

Think about when you take a bite of something new. What are the first things you notice? Do new foods you try have similar flavors to other things you like? Are you able to identify a food as sweet or sour before you decide if you like it?

becoming a sensory sleuth

Activity: Becoming a Sensory Sleuth

Now it’s time to become a Sensory Sleuth – right in your kitchen. We are sharing 2 activities to try, feel free to try one or both!

Instructions are to the right or use this printable version: Becoming a Sensory Sleuth Activity

Materials for Activity

  • 4 cups
  • water
  • about 1 tsp of each:
    • sugar
    • salt
    • lemon or lime juice (if you don’t have these get creative – do you have grapefruit juice?)
    • unsweetened coco powder (or cold brewed coffee can work too)
  • cards/small pieces of paper with “salty”, “sour”, “sweet” and “bitter” (optional – helpful for younger learners)
  • Pencil
  • 5-10 food items in your kitchen (more is of course welcome)

Learn from an Expert: Chris Amendola of foraged. on Balancing Taste

Let’s start with the basics. What are your four tastes?

  • Sweet
  • Sour
  • Bitter
  • Salty

To learn a little more about each of our four tastes, watch Chef Chris Amendola, chef and owner of foraged. in Hampden in Baltimore City share a chef’s insight on taste using one of our favorite comfort foods – chocolate!



CocoaCompassion, the maker of the nibs Chef Chris forages for and features in this video and a partner of ours, isn’t just any chocolate company – they strive to start a conversation with every piece of chocolate they create, and are committed to reinvesting 20% of profit to provide underserved communities with high-value skills and resources. Give them a follow on Instagram to keep in touch!


There is also a fifth taste – umami (a meaty or earthy taste) that we are not going to focus on today but this PBS video explores umami if you want to check it out.


Let’s dig into the science behind taste for a moment so we can better understand how we are able to taste. Taste is detected by taste receptors (taste buds) on your tongue. Flavor is detected by olfactory (smell) receptors at the back of your mouth and in your nose. If you plug your nose, you can tell if a food is sweet, sour, salty or bitter, but you can’t tell the flavor of the food. Want to try a simple experiment to prove this? TasteWise Kids Executive Director Wendy Jeffries and her daughter recently demonstrated this in a Facebook Live Video.


Or here’s the experimentTake 2 different color jelly beans (NOT cinnamon).  Pinch your nose closed, and keeping your nose plugged, try the first jelly bean and guess the flavor.  Then, keeping your nose plugged, try the second color. Do they taste different, can you taste the flavors, or are both just sweet?  Now open your nose and try each jelly bean. Notice the difference?


Want to know why kids are often pickier eaters? While adults have over 10,000 taste buds (with between 50-150 taste receptor cells within each one) spread over our tongue that help us detect and distinguish different tastes, kids have about twice as many taste receptors!

What is also pretty amazing is that we can detect taste in less than 1/500 of a second!  That’s almost twice as fast as we can feel anything and 10 times faster than we can see.

Activity #1 Instructions

The instructions for this activity are broken down into two steps with direction for kids and for parents.

Step 1: Setup For Parents

NOTE: The set-up is best done before kids are involved so they don’t know what is in each cup. 

  • Pour ¼ cup of water into each of the 4 cups
  • Add 1 tsp of one ingredient into one cup
  • Stir until mixed/dissolved (you may need to add a little extra of the coco powder to get the bitter flavor)
  • Repeat with the other 3 liquids

Step 2: Activity

For Parents: Have your child taste one cup at a time.

For Kids: Identify which of the four tastes was represented

Activity #2 Instructions

Fridge Dive + Labeling similar tastes

Materials for Activity

  • Small pieces of paper with “sweet”, “salty”, “sour”, and “bitter” written on them
  • Pencil
  • 5-10 food items in your kitchen (more is of course welcome)

The instructions for this activity are broken down into three steps with direction for kids and for parents.

Step 1: For Parents

  • Explore your fridge and cabinets for foods you think might be salty, sour, sweet and bitter. It helps if you pick simple,single ingredients (ex. Chocolate chips instead of a chocolate chip cookie or strawberry yogurt instead of a smoothie)
  • Start with 5-6 food items. Lie them all out on the table.

Step 2: For Kids

  • Taste one food item at a time. Try to identify which of the four basic tastes best represents this food item.

Step 3: For Kids

  • Place the foods with similar tastes next to each other. Use a piece of paper to label each group. You do not need to have the same number of food items in each group – what’s important is that you are exploring your sense of taste.
    • If you don’t have one taste represented, see if you can go back to find something of that taste. Or just brainstorm what might go in the group even if you don’t have it at home.


Connect with Us

Do you have questions about taste and balancing flavors? Our expert partner, Chef Chris Amendola (chef and owner of foraged. in Baltimore), is happy to answer your questions.

Share your questions for Chef Chris by sending us a message on Facebook (@TasteWiseKids) or Instagram (@tastewise_kids), or email info@tastewisekids.org.

Key Activity Points

  1. While many kids will like sweet the best, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer to what they like most or least.
  2. To extend this activity, you can then have kids try to combine two of the liquids to make a more balanced “drink” – try adding a bit of the sugar water and the cocoa powder water together, etc.
  3. It can be easier to identify tastes in some foods than others.
  4. The four tastes can be recognized in a variety of foods (not just spices, fruits, etc.).
  5. All flavors – and all foods – are made up of some combination of these tastes.

Keep Learning

Let’s explore how your food gets from the farm to grocery shelves and eventually to your house – here are a few fun resources to check out!