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It's Taste Time - Toddler Taste Observations

As you’ve probably figured out from my previous posts, I want to explore all of the five senses with my science tyke to lay the foundation for how to make observations. So often,  we focus on describing only what we see without paying attention to what our other senses are telling us. Using all of our senses can give us a much richer understanding of the phenomenon that we’re trying to observe. For example, when I ask my fifth grade students to make observations about plants, they often just tell me what they see. But by feeling the stem of a mint plant, they notice that its stem is square, a characteristic that sets it apart from other groups of plants.

After exploring touch, sight, and smell with my science tyke, that leaves us with hearing and taste. Wait, sense of taste? Do I really want to encourage my toddler to put stuff in her mouth? When I used to teach science to pre-Kindergartners, we would chant the five senses and end with, “but never taste in science.” It's not safe to observe things with your mouth when you’re in a science lab.

But I do want my daughter to think about how things taste and what things have a taste vs. what things do not. Does light have a taste? Does guitar music have a taste? And how do we describe things that do have a taste, like that delicious birthday cake? What tastes do we like and not like? Our sense of taste and preference for foods are integrally tied to our senses of touch, smell, and even sight, as any parent of a picky eater probably already knows.

I decided to stick with discussing taste in the kitchen for now.

No plans here to make edible anything that is not normally edible. No edible paints. No edible playdough. No edible sand. These are things you can make if you’re worried your little explorer is going to eat them, but you probably don’t want to actively encourage kids to put these things in their mouths. And P.S., raw flour can have salmonella in it, so you really shouldn’t let them eat half of that stuff anyway.

As with our other explorations to date, I focused on providing opportunities for new experiences rooted in our daily routines and talked about these experiences directly. I tried to put something in front of her this week that could be easily classified as sweet, sour, salty, bitter, or savory, and to talk about the experience of tasting. We made milkshakes to talk about sweet tastes. (That was a rewarding experience for me as well.) For sour tastes, she was offered a lemon slice we were using to make dinner. We made up a facial expression to go along with sour tastes. Bitter tastes were introduced with some baking chocolate, which was a big surprise since she’s only had sweetened chocolate to date. Salty pretzels and nuts helped us explore the salty taste. Cheese (always a hit) and sauteed mushrooms (not a hit) served as good examples of savory foods.

Taste receptors are spread throughout the mouth and the foods we eat are generally a mixture of many flavors together. Just remember, the goal is to discuss that the food has a taste and introduce vocabulary to describe that taste. My two-year-old is still primarily using the words “good” and “bad” to describe taste. We’re going for exposure to concepts and ideas!

Takeaways this week:

  • Whatever you give your toddler for snacks and meals, ask them how it tastes and model describing how your own food tastes.
  • Use the vocabulary sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory where possible in the course of your normal day.
  • Uncooked flour can make you sick.

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1 comment

  • Well written and inspirational! How often do we struggle as adults to describe how something tastes besides the proverbial good and bad. I find watching my granddaughter’s face as she experiences new tastes as much fun as I did her mothers!


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