Taste Test

Children will learn about taste and taste buds.

Lesson Objective

The children will explore their tongue and taste buds, and how they help us taste different flavors.


What You'll Need

  • Child-safe mirrors – 1 per child
  • Salty foods – pretzels, potato chips, saltines – 5 per child
  • Sweet foods – sugar cubes, gum drops, frosting – small amount per child
  • Sour foods – lemons, limes, dill pickles – sliver of each per child
  • Bitter foods – club soda, baking chocolate – small amount per child
  • Paper plates – 1 per child
  • Paper cups 3 oz. – 1 per child
  • Paper towels – 1 per child
  • Large chart with four sections labeled sweet, salty, sour, bitter

What To Do

  1. Discuss food with the children; when, how, and what part of our body we use when we eat.
  2. Distribute the mirrors to the children; ask them to look inside their mouth and describe what they see.
  3. Explain to the children that they each have a tongue and taste buds in their mouth, and discuss what they are used for (see Did You Know?).
  4. Give each child a paper plate with a salty item on it. Ask the children to taste the item (pretzel, chip, etc.) and to describe it. They might talk about how it looks or feels. If no one says salty, guide the conversation toward the flavor of the food.
  5. Show them the chart and point to the salty section; draw a picture of the item they have tasted and label it.
  6. Introduce the rest of the foods one at a time. Encourage the children to taste and describe each food. Add each food to the corresponding section of the chart.
  7. When all of the sections of the chart have been completed, ask the children if they preferred any of the flavors.
  8. Let each child put a smiley face in the section of the chart with his or her favorite flavor and a frown in the one liked the least.
  9. Discuss the chart. Compare and contrast their responses.
  10. Display the chart in the classroom so the children can continue to discuss the experiment and their reactions.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Your tongue is in your mouth. Tell me what else we have in our mouth.
  • Describe what happens when you put food in your mouth.
  • Explain how your teeth help you eat.
  • Tasting food helps us learn about our food. What other senses do we use to learn about our food?

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Read the digital storybook, The Perfect CookieIn the story, Cookie Monster tries to make a batch of cookies, but the cookies do not taste good. Big Bird convinces Cookie Monster to follow the directions in the recipe in a cookbook, which results in a perfectly delicious batch of cookies! Go to Reading Adventures, a series of five Sesame Street digital storybooks focused on vocabulary development and choose The Perfect Cookie.
  • During snack or lunch, discuss what children are eating. Are the foods salty, sweet, bitter, or sour?
  • Put a variety of magazines (with lots of pictures of food in them) in the art or discovery areas. Let the children cut out pictures of food and sort them into salty, sour, sweet, and bitter categories.
  • Do the experiment again and use more adventurous or less familiar foods to explore the flavor categories (sweet—mango or papaya; bitter—radish or fresh parsley; sour–sour cherries; salty–sunflower seeds).

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Was each child able to examine his or her tongue and taste buds?
  • Did children try to taste a variety of foods?
  • Could children recognize each flavor as one of the four basic flavor categories?


Did You Know

The sense of taste is one of your five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. Your tongue is a muscular organ that helps with many functions of the mouth, including your sense of taste. Taste buds are sensory organs found on your tongue. The taste buds are contained on and around the bumps on your tongue, called papillae. But papillae are actually cup-shaped, not bumps! The papillae on your tongue work with your saliva and sense of smell to help you taste foods. In fact, without saliva and your sense of smell, you would not be able to taste the different flavors of your food.

Your taste buds help you experience sweet, salty, sour, and bitter tastes. There are very tiny hairs called microvilli on your taste buds. The microvilli send messages to your brain identifying a flavor as sweet, salty, sour, or bitter. Each person has approximately 10,000 taste buds. Our taste buds are replaced every 2 weeks. Older people have fewer taste buds because their taste buds do not replace themselves.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • taste bud – one of the bumps on the surface of the tongue that help you taste.
  • sweet – having a taste like that of sugar or honey.
  • salty – having the taste of salt.
  • bitter – having a strong taste that is neither sweet nor sour.
  • sour – having a sharp taste caused by acid.
  • saliva – a liquid produced in the mouth that helps people process food.

Lesson Tips

  • Some children are sensitive to particular food textures or smells. Encourage children to try the different foods, but do not force anyone to try a food. They can observe their peers and teachers trying the food and ask questions about the food to learn its characteristics.
  • Be aware of any food allergies in your students.


  • Taste by Maria Rius
  • Tasting by Rebecca Rissman
  • I Taste by Patrick George
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael Kaplan
  • You Can’t Taste a Pickle With Your Ear by Harriet Ziefert

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS