• By Nathalie

The Jelly Bean Tasting Game (or Science Experiment) For Kids

This game will be a sure hit among the kids. First, it requires the degustation of candy (relax, they are plenty of healthier options out there), then it is a guessing game, which is always fun to play and finally because of how is this game is played and the fact that it includes a few trickster moves, it is guaranteed to create some giggling and laughter. Now you, as a parent, can also make it a learning experience and scientific experiment. Why you ask? Well, it covers some key concepts such as taste, olfaction, gustation and the five senses. Sounds like a deal? Let me "spill the beans" (pun intended) on how to play it then...

Kids will discover how the senses work together and how much is taste is influenced by other sensory information as they eat food.

Here is the background and some very interesting information from Scientific American:

Every time you take a bite of food, receptors in your mouth called taste buds pick up the taste of the food you are eating. These receptors are sensitive to five basic tastes: umami (a savory flavor), salty, sweet, bitter and sour. But right above your mouth is your nose, which also plays a part in how you experience food. The nose is equipped with millions of receptors for odor molecules. You can smell a food by sniffing through your nostrils or if air is circulating inside your nose as you chew. The latter occurs because the back of your throat connects your nose and mouth. The only catch is that air needs to be flowing in or out of your nose for the odor molecules to get into the nose—either through the front or the back. This explains why pinching your nose prevents you from smelling food. Once they arrive in your nose, odor molecules travel to your nose's olfactory epithelium, the area of the nasal cavity where odor detection occurs. While you are eating, your brain receives signals from both your mouth and nose, allowing you to recognize whatever tasty treat you happen to be chewing. In this activity you'll separate the sensations of taste and smell to learn how much each contributes to your recognition of a familiar food.

Now, let's play!

Materials you will need • Jelly beans (at least three different fruit flavors works best) • Pencil and paper • Plastic sandwich bags • Blindfold (optional) • Glasses of water (optional) Preparation • Separate your jellybeans by flavor. • Select at least three plastic bags—one for each flavor you want to use in the experiment. Place a few appropriately flavored jelly beans in each bag. For example, one bag could be for mango jelly beans, another for strawberry and a third for banana-flavored ones. Push down on the bags to smush the candies slightly. The Game • Ask your the first child to close his or her eyes (or use a blindfold). • Give the child a jelly bean. Ask him or her to chew it and guess its flavor. Record the response, along with the correct answer. Repeat with at least two other flavors. You can offer your subject a glass of water between samples to clean his or her palate. How good is the child at guessing the bean's flavor? • Tell the child to pinch his or her nose shut, then hand the child a jelly bean. Ask him or her to eat the candy and tell you what flavor he or she tastes. Record the response along with the correct answer. • Repeat the previous step with one or two other jelly bean flavors—you can offer the child a sip of water in between each to cleanse his or her palate. Record each response, along with the correct answer. Does being unable to smell change child's responses? • With eyes still shut or blindfolded, ask the child to breathe deeply while you open one of the plastic bags that hold crushed jelly beans. Ask the child to guess which flavor he or she is smelling—record the response and correct answer. Repeat with the other two bags. Is your subject better at guessing based on taste alone or scent alone? • Switch roles with the other children. Is it easy to recognize the jelly bean flavor by taste? By scent? How do the results compare within the group? • Extra: In this experiment, subjects can't see the jelly bean's color, but if you want to check whether vision influences how something tastes, set up a soda-tasting experiment. Get three kinds of fruit soda—such as cherry, grape or orange—and one flavor-free carbonated water. Add a few drops of food coloring to the carbonated water. (Try to use a color that differs from the sodas.) Pour your beverages into glasses and ask subjects to taste each one and name the beverage's flavor. Do subjects mistake the colored water for another fruit soda? Does the color of the water trick people into expecting a soda flavor to match the color? Observations and results

Did plugging the nose make it difficult to distinguish a jelly bean's flavor? Could the kids recognize a flavor just by sniffing the crushed candies? When you cannot smell the jelly bean you are eating, you can only taste the candy's sweetness—and that's not enough information to tell which flavor you are chewing. This demonstrates how much we rely on our sense of smell when we "taste" food—much of the experience comes from scents rather than taste itself. This is also why everything tastes bland when you have a cold: Your stuffy nose keeps you from enjoying the full olfactory experience. In addition to scent and taste, other factors including a food's temperature and texture affect how you experience and interpret each bite.

(Source: Scientific American)


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