Taste tests are a great way for children to utilize their five senses and explore new foods. Taste tests can be conducted in the cafeteria, classroom, or integrated into different subjects to enhance an academic lesson. When children understand the origin of the food they are consuming, they are more likely to try it!
Be aware of choking risks and food allergies when conducting taste tests. Think about the size, shape, and consistency when choosing foods due to the potential choking risks in children. Avoid food cut in large chunks, small hard foods, and soft and sticky food, such as; hotdogs, meats, sausages, fish with bones, a spoonful of peanut butter, popcorn, chips, pretzel nuggets, raisins, whole grapes, raw carrots, fruits and vegetables with skins, and marshmallows.1 Children must always remain supervised while eating!
Many children have food allergies or sensitivities to food. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 90% of children’s food allergies are from milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (included but not limited to pecan/walnuts), fish, shellfish, strawberries, soy, wheat, and gluten.1 Carefully read food labels for potential risks and be sure to check with a parent, school nurse and school nutrition director if children have a known allergy or sensitivity.
Keep it Safe, Simple and Clean
Taste tests are meant to be quick and easy. To avoid spills, messes and crumbs ensure that cleanup is done immediately after the activity is completed. This will also help to resume classroom instruction in a timely manner. Try assigning student jobs for each taste test:
- Distribute hand sanitizer/hand wipes
- Distribute napkins/paper towels
- Pick up trash after taste testing is complete
Incorporating Taste Tests into Lesson Plans
Here are some ideas on how taste tests can be incorporated into various course subjects.
Taste tests can easily be incorporated into math lessons by collecting and analyzing data into graphs or percentages. For example, ask students to give a thumbs up, thumbs down or in the middle to express their feelings towards the item. Have students create a graph to show results and responses.
Introducing fruits and vegetables in their original form links to science. Elementary-aged lesson plans can include discussion on what is needed to help plants survive and grow. Students can also learn about the different climate zones and which zones are best for plants and food to grow. Middle and high-school aged students can discuss nutrients and how foods contain essential nutrients that the human body needs to survive.
English Language Arts (ELA)
Following a taste test, ask students to write or journal about their experience trying a new food. Students can also work together to write fact sheets on the foods tried and can share these with other classmates and/or their families.
Social Studies and Humanities
Have students explore what part of the world the food comes from, the history of that item, how it is used in different cultures, and/or what that food is called in different parts of the world.
Teach students about food safety by having them discuss how to wash, prepare and store different types of foods.
Conduct a Classroom Discussion and Debrief
Following the taste test, students will want to share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Check out the SWITCH Five Senses Scorecard, which allows students to record their observations on the foods they are testing while utilizing their five senses.
Additional Lesson Plans and Nutrition Education Resources
- UMASS Extension Nutrition Education Materials: Resources to help increase student exposure and interest to a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Dig In! Lesson Plans and Curriculum: These lesson plans teach 5th and 6th grade students about growing, harvesting and tasting fruits and vegetables.
- Serving Up MyPlate: Here you will find a variety of lesson plans that integrate nutrition education into Math, Science, English Language Arts and Health for grades K-5.
- Food Preparation for Children with Peanut Allergies . Penn State Extension. https://extension.psu.edu/programs/betterkidcare/knowledge-areas/k7/lunch-and-snack-ideas/peanut-free-snacks. Published 2013. Accessed April 16, 2021.