Teach Kids About Taste and Smell

With an emphasis on science, music, cooking, and geography, these exercises aim to take kids on a journey around the world and to encourage their curiosity and openness. We picked locations that were of interest to us, but of course the locations and recipes are adaptable.

What Kids Will Do

In these explorations, kids might…

  • go taste tripping with miracle berries
  • make their own perfume with spices
  • create a smell map of their homes and gardens
  • paint with spices
  • perform smell and taste tests
  • make a variety of foods while listening to albums from around the world
  • and more

(Designed for kids preschool-1st/2nd grade, though many materials and activities might be of interest to older children and adults, too.)

Read On

  • This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World, Matt Lamothe [Amazon | Bookshop] — I looked all over for books and videos showing kids’ lives around the world, and mostly I came up blank. Except for this book, which I highly recommend (it’s a shame there aren’t more like it).
  • Anna Hibiscus series, Atinuke [Amazon] — A lovely series of heavily illustrated chapter books about a girl living in Africa (in an unspecified country, but Atinuke herself was born in Nigeria).
  • Baby Goes to Market, Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank [Amazon | Bookshop] — Suitable for even the youngest readers, this delightful and funny picture book takes place in a busy African market, with special attention to the produce a family buys and how they get it home.
  • Indian-ish, Priya Krishna with Ritu Krishna [Amazon | Bookshop] — An exciting Indian cookbook with lots of easy-to-make and kid-friendly recipes — the shikanji was a runaway hit in our house.
  • What Is Smell? [Amazon | Bookshop] and What Is Taste? [Amazon | Bookshop], Molly Aloian — Gets-the-job-done books about the senses (sometimes that’s all you can ask for).
  • Science Comics: The Digestive System: A Tour Through Your Guts, Jason Viola and Andy Ristaino [Amazon | Bookshop] — The Science Comics series is a great way for independent readers to engage with science.

Other Resources

  • Drive & Listen, a web site that gives you a passenger-seat view in drives through cities around the world, all while listening to their local radio stations.
  • Waffles + Mochi — A sweet Netflix series for kids about food. The show’s web site has plenty of resources, too, including recipes and an eating challenge.



Read: This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World, Matt Lamoth [Amazon | Bookshop]

Taste and Place: Japan

Watch: Inside a Japanese Kid’s Bedroom
What a Very Old House in Japan Is Like
Kyushoku: The Making of a Japanese School Lunch (turn on subtitles for translations of the Japanese portions)
Discover Japan — Conveyor Belt Sushi

Activity: Make vegetarian sushi
There are so many guides and recipes for this online that I won’t link to any, but having a bamboo rolling mat is very helpful.

Watch: Waffles and Mochi, “Rice” (Season 1, Episode 5, Netflix)
Activity: Make a mochi cake with mochiko
If you haven’t baked with mochiko before, it makes a lovely cake with a chewy consistency. You can add all sorts of flavorings to it, like chocolate or matcha or taro powder. Find one recipe here.

Listen: Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music: 1980-1990 (2019)

Listen: Haruomi Hosono, Hosono House (1973)

Listen: The Bookmarcs, Bookmarc Melody (2019)

Anatomy, Digestion, and Nutrition

Read: Science Comics: The Digestive System: A Tour Through Your Guts, Jason Viola and Andy Ristaino [Amazon | Bookshop]
Watch: How Your Digestive System Works
Is Sugar a Drug?


Watch: Cookie Monster Practices Self-Regulation
Activity: Raisin meditation/mindful eating exercise
Here are instructions for conducting this mindfulness exercise yourself, and here is an audio recording.

Taste and Place: Nigeria

Read: Anna Hibiscus, Atinuke [Amazon] (though any book in the series is lovely)
Baby Goes to Market, Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank [Amazon | Bookshop]

Activity: Make jollof rice
Here is Tunde Wey’s recipe for jollof rice, but you can also listen to Yewande Komolafe talk about jollof rice and watch her as she makes it here. Here is yet another recipe from Ozoz Sokoh.

Listen: Lijadu Sisters, Horizon Unlimited (1979)

Listen: Fela Kuti, Zombie (1977)

Listen: William Onyeabor, Who Is William Onyeabor?


Read: What Is Smell?, Molly Aloian [Amazon | Bookshop]

Activity: Smell test
Take a variety of spices from your spice cabinet and do a blindfold smell test. If you like, make a list of favorites and least favorites, or ones you want to try. Full instructions here.

Activity: Make a scented painting
Mix spices with white glue and make a painting you can smell. Full instructions here.

Activity: Make a perfume
Perhaps using some of the favorite spices from the smell test, try soaking spices, herbs, peels, and/or rose water in jars overnight. Make sure to label each jar with the ingredients. Pour the mixture through a coffee filter the next day and dab some on your skin.

Activity: Smell map (adapted from Rob Walker’s fantastic The Art of Noticing [Amazon | Bookshop]
After kids draw a map of the house (with assistance from a grown-up as needed), have them walk around the house and note down on the map any smells they notice. Also worth noting: what places in the house have smells at certain times but not at others? Can you recall what those smells are? If the weather is nice, they can do the same exercise in the garden.

Taste and Place: India

Watch: The Surprising Reason We Eat Spicy Food
Cinnamon: Harvesting Cassia in the Jungles of Sumatra (Indonesia)
Inside an Indian Kitchen

Activity: Make shikanji (a lime drink with salt and pepper) from Indian-ish, Priya Krishna with Ritu Krishna [Amazon | Bookshop]
Recipe here.

Activity: Make chaat masala almond butter toast from Indian-ish
Recipe here.

Listen: Ravi Shankar, Chants of India (1997)


Read: What Is Taste?, Molly Aloian [Amazon | Bookshop]

Activity: Salt and citric acid taste test (before & after)
In this taste test, kids can compare samples of food before and after adding salt or citric acid. You might use apple slices for the citric acid and unsalted peanut or almond butter for the salt. How do flavors change after the ingredients are added?

Activity: Taste tripping with miracle berries
Take miracle berry tablets (such as these) and sample a variety of foods. Miracle berries alter your tastebuds for about half an hour, so be sure to have the food you will be sampling arranged on a platter before you take the tablets. Consider a selection of sweet and sour foods: lemons, limes, Granny Smith apples, dark baking chocolate, strawberries, raspberries, sour candy, tomato sauce, and grapefruit. (If the foods are not already familiar to the children, have them taste them before taking the tablet.) More details here.

Taste and Place: Brazil

Activity: Make brigadeiros
One recipe here.

Listen: João Gilberto and Stan Getz, Getz/Gilberto (1964)

Taste and Smell, Working Together

Activity: Skittles taste test: how are taste and smell related?
For this experiment, kids will first need to taste each Skittles flavor to familiarize themselves with it. Then, wearing a blindfold, they will taste various colors of Skittles while holding their noses and guess which flavor they’re tasting. Finally, still blindfolded, they will taste the flavors without holding their noses and guess the flavors again. The person feeding them Skittles will keep a color-coded chart with the results (which colors they guessed correctly and incorrectly). Were the guesses more accurate with or without their noses blocked?

Taste and Place: Turkey

Activity: Make apricots with rosewater cream and pistachio
Recipe here.

Listen: Derya Yildirim & Grup Şimşek (2017)

Listen: Altin Gün, On (2018)

This site uses affiliate links. I might earn a small commission if you click through on the links to buy a product. I only recommend things I have used and love.

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