As I’ve shared before, I am part of a “Healthy Child & Earth” committee at our elementary school, and one of our initiatives this year was to form a Cooking & Gardening Club. This new after school club meets weekly, and the volunteers on our committee take turns teaching different lessons.
The first time I led this group of 1st through 5th graders, I explained the importance of whole grains and let the kids make their own whole-wheat pasta with a hand crank machine. Most of the parents I spoke to afterward said their kids boiled their pasta (and gobbled it right up) as soon as they got home—yay!
The second class I taught (last week) was all about taste testing. And this lesson taught me:
Taste testing games are a great way to get even the pickiest of kids to warm up to new foods!
These games are so easy, they by no means have to happen in the classroom. Today I want to share all the details so you can do this at home with your own kids (and/or their friends). This could honestly even be a fun birthday or slumber party activity (depending on how “out of the box” you like to be and how much you like the idea of positive peer pressure!). The kids in the class enjoyed the activities much more than I expected, and by the end, several of them were saying, “Oh, I wish we could do the blind taste test game again. It was soooo fun!” Score!
Taste Testing Activities
Here’s what we did in the one hour class that you can easily do at home with your own kids:
1. Five Flavors Game*
- The concept of the five different main flavors of food was explained: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and savory.
- Each child was given a plate with one food that represented each flavor: sugar, salt, lemon, unsweetened chocolate, and Parmesan cheese.
- They were also given a worksheet so they could match the foods to their flavors and give themselves a point if they got it right.
- Note: This game was not blindfolded.
- As a group we reviewed the answers so they could add up their score—all in good fun of course.
- Lesson: Remember to think about how your food tastes when you’re eating it!
2. Blind Taste Test Game
- The kids were asked to pick a partner and given blindfolds (made out of scrap fabric).
- Each child was given a plate with two different colored bell peppers, carrots, raisins, apples, and grapes.
- They were asked to give their worksheet to their partner, and then whoever was going first put the blindfold on.
- The non-blindfolded partner handed the other the first food to try and said something like, “Tell me if this bell pepper is red or green.”
- They could then try the other color to help them decide the answer, and their partner gave them a point (or not) on their worksheet.
- Lesson: Don’t judge food by how it looks, but instead by how it tastes!
3. Make Your Own Guacamole
- Each kid was given a quarter of a ripe avocado, a big pinch of salt, a lime wedge, cilantro leaves, and bell pepper slices (for dipping).
- They were told that these were the ingredients to make guacamole, and it was time to get to work!
- We talked about taste testing their creation to see what needed to be added. They were told to make it to their own liking (they were in charge!).
- Some ate all of the guacamole, some tried it (for the first time), and some just had fun “cooking.”
- Lesson: Cooking is fun!
Super Picky Eater Note
When a couple of the kids told me they were really apprehensive about trying these new foods (okay, in their words, “I hate all of these foods and do NOT want to eat them at all!), I told them the only way to play the game was to try the foods. I also said that trying a food they didn’t like wouldn’t hurt them (rest assured), and that they could spit it out if they wanted to. One kid in particular was still giving me push back, so I also suggested just touching the food to her tongue instead of eating it, and that worked (which is major progress for those that are super picky/limited).
*For More Taste Testing Games (a new book!)
The “Five Flavors Game” was inspired by a new book called Getting to Yum, which was written by the same author as French Kids Eat Everything—Karen Le Billon! This new book, which is available for preorder on Amazon, is FULL of fun taste testing games and other ideas that will help you transform your picky child into an eager eater. I was able to preview a copy and absolutely love the whole concept. And thankfully I previewed the book right as I had to come up with actitivies for our little club, so this wonderful inspiration could not have come at a better time! :)
Let the Adults Play, Too!
The other adult volunteering that day happened to be my husband (I like to sign him up for things – ha!), and when my daughter and her partner finished first, they asked if they could do the blind taste test on him! I think this is a perfect example of how pictures can speak a thousand words. Just check out these two VERY giggly girls blind folding a grown man and watching him guess a bunch of foods (mostly) wrong. I think it’s safe to say they weren’t the only ones having loads of fun. :)