By Ashley Sobel

Sensory Activities for Kids

Both here in New Jersey and in many other states across the country, schools are closing due to the Coronavirus pandemic. For some families, this means finding activities that provide both a fun and educational element.

We love our science here at Sensory Spectrum, and we want to share some easy sensory science related activities that you can do with all members of your family at home.

What is Sensory Science?

Sensory Science is “a scientific discipline used to evoke, measure, analyze, and interpret those responses to products that are perceived by the senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing (Stone and Sidel 1993).” Or simply, it’s getting people’s reactions to how things look, smell, feel, taste, and sound, and then using the information to help make decisions. Products that you buy every day have likely gone through some type of sensory testing to help make sure it’s either the tastiest, strongest, or best product you can buy!

Below we’ll go into two senses – taste and touch – and provide some background around these senses, and some easy activities you can do with your family!

All About Taste!

There are three things that make up what we call flavor in sensory science. Those are basic tastes, aromatics, and chemical feeling factors. We’ll talk about two common aspects of what make up flavor – basic tastes, and aromatics.

Basic tastes are what is commonly known as salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. Taste buds on the tongue and areas of the soft palate contain papillae with taste receptor cells, and these cells sense the detection of the basic tastes!

Aromatics are volatiles perceived from a substance being in the mouth, and they have a very important role in how we determine the flavor of foods and beverages! When you put food in your mouth and begin to chew, the volatiles travel up the back of your throat to a spot in your brain called the olfactory bulb. Here, your brain processes the volatiles into recognizing the things we usually call flavors, such as the tomato flavor in pasta sauce, or the chocolate flavor in a chocolate chip cookie.

All About Touch!

There are many ways in which our body responds to touch. It can be though the stimulus of temperature, pain, or be tactile or mechanical. We’ll focus on the tactile and mechanical aspects of touch and how it creates what is commonly known as texture.
The tactile part of texture is the surface feel. In simple terms, this can be whether something is wet or dry, smooth or rough, or whether it leaves particles on your fingers when your touch it. When we evaluate food products on our panel here, we can evaluate tactile attributes such as the type of particles or moisture it might have. For example:

Is the food…
o Chalky
o Gritty
o Lumpy
o Oily
o Greasy

The mechanical part of texture is the strain in the muscles when we touch or chew on something. When we evaluate food products on our panel here, we can evaluate mechanical attributes in the following ways:

Is the food…
o Springy
o Sticky
o Hard
o Viscous or thick (think water versus heavy cream)

These activities aren’t just for kids – we use activities like these in training with our clients, too! Sensory Spectrum has provided sensory training to clients all over the world and for a wide variety of product types. Our SpecSpeak Training is a great way to introduce sensory to a variety of teams within your organization! Each workshop is custom designed with hands-on activities to teach your team specific language for discussing and evaluating the attributes of your products. The result? Product developers will come away better able to create and evaluate prototypes. Others come away with the ability to give better feedback – which ultimately increases the quality of the product and speed to market.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help support!

Try the Activities Yourself

Basic Tastes

Try this simple activity to learn more about Basic Tastes.

Aromatics

This activity will introduce learners to the basics of tasting.

Texture

Send young learners on a sensory scavenger hunt to learn about different textures.

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