At-Home Science Experiments: Tongue Map

Science is more fun when you can taste it! In this experiment, kids will figure out how their tongues respond to sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and bitterness.




What You'll Need:

  • Cotton swabs
  • Water
  • Small cups or glasses
  • Unsweetened baking cocoa
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Honey
  • Pens and paper for charting

What To Do:

  1. Before you begin, ask a grown-up if it's okay to use different sweet, salty, sour, and bitter foods for mapping where your tongue tastes what.
  2. Ask a friend to help. One of you will be the taster and the other will be the tester. When the first person is done tasting, you can switch so both of you will get a chance to taste.
  3. Put a little bit of each substance in a cup. Mix the non-liquids with some water so that all the substances have about the same consistency.
  4. Draw a chart for recording your results. Along the left side of the paper write each of the foods you will test in a separate row. Try using unsweetened baking cocoa and water to test bitter, lemon juice to test sour, honey to test sweet, and saltwater to test salty. Across the top, draw three columns for each taster. Label each with the taster's name and "front," "back," and "side."
  5. Make some predictions. Do you think different places on your tongue will taste different flavors more intensely? Where on your tongue do you think each flavor will taste strongest? Will some flavors be easier or harder to taste than others?
  6. Have the tester dip a cotton swab into one of the liquids and dab it either on the front, back, or side of the taster's tongue.
  7. The taster tastes the liquid, then takes a sip of water. This helps clear your tongue of the taste so it doesn't interfere with the next part of the experiment.
  8. The tester then dips a new cotton swab in the same liquid and dabs it on a different part of the taster's tongue. The taster tastes the liquid again and sips some water. Now, try it again on the third part of the taster's tongue.
  9. Once all the parts of the tongue have tasted the liquid, the taster says which part of his tongue tasted the liquid the strongest. The tester records the taster's answer on the chart.
  10. Follow the same process for each of the different liquids. Then switch who tastes and who tests and do the whole taste test again with the new taster.
  11. When all tasters have finished testing, talk about your results. Were your predictions correct? Did some of your results surprise you? Did both tasters taste the same things on the same parts of your tongues?

This activity and images are courtesy of Whitney of Grain Valley, M.O., via

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