Kitchen Lab: Edible Experiments and Other Mad Scientist Recipes

Put out six small dishes of white frosting and food coloring. Stir colors into each cup, making red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple, letting your kids discover that red and blue make purple, red and yellow make orange, and yellow and blue make green. Frost each cupcake in a single color and demonstrate how to place them in a ring to make a color wheel that mimics the order of colors in a rainbow.

Edible Cell Model

Learning the parts of a cell can have a numbing effect on kids who do not like memorizing or are intimidated by all the long scientific names, but an edible model turns it into a fun project.5 Cell models can be made out of Jello, cake, pie, or any other treat that appeals to your child. Each part of the cell is represented by a different type of candy, so ask your child to create a key that tells which candy stands for which cell part. It should include the cytoplasm, Golgi bodies, lysosomes, mitochondria, nuclear membrane, nucleolus, nucleus, ribosomes, rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, and vacuole.

Place each part in its correct location on the body of the cell. Take pictures or make a video of your child explaining the project, and . . . enjoy the dessert!

Rice Krispy Skin

In the same vein as the cell model, mix up a batch of rice krispy treat mix to mold a model of the skin.6 Use licorice vines or strips of fruit leather in different colors to represent the veins, arteries, sweat glands, and nerves. Paint a strip of food coloring or frosting along the top to represent the epidermis. Rows of round chocolates represent hair. Make a photographic record of the masterpiece for posterity’s sake before devouring.

Plant Part Salad  

 

So many plants are edible or have edible parts that turning the study of plant parts into a kitchen science project is a natural fit.7 Have your child select at least one salad ingredient from each part of the plant: leaves, flower, fruit, root, stem, and seed. Mix it all together and top with your favorite dressing, or make your own dressing. Include the salad on the dinner menu, and let your child bask in the rave reviews of her culinary talents.

Taste Test

A taste test experiment is a yummy way for kids to explore what makes a good (fill in the blank).8 Select a product that is available in several brands or varieties, for example, strawberries, apples, chocolate chip cookies, or potato chips. Make a list of the criteria that each sample will be graded on, such as sweetness, tartness, texture, crunchiness, or color, as well as how it will be graded.

Dole out the samples without letting the children know which is which, to avoid predetermined bias. Have them grade each sample on the criteria chosen. When all tests are done, reveal which brand or variety corresponds to each test and determine each child’s favorite in a blind taste test.

Edible Crystals

Growing crystals is a classic earth science project, but if a kit and chemicals with unpronounceable scientific names are not within your budget, try using sugar and water or maple syrup to create your edible crystals.9

Heat sugar and water in a 3:1 ratio and stir until sugar is dissolved completely. Add any coloring or flavor that suits your taste, let the mixture cool in the refrigerator, and then pour it into a clean, clear jar.

Coat a long piece of string with the sugar liquid and suspend over the jar opening so that it hangs to the bottom of the jar. Store the jar where it won’t be disturbed, and over the next several days watch the crystals form on the string.

Maple syrup crystals grow even more quickly. Heat the pure maple syrup until it thickens, and then pour it over a bed of ice or a chilled plate to see crystals form in minutes. When the candy crystals have grown large enough to suit your child, let him try his homemade candy.

PBJ Earth

If you have ever been a kid, you know that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are an indispensable feature of childhood. What you may not know is that if you can put aside your mom’s admonitions for a moment and let your kids play with their food, you can turn PB and J into a science lesson about the layers of the earth’s crust.10

Lay out bread, peanut butter, jelly, and honey, and give each child a blunt dinner knife or plastic knife. The bottom layer of bread represents the rock of the inner solid core. Spread with honey, which represents the outer liquid core, and add a second layer of bread to represent the lower mantle. Spread a layer of peanut butter to represent the asthenosphere, spread jelly to represent the upper mantle, and the top bread layer will represent the earth’s crust.

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