Stepping Into Science is a new series where we will explore exciting science from A-Z. There will also be activity ideas accompanying each post to extend your child’s learning.
As summer approaches, there are bound to be many changes in the sights, sounds and smells around us, even in a tropical country like Singapore. What are some changes that you and your child have observed? One such change may be the smell of durians wafting the streets, as fruit stalls start to introduce the king of fruits. Here are some activities that you can try out this summer, and find out more about this exotic fruit!
Invite your children to touch the exterior of the durian fruit (gently!) How would they describe it? Getting children to explore the fruit with different senses encourages them to inquire about the world around them, and helps them to build vocabulary when they describe what they are seeing, feeling, smelling and tasting.
Why are durians spiky?
Like many other fruits, durians are heavily dependent on animals to disperse their seeds. Having spikes means that smaller animals will find difficulty opening and eating the fruit. Larger animals eat the fruit instead, in turn bringing the durian seeds much farther than smaller animals can.
Parents’ tip: Explore different types of fruits at the supermarket and compare them to the durian. You can also introduce vocabulary like “smooth”, “rough” and “spiky”!
Why do durians have such a pungent smell?
The strong odour of durians also play a role in dispersal. This pungent smell attracts many different animals, like squirrels, pigs, orangutans, elephants, and even tigers! After the animals eat the fruit and swallow the seed, the seed gets dispersed when the animals transport it across a distance and pass it out.
Parents’ tip: Invite your child to do a blind smelling test and see if they are able to distinguish fruits just from their smell!
What makes people love or hate durian?
The durian’s strong smell stems from a mix of many substances produced by the plant known as phytochemicals. Research has shown that people with frequent exposure to the fruit (like those in Southeast Asia) are able to easily distinguish the sweet scent of the durian’s ketones and esters from the rotten odours which are from volatile amines and fatty acids. Individuals who are unable to differentiate these smells will find this fruit noxious instead.
Parents’ tip: Are you able to distinguish the sweet scent of the durian from its pungent odour? Try it out with your child!
Activity Corner – DIY Durian
For children who are not ready to try the king of fruits, they can make an artwork just by using simple supplies!
- Yellow and green paint (other colours work too!)
- Get your children to paint their feet yellow.
- Invite your children to stamp their feet on the paper. You now have the durian flesh.
- Complete the artwork by drawing a spiky shell for the durian.
Written by Ang Shi Min
Illustrations by Sung Jernin