teaching kids about amino acids- ideas, games experiments printables

Biochemistry Cards and Game Ideas for Teaching Amino Acids

Never have I thought we would be doing chemistry in 4th grade, but we did. And then we followed it up with biochemistry just for fun. Sounds wild, right? But with the right approach, even complex subjects can become exciting adventures for kids.

If you’re curious to know what biochemistry/chemistry curriculum we used, let me know and I will post about that too. But in this blog post, I want to show you my biochemistry amino acid flash cards and give you some game ideas for them.

teaching kids about amino acids- cards, games, experiment ideas

Pin this image to read the article later. 📌

Why Biochemistry is Important for Kids

You might be wondering why on earth you’d want to teach biochemistry to kids. I get it, it sounds super advanced and maybe even a bit intimidating. But trust me, there are some really good reasons to introduce biochemistry to your curious little learners early on.

First off, biochemistry helps kids understand how their own bodies work. It’s the study of the chemical processes happening inside living organisms, so it covers everything from how we digest food to how our muscles move and how our brains function. When kids grasp these concepts, it can be like a light bulb going off – they start to see the amazing complexity of life in a whole new way.

And learning biochemistry can actually spark a love for science. When kids see the magic of chemistry and biology working together to explain the world around them, they get curious. They start asking questions and wanting to learn more, which is exactly what we want as educators and parents. It’s not just about learning facts, it’s about fostering a sense of wonder and excitement about how the world works.

Plus, biochemistry is great for developing critical thinking skills. It’s all about solving problems, testing hypotheses, and thinking analytically. These are skills that are useful not just in science, but in everyday life too. Kids learn to approach problems methodically and think through solutions logically.

Getting a head start on biochemistry also sets kids up for future success. Whether they end up studying biology, chemistry, medicine, or any other related field, having a solid foundation in biochemistry will give them a huge advantage. It opens up a world of possibilities for further education and career paths.

And let’s not forget about practical benefits. Understanding biochemistry helps kids make informed decisions about their health. They can better understand topics like nutrition, health, and medicine, which empowers them to make smart choices about their well-being.

So, introducing biochemistry early on isn’t just about learning complex science. It’s about sparking curiosity, developing important skills, and empowering kids to understand and take care of their own bodies. And with a digital resource like my Amino Acids Printable Cards, it can also be a whole lot of fun!

teaching kids biochemistry- biochemistry literacy for kids

⚛️ About the Amino Acids Printable Cards

Introduce your young learners to the essential building blocks of proteins with our Amino Acids Printable Cards. Perfectly tailored for the course “Biochemistry Literacy for Kids” (but can be used separately, as well), these cards make complex biochemistry concepts engaging and accessible.

Each set includes:

  1. Molecular Structure Cards:
    • Ball-and-Stick Models: Colorful 3D representations
    • Lewis Structures: Simplified black-and-white diagrams
  2. Fact Cards:
    • In-depth information on molar mass, melting point, solubility, density, and physical appearance
    • Chemical formulas for each amino acid
  3. Name and Side Chain Type Cards:
    • Clear identification of each amino acid
    • Side chain classification information

The set covers all 20 essential amino acids, from Glycine to Tryptophan, providing a comprehensive learning tool for young biochemists.

Want to try before you buy? Subscribe below to get 3 free pages and test out these amazing educational resources for yourself! See how our Amino Acids Printable Cards can transform your biochemistry lessons into exciting learning adventures.

Creative Ideas to Teach Biochemistry

Teaching biochemistry to kids can be a fun and engaging experience with the right approach. Here are some creative ideas to help make complex concepts more accessible and interesting for young learners using my Amino Acids Printable Cards:

1. Storytelling with Biochemistry

How to Use:

  • Create a story around the amino acids and their roles in the body. For instance, Glycine could be the hero of a story about muscle building, while Glutamate could be featured in a tale about brain function.
  • Use the printable cards as visual aids to help illustrate the story and keep kids engaged.

Why It’s Effective: Storytelling makes learning memorable. By creating narratives around biochemistry concepts, kids are more likely to understand and remember the information.

Full List of Amino Acids and Their Roles in the Body

Essential Amino Acids (cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from the diet):

  1. Histidine – Important for growth and the production of histamine, a neurotransmitter vital for immune response, digestion, and sleep-wake cycles.
  2. Isoleucine – Crucial for muscle metabolism, immune function, hemoglobin production, and energy regulation.
  3. Leucine – Stimulates muscle protein synthesis, aids in muscle recovery, and regulates blood sugar levels.
  4. Lysine – Essential for protein synthesis, hormone and enzyme production, and the absorption of calcium.
  5. Methionine – Important for metabolism and detoxification, and necessary for tissue growth and the absorption of zinc and selenium.
  6. Phenylalanine – Precursor for the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, as well as the pigment melanin.
  7. Threonine – Plays a role in collagen and elastin formation, immune function, and fat metabolism.
  8. Tryptophan – Precursor of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, and appetite.
  9. Valine – Stimulates muscle growth and regeneration and is involved in energy production.

Non-Essential Amino Acids (can be synthesized by the body):

  1. Alanine – Helps convert glucose into energy and remove toxins from the body.
  2. Arginine – Important for wound healing, immune function, hormone secretion, and the dilation of arteries.
  3. Asparagine – Key role in biosynthesis of glycoproteins and involved in the function of the central nervous system.
  4. Aspartate – Participates in the urea cycle and gluconeogenesis, and aids in the functioning of the immune system.
  5. Cysteine – Important for protein synthesis, detoxification, and diverse metabolic functions.
  6. Glutamate – Major neurotransmitter in the brain involved in learning and memory.
  7. Glutamine – Supports immune function, gastrointestinal health, and serves as a fuel source for cells lining the intestines.
  8. Glycine – Helps build proteins in the body, supports muscle growth and repair, and influences the release of oxygen to energy-requiring cells.
  9. Proline – Plays a role in collagen formation and tissue repair.
  10. Serine – Involved in metabolism, the production of neurotransmitters, and muscle formation.
  11. Tyrosine – Precursor to neurotransmitters like dopamine and hormones like thyroid hormones.
amino acid cards printable

2. Hands-On Experiments

How to Use:

  • Pair the printable task cards with simple biochemistry experiments, like testing for protein content in foods or creating models of molecular structures using household items (or molecular kits).
  • Use the fact cards to explain the science behind the experiments.

Why It’s Effective: Hands-on learning helps reinforce theoretical concepts. When kids can see and touch what they’re learning about, it makes the information more concrete and understandable.

Biuret Test for Proteins:

The Biuret test is a simple and effective method to test for the presence of proteins in food. Here’s how you can perform it:

Materials Needed:

  • Food samples (e.g., milk, egg whites, meat, beans)
  • Biuret reagent (available in science supply stores or you can make it by mixing copper sulfate and sodium hydroxide)
  • Test tubes
  • Dropper
  • Protective gloves and goggles


  1. Prepare the Food Samples:
    • Mash or blend solid food samples to create a liquid suspension. For example, blend beans or meat with a small amount of water.
    • For liquid samples like milk, no preparation is needed.
  2. Label the Test Tubes:
    • Label each test tube with the name of the food sample.
  3. Add Food Samples:
    • Place a small amount (about 2-3 mL) of each food sample into separate test tubes.
  4. Add Biuret Reagent:
    • Carefully add a few drops of Biuret reagent to each test tube.
  5. Observe the Color Change:
    • If proteins are present, the solution will change color from blue to violet or purple. The intensity of the color indicates the amount of protein present.
  6. Record the Results:

Creating Models of Molecular Structures

Materials Needed:

  • Toothpicks or spaghetti
  • Marshmallows, gumdrops, or other small, colorful candies
  • Labels for each type of amino acid or molecular component


  1. Choose a Structure to Model:
    • Decide whether you want to model a single amino acid, a dipeptide (two amino acids joined together), or a more complex protein structure.
  2. Build the Backbone:
    • Use toothpicks or spaghetti to represent the bonds between atoms.
    • Use candies to represent the atoms (e.g., different colors for carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and side chains).
  3. Assemble the Model:
    • Connect the candies with toothpicks or spaghetti according to the molecular structure.
    • For a simple amino acid, connect the central carbon (C) to an amino group (NH2), a carboxyl group (COOH), a hydrogen atom (H), and an R group (side chain).
  4. Label the Components:
    • Attach labels to identify each part of the amino acid or protein.
  5. Explain the Model:
    • Describe the function of each part of the molecule and how they interact.

Printable Cards and Additional Experiments

Printable Cards:

Create informational cards for each amino acid, detailing their role in the body and their chemical structure. Include fun facts and key functions to make the cards informative and engaging.

Additional Experiments:

  1. Enzyme Activity:
    • Test the activity of enzymes like catalase by using hydrogen peroxide and observing the release of oxygen bubbles.
  2. Protein Denaturation:
    • Use heat or acidic solutions (like vinegar or lemon juice) to denature proteins in egg whites and observe the changes.
  3. Gel Electrophoresis:
    • If you have access to more advanced equipment, demonstrate gel electrophoresis to show how proteins can be separated based on their size and charge.
amino acid experiment ideas

1.Enzyme Activity: Testing Catalase Activity

Objective: To observe the activity of the enzyme catalase in breaking down hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen.

Materials Needed:

  • Fresh potato or liver (source of catalase)
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3% solution)
  • Test tubes or small containers
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Dropper
  • Stopwatch or timer
  • Protective gloves and goggles


  1. Prepare the Catalase Source:
    • Cut a small piece of fresh potato or liver (about 1 cm³).
  2. Set Up the Test Tubes:
    • Place the potato or liver piece into a test tube or small container.
  3. Add Hydrogen Peroxide:
    • Using a dropper, add a few milliliters (about 2-3 mL) of hydrogen peroxide to the test tube.
  4. Observe the Reaction:
    • Observe the formation of bubbles, which indicates the release of oxygen as catalase breaks down the hydrogen peroxide.
  5. Measure the Reaction Time:
    • Use a stopwatch or timer to measure how long the reaction takes to produce bubbles.
    • Compare the reaction rate between different samples (e.g., different types of vegetables or animal tissues).
  6. Record and Analyze Results:
    • Note the intensity and duration of bubbling for each sample.
    • Discuss how different factors (e.g., temperature, pH) might affect enzyme activity.

2. Protein Denaturation

Objective: To observe the denaturation of proteins in egg whites due to heat and acidic solutions.

Materials Needed:

  • Raw egg
  • Small bowls or cups
  • Vinegar or lemon juice
  • Heat source (stove or hot plate)
  • Frying pan
  • Fork or whisk
  • Protective gloves and goggles


Denaturation by Acid:

  1. Separate the Egg Whites:
    • Crack the egg and separate the egg whites into a bowl.
  2. Add Acidic Solution:
    • Add a small amount (about 2-3 tablespoons) of vinegar or lemon juice to the egg whites.
  3. Observe the Changes:
    • Stir the mixture gently with a fork or whisk.
    • Observe the coagulation and change in texture, indicating protein denaturation.

Denaturation by Heat:

  1. Prepare the Egg Whites:
    • Pour a portion of the egg whites into a frying pan.
  2. Heat the Pan:
    • Turn on the heat source and gently heat the frying pan.
  3. Observe the Changes:
    • Watch as the egg whites turn opaque and solidify, indicating denaturation due to heat.
  4. Compare Results:
    • Compare the texture and appearance of the acid-denatured and heat-denatured egg whites.
    • Discuss how different denaturing agents (acid and heat) affect protein structure.

3. Gel Electrophoresis (if accessible)

Objective: To demonstrate how proteins or DNA fragments can be separated based on their size and charge.

Materials Needed:

  • Agarose powder or pre-cast agarose gels
  • Gel electrophoresis apparatus
  • Buffer solution (e.g., TBE or TAE)
  • Sample loading buffer
  • Protein or DNA samples
  • Micropipette and tips
  • Power supply
  • Staining solution (e.g., Coomassie Blue for proteins or ethidium bromide for DNA)


  1. Prepare the Agarose Gel:
    • If using agarose powder, dissolve it in buffer solution and pour it into a gel mold with a comb to create wells.
    • Allow the gel to solidify.
  2. Set Up the Gel Electrophoresis Apparatus:
    • Place the solidified gel in the electrophoresis tank and cover it with buffer solution.
  3. Load the Samples:
    • Mix protein or DNA samples with loading buffer.
    • Use a micropipette to carefully load the samples into the wells of the gel.
  4. Run the Gel:
    • Connect the apparatus to a power supply and set the voltage according to the protocol.
    • Run the electrophoresis until the samples have sufficiently separated (this may take 30-60 minutes).
  5. Stain the Gel:
    • After electrophoresis, carefully remove the gel and place it in a staining solution to visualize the separated proteins or DNA fragments.
    • For DNA, use a UV transilluminator to view the bands.
  6. Analyze the Results:
    • Observe the bands formed in the gel, representing different proteins or DNA fragments.
    • Discuss how the size and charge of the molecules affect their migration through the gel.
amino acid cards printable

3. Visual Aids and Models

How to Use:

  • Use the ball-and-stick models and Lewis structures from the printable cards to create 3D models of amino acids. We use this molecular kit to make them.
  • Display these models around your learning space to create a visually stimulating environment.

Why It’s Effective: Visual aids help kids understand complex structures and processes. 3D models, in particular, provide a tangible way to explore the shapes and connections of molecules.

4. Multimedia Resources

How to Use:

  • Supplement the printable cards with educational videos and interactive websites that explore biochemistry concepts.
  • Use animations to show how amino acids combine to form proteins or how biochemical pathways work.

Why It’s Effective: Multimedia resources cater to different learning styles and can make abstract concepts more relatable. Animations and videos can bring biochemistry to life in a way that static images and text cannot.

5. Interactive Discussions and Q&A

How to Use:

  • Use the detailed information on the printable cards to spark discussions and answer questions.
  • Encourage kids to ask questions and think critically about the concepts being discussed.

Why It’s Effective: Interactive discussions foster a deeper understanding of the material. By encouraging kids to ask questions and think critically, you help them develop their analytical skills and deepen their comprehension.

6. Create a Biochemistry Journal

How to Use:

  • Have kids create a journal where they can draw structures, write down facts, and reflect on what they’ve learned.
  • Use the printable cards as references and prompts for journal entries.

Why It’s Effective: Journaling encourages active learning and reflection. It allows kids to process information in their own words and reinforces their understanding through writing and drawing.

Fun Games to Play with Biochemistry Game Cards

Alright, now let’s get to the fun part – games! Here are some simple game ideas to help you use the amino acids 3-part cards to their fullest potential and make learning about amino acids an exciting adventure.

Match the Pairs

How to Play:

  1. Lay the amino acid cards face down in a grid.
  2. Players take turns flipping over two cards, trying to find matching pairs (e.g., the name of an amino acid with its structure or function).
  3. If a player finds a match, they keep the pair and get another turn.
  4. The player with the most pairs at the end wins.

Why It’s Fun and Educational: Match the Pairs helps improve memory and concentration. It also reinforces the visual recognition of amino acid structures, names, and functions.

Biochemistry Jeopardy

How to Play:

  1. Use the amino acids cards to create a Jeopardy board with categories like “Molecular Structures,” “Amino Acid Properties,” and “Functions in the Body.”
  2. Assign point values to each card within these categories.
  3. Players choose a category and point value, and you read the question from the corresponding card.
  4. Correct answers earn points, and the player with the most points at the end wins.

Why It’s Fun and Educational: This game adds a competitive edge and makes learning dynamic. It’s perfect for group settings and encourages deeper understanding through question-based learning.

Biochemical Pathway Race

How to Play:

  1. Use the cards to design a game board that represents different biochemical pathways, like glycolysis or the Krebs cycle.
  2. Players move along the pathway by drawing cards and answering questions correctly.
  3. Correct answers allow players to advance, and the first to complete the pathway wins.

Why It’s Fun and Educational: This game helps kids understand how biochemical pathways work and how different components interact. It’s a fun way to visualize and learn about complex processes.

Biochemistry Charades

How to Play:

  1. Players draw a card from the amino acids cards and act out the term or concept without speaking.
  2. The other players try to guess the term or concept being acted out.
  3. Correct guesses earn points, and the player with the most points wins.

Why It’s Fun and Educational: Charades adds a physical and imaginative element to learning. It’s perfect for kinesthetic learners and helps reinforce concepts through action.

Biochemical Scavenger Hunt

How to Play:

  1. Hide the amino acids cards around your home or yard.
  2. Give players a list of items or concepts to find.
  3. Players search for the hidden cards and check off items on their list as they find them.
  4. The first player to find all the items on their list wins.

Why It’s Fun and Educational: This game encourages exploration and practical understanding of biochemistry concepts. It’s an active, engaging way to reinforce learning.

Wrapping Up

Learning biochemistry doesn’t have to be daunting or boring. With these creative ideas and fun games, you can turn complex concepts into exciting adventures for kids.

Whether you’re using storytelling, hands-on experiments, or interactive games, you’re not just teaching science – you’re sparking curiosity and fostering a love for learning.

So grab those amino acid cards and get ready to explore the fascinating world of biochemistry with your young scientists! Happy teaching!

best tools for homeschool

This post may contain affiliate links. By making a purchase through these links, I get a small percentage for the item you bought while the price stays the same for you. Thank you for supporting me.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Read my Disclosure to find out more about how I support my website and how you can help.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *