Digestive System Functions Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The main job of your digestive system is to break down food so nutrients can be released and used by your body to make energy. Learn how your body takes in food, moves it through your body, breaks it down, absorbs nutrients and gets rid of wastes.

Digestive System

Do you have a favorite food? Some foods are fun to eat, like ice cream. Other foods, like vegetables, are eaten because they're full of vitamins and minerals. The part of your body that deals with food is called your digestive system. Its main job is to break down what you eat so the nutrients in the food can be released to make energy. Your digestive system also has many smaller jobs. You'll learn about the different jobs of your digestive system in this lesson.


For your digestive system to work you have to put foods in your mouth. Placing food in your mouth is called ingestion. Ingestion is a function of your digestive system.

Once the food is in your mouth, it's ready to start its journey through your digestive tract. Your digestive tract is the long tube that's open at both ends. Food goes in your mouth and waste is pushed out the opening at the other end, called the anus. The foods you eat and the drinks you drink need to travel a long distance to make it the entire way through this tube. When you become an adult, your digestive tract will be about 30 feet long!

Your Digestive Tract
digestive tract

Moving Food

Moving food through your digestive tract is another job of your digestive system. Your tongue helps push food to the back of your throat where it can be swallowed. The actions of smooth muscles are what keep the food going through the rest of your digestive tract, which includes your esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. Smooth muscles are the ones that work on their own, without you having to think about them.


Your digestive system breaks down food as it moves through the tract. This breakdown of food is called digestion. Digestion helps get the nutrients out of the food. Nutrients are things like proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Food can be digested physically or with the help of digestive juices.

Physical digestion begins in the mouth. When you chew food, it breaks down into smaller pieces. Physical digestion also happens later in the digestive tract. Smooth muscles in the lining of the tract tighten and relax. These movements cause the food to get squished, squeezed and tossed around. It's a wild ride through your digestive tract!

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