Hot Cocoa Science for the Holidays!

I LOVE all things holidays… I start listening to Christmas music waaaaay earlier than I probably should and twirl down the aisles of Hobby Lobby as soon as they fill their shelves with holiday joy. I’ve been planning some fun holiday STEM activities for the last month and I am so excited to have finished the first product.

I am a strong believer that science education should start early, so I have been focusing on developing content for the primary grades, however this lesson (found here) could easily be amped up for upper graders (energy transfer anyone?). My kinder daughter and I had a blast with this one… and my two year old loved helping out by noshing on marshmallows and candy canes.

What I love about this activity is how many NGSS Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts come up during the exploration. The accompanying writing and art project make this a true STEAM lesson. Here’s how to bring it to life in your classroom (or home).


To prep for this activity, we made a LOT of hot cocoa. It works best to dissolve the cocoa powder into hot water, so we heated enough for three cups and then chilled one mug with ice cubes (and gave it an extra boost by placing it in the freezer for about 10 minutes) and let the other cool to about room temperature.

While the cocoa was cooling, we prepped our marshmallows and candy canes. We also made our predictions about which marshmallow we thought would melt first. It might benefit you to do a little reheat in the microwave for your “hot” mug of cocoa right before you begin experimenting.


When we were ready to make our observations, we placed one large and one small marshmallow into the hot cocoa at the same time. To speed up the process, we stirred the hot cocoa with candy canes. After a few minutes, we took out the marshmallows and candy canes to make our observations.


We measured and compared how the cold, warm, and hot cocoa affected the marshmallows and candy canes. My kinder darling easily understood that the heat made an impact on the marshmallows. We discussed where the marshmallows went when they “melted” and compared it to what happens to an ice cube when it heats up.

Slide06As an extension to the experiment, I have also included a writing activity about comparing melting marshmallows to melting snowmen in the resource.

After filling our bellies with candy canes and cocoa, my little one wanted to do some crafting, so we came up with this puppet that looks like she is drinking hot cocoa. I thought this might be a fun tool for students to use to teach the class about what they learned from the experiment. In the resource, I’ve provided a template for making the puppet with a paper bag. Here’s a quick sneak peak of the steps:


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I hope your holiday season brings all things wonderful… and I hope you can sneak some science in with the fun!


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