How to Make Molecules With Marshmallows & Toothpicks

Written by sandra parker
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Understanding basic biology and chemistry can be tough. Making a model of specific molecules using differently sized and coloured marshmallows and differently coloured toothpicks to indicate specific bond types may make the concept easier to learn. Seeing a visual representation of a molecule can make it easier to understand the relationship between different atoms and the effects of certain types of bonds. Plus, they are fun to make and even more fun to eat.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Large and small marshmallows (different colours)
  • Toothpicks (different colours)
  • Periodic table of elements
  • Molecular formulas

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  1. 1

    Obtain your supplies. You will need to purchase both large and small marshmallows, both in the multicoloured packages, as well as toothpicks in a colour assortment. The reason is to be able to make a visual representation of molecules with some atoms larger than others and with stronger bonds. The differently coloured toothpicks will represent the bonds between the atoms in which there are several different types and strengths of bonds.

  2. 2

    Obtain various molecule recipes. In order to build a water molecule, you will need to know that it consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom or that a carbon dioxide molecule is one carbon atom to two oxygen atoms. Your students' science text or assignment should have the formulas you will need in order to put your molecules together.

  3. 3

    Determine what atoms each marshmallow represents. Consult the periodic table to determine which atoms in the molecule are larger. Large marshmallows will represent these atoms. The smaller marshmallows will represent the smaller atoms. For instance, in a basic water molecule, the single oxygen atom will be the big marshmallow, and the two hydrogen atoms will be the smaller marshmallows. Also, determine what colour marshmallow will represent what atom. For instance, hydrogen molecules can be small pink marshmallows while oxygen can be a large yellow one. Carbon dioxide can use a small blue marshmallow for the carbon atom and large yellow ones for oxygen since carbon is a smaller atom than oxygen.

  4. 4

    Determine the types of bonds that are associated with each molecule. Depending on how advanced the science class is, you may need to differentiate between the different bond types. Molecules can have covalent bonds, hydrogen bonds or ionic bonds, each of which has their own specific characteristics and strengths. Using a specific coloured toothpick can signify each bond type. Determining bond types will require additional research, either through the text or online.

  5. 5

    Assemble the molecule. Simply insert the properly coloured toothpick into the centre of the bonded atoms. Each atom within the molecule will be bonded with at least one other atom, though you can bond with more than one.

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