Posted in Classroom Guidance Lessons

Self Control – The Marshmallow Test

If you ask my students what their favorite lesson of all time was, I would bet that most of them would say The Marshmallow Test lesson. They loved to see who had self-control and who didn’t, not to mention their love for any lesson that allows them to eat something. Marshmallows are pretty cheap to get in bulk and it is a relatively allergy-friendly food. However, you must check in to ensure that your students are allowed to eat marshmallows since they contain gelatin (Kosher, vegan, and Muslim students often cannot have any food with gelatin). I had a back up candy for students who might not be able to have marshmallows.

Lesson Title: Self Control – The Marshmallow Test

Grade(s): K-5

ASCA Standards:

  • A:A1.5 Identify attitudes and behaviors that lead to successful learning
  • PS:A1.8 Understand the need for self-control and how to practice it

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will be able to explain what self control is and how they use it in their life
  • Students will understand the short and long term effects of using self-control


  • Enough Marshmallows for each student to have 2
  • Technology to play the following videos:


  • Optional: Family Connection Self-Control Handout


Begin by explaining the rules of the marshmallow test and passing out one marshmallow to each student.

“This is your marshmallow. You can touch it, smell it, etc. if you choose. You can even eat it. However, if you choose not to eat, lick, or taste the marshmallow, then you can get another marshmallow in a little bit. If you choose to eat the marshmallow now, that’s totally your choice, but you will only get one.”

Play the following videos for the corresponding grade level:

K-1 Play Cookie Monster “Me Want It (But Me Wait)” Video

2-5 Play Self Control Video by LearningWorks for Kids


Imagine riding in a car that is out of control. It can be frightening and very dangerous! This is also true for people who are out of control. They can hurt themselves and other people. Self-control is like having steering and brakes in the journey of life. It means saying “no” to some things in order to say “yes” to something better—something that can help you reach your goals!

This is activity that we have been doing is called the marshmallow test. A famous researcher first did this same test with kids younger than you a long time ago. He told the kids that if they waited to eat their marshmallow that they could have another. Do you think the younger kids found it easier or more difficult to wait to eat their marshmallow. More difficult! Little kids typically have less self-control because they’re still gaining their self-control skills. The interesting thing is that the kids who were able to practice self-control and wait for their second marshmallow were found, many years later, to be more successful! The kids who didn’t eat their marshmallow right away were more likely to make good grades, go to college, to make more money, to be healthier, and even to be happier! Does that mean that if you didn’t practice self-control and ate your marshmallow that you will be less successful? No! It just means you need to work hard on your self-control skills so that you can be successful too!

Optional: Ask students to complete the Family Connection Self-Control Handout

End with passing out a second marshmallow to students who did not eat/lick their first marshmallow and share the marshmallow test video:


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