Marshmallow Challenge in the Kindergarten


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November 12, 2010

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I few month back I saw the TED talk of Tom Wujec about the Marshmallow Challenge. What fascinated me the most was the fact that according to Tom recent graduates of the kindergarten are building higher structures than the average adult. One of my credos is: „Never believe a statistic that you didn’t fake on your own“. So I phoned the head of our local kindergarten to ask if I could do the Marshmallow Challenge with the so called „Maxi-Kids“. These are the pre-schoolers of the kindergarten in the age of 5 years. And today morning I went there. What can I say, it was fun! I didn’t even have the time to explain everything in detail to them they just got started 🙂 The results were quite amazing.

Picture of the marshmallow structures
Click to enlarge

The smallest structure had a size of about 20 cm. Unfortunately it got destroyed before the time was over. The kid got frustrated by the bigger towers of the other kids 😉 The structure on the left was about 27cm tall. The structure on the right was about 25cm tall but the biggest structure (the one in the middle) had a size of nearly 40cm(!). This is astonishing! All of the 4 groups had a standing structure (at least for a short time) and I bet the biggest structure would beat many other structures by adults. It was a great experience, maybe I’ll repeat it from time to time to get some more flesh for my statistics 😉

About the author 

Marc Löffler

Marc Löffler ist Keynote-Speaker, Autor und Mentor für passionierte Scrum Master. Er befasst sich schon seit 2005 leidenschaftlich mit agilen Methoden, wie z.B. Scrum, Kanban oder eXtreme Programming. Bevor er mit dem Thema Agilität in Berührung gekommen war, hat er als zertifizierter Projektmanager (IPMA) bei Firmen wie Volkswagen, Siemens und EADS erfolgreich multinationale Projekte geleitet. Mit Begeisterung hilft er Unternehmen dabei, agile Werte zu verstehen und genau die Form von Agilität zu finden, die zum jeweiligen Unternehmen passt. Dabei nutzt er sein PASSION Modell, um die jeweilige Situation zu analysieren und sinnvolle nächste Schritte hin zur passionierten, agilen Organisation zu definieren. Er liebt es, neue Einsichten zu generieren, und unterstützt Unternehmen dabei, Probleme aus kreativen, neuen Blickwinkeln zu betrachten. Seit September 2018 ist er zertifizierter Professional Speaker GSA (SHB) mit der besten Keynote seines Jahrgangs. Im Jahr 2014 erschien sein Buch „Retrospektiven in der Praxis“ beim dpunkt.verlag. Im Jahr 2018 folgte das Buch „Improving Agile Retrospectives“ bei Addison Wesley. Im Februar 2022 folgte dann das Buch "Die Scrum Master Journey" beim BusinessVillage Verlag.

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  1. I always wonder, if it is with the rules to tape stuff to the table. Your kids all did that and many of the adult teams I’ve seen did it, too.

    Anyway, those kids did amazing sculptures. Each looks really chaotic!

    1. From my point of view there is no rule against taping the structure to the table. I also saw it a lot of times in the past. Even on the pictures on Tom Wujec’s marshmallow challenge page you can find those structures. IMHO this doesn’t affect the learn effect.

  2. Great. I think I’ll try this at our Kindergarten too 🙂

    Taping to the table: the question is the definition of free standing. But as long it is only taped to the „floor“ the effect does not really change the game and provides some new possibilities. That’s why I allow taping to the table.

  3. I love to read posts like this. I also saw a TED talk (or maybe it was another video podcast) where the topic was a marshmallow challenge. In this case, however, they had the Kindergarten class compete against a group of adults who were about to graduate from an MBA program. The result? Every kid had something built when the timer rang. Not a single adult created a structure. Why you ask? Upon doing some intense upfront planning, they calculated their odds of winning were too low so they didn’t even „waste“ their time. They didn’t even prototype. They didn’t even try. The kids figured something was better than nothing.

    1. I did a Scrum training a week later with two teams. Even without telling them about the kinderkarten class none of the teams had a standing structure. After the challenge I showed them the structures of the kindergarten kids. The suprised faces were priceless 😉

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