activity popcorn balls

Popcorn Balls

Shape-shift popcorn into a special treat. It takes just 3 simple ingredients make science learning and creativity into curvy, crunchy concoctions!


When working with food, always wash hands well before and after. This is a messy-- little hands will be used shape sticky materials, so prepare your space and yourself. You can find more cover- and clean-up tips in our FAQ.

MATERIALS - click to buy
  1. One 3.29 ounce size bag of microwave popcorn like this organic, lightly-salted popcorn found on Amazon. Bag sizes vary, but three ounces and a bit more is fine. Or, if you choose to make popcorn on your stove or in a popper, use ½ cup all-natural popcorn kernels like these. Both result in about 8 cups of popcorn and 20 2-inch popcorn balls.
  2. 10 ounce bag of fresh, large size marshmallows found here
  3. ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) butter or margarine. We prefer unsalted butter for taste and health.
  4. Extra pat of butter to rub on your hands when forming popcorn balls, about one tablespoon per set of hands.
  5. Large, at least 8 quart bowl, with tall sides - We like to use a big plastic or stainless steel bowl like this one. It works well for mixing ingredients and is safe around preschoolers.
  6. Flexible, heat resistant spatula like the one found here. A mixing spoon can also work, but a spatula makes mixing and scraping this sticky mixture easy.
  7. Wax paper like this - Cut and spread out a few sheets out in prep for cooling
  8. Microwave-safe bowl - We like to use a BPA-free mixing bowl with a spout like this for easy pouring and safe microwaving.
  9. Optional: For stove-top popping, a large, at least 8 quart size, lidded pot like this example 
  10. Optional: For stove-top popping, 2 Tablespoons vegetable cooking oil 
  11. Optional: Plastic wrap like this and/or storage containers
  12. Optional: For mixing or decoration, extra yumminess of your choice, like raisins, craisins, or nuts like sunflower seeds or slivered almonds like these.
  1. This is very quick and less messy when made using a microwave. It will take longer and involve more clean up with a stove top, but don't worry, it’s also easy to do.
  2. The first step is to pop your popcorn. Follow the directions on the bag. Using a microwave, popcorn takes about 2:30 minutes. Beware: microwaves vary, so no matter what your timer says, stop cooking when you hear no more kernels popping.
  3. If you are using a stove, you will need 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in the pan. Add popcorn, cover and place over medium heat until hear one or two kernels pop. Then move back and forth, shaking them around until all of those little kernels are fully popped.
  4. Put your popcorn aside in a large bowl. The temperature of the popcorn is not important, hot or cold works well in this recipe, so you can pop ahead!
  5. Find any unpopped kernels by stirring around in the bowl. Throw them away, because it’s no fun finding biting down on something hard.
  6. Melt your butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl in the microwave for about 1 minute. If you’re using a stove, melt the butter in the pan over medium heat until just melted. Try not to brown the butter, it will give your treats a brown cast.
  7. Put your marshmallows in the bowl with the melted butter and cook in the microwave for about 1 minute. Then, stir well. Your mixture will be stiff and gooey.
  8. Put your half-cooked marshmallows back into the microwave about 1 more minute. Take them out and stir again. They should be completely melted after 2 minutes. If not, continue cooking for 10 seconds at a time and check again.
  9. For our stove-top cookers, once the butter is fully melted, put the marshmallows into the pan with the butter on medium-low heat. Stir continuously until all the marshmallows melt. 
  10. Add your popcorn to the marshmallow mixture a little at a time and blend well. We don’t recommend children stirring. They can help you add the popcorn and keep a lookout for any unpopped kernels. Make sure the marshmallow mixture covers all the popcorn and none is left at the bottom or your bowl. If you choose to mix in additional treats, like nuts or raisins, now’s the time to do so.
  11. Skilly Spark: As your child watches you stir, talk with them child about all the changes they see. Look how those marshmallows get squishy and lose their shape as they melt? See how they swirl and mix. What else do you see, smell or taste happening? Engage all five growing senses!
  12. Let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes so it’s not too hot to handle.
  13. Ask your child rub both hands with a pat of butter. This is going to be super sticky, so be sure to get it between their fingers and palms too.
  14. Then, dig in to get a handful of the popcorn-marshmallow mix. Show your child how to shape a blob into individual popcorn balls about 2 inches in diameter. Place each one on wax paper to cool.
  15. Once everything is balled up, your child can create their own designs by decorating with more delicious tidbits.
  16. Do your best to be patient and let your treats harden before eating. This takes a good 2 hours.
  17. Store any leftovers in plastic wrap. They do not need to be refrigerated and will last a couple weeks. Woo hoo!


Keep the fun going
  • Older children, 4 years and up, can use toothpicks to form critters like snowmen, centipedes or other animals.
  • Get into the season! Make Jack-o-lantern popcorn balls with raisin faces for a Halloween treat. Or, make snowmen if it suits. What other holidays could you celebrate with your popcorn balls?
  • Wrap your popcorn balls with plastic wrap and add a bow for a sweet, little gift for your friends.