Heat Transfer Activities & Games

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

If your class is studying heat, consider having students learn all about heat transfer. Use these games and activities to help students understand the mechanisms of heat transfer.

It's Getting Hot in Here

It's the reason we can cook cupcakes in our ovens and a fire warms our hands on a cold night. When students study heat transfer, they can learn about the mechanisms by which heat moves: conduction, convection, and radiation. As students learn about heat transfer, they can identify real-world examples of heat transfer and how it occurs naturally or through technology.

Let's look at some activities and games to help students learn more about heat transfer. Consider having students begin with the activity 'Experiencing Heat Transfer,' so they can observe the mechanisms of heat transfer for themselves.

Experiencing Heat Transfer

Use these hands-on experiments to help student gain a greater understanding of heat transfer.


  • Hand warmers
  • Clear jars
  • Water
  • Red food coloring
  • Heat-safe container
  • Hot plate or microwave
  • Eye dropper
  • Ice cubes
  • Cups
  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Oven mitt

Teacher Directions


  • Define 'conduction.' Discuss how the heat from the warmer object transfers to the cooler object when they touch, such as burning your hand when you touch a hot pot or stove.
  • Divide the class in pairs and give each pair paper, pencils, and a handwarmer.
  • Have students activate the handwarmer so it starts getting warm. Students should take turns holding the handwarmer and moving it around in their hands. Encourage students to think about how their hands feel when the handwarmer is in them and how they feel without the hard warmer.
  • Have students draw or write about how their hands feel when in contact with the handwarmer and when not in contact with the handwarmer.
  • Discuss with students how the heat from the handwarmer is only transferred to their hands when their hands touch it.


  • Define 'radiation.' Discuss how electromagnetic waves, both those we can and cannot see, can transfer heat, like when we cook food in a microwave.
  • Divide the class into pairs and give each pair paper, pencils, and a cup with ice cubes.
  • Have students go outside to a sunny location. Students should leave their cup in the sun and observe what happens to their ice over a 5- to 10-minute period.
  • Students should draw or write about what happened to the ice in the cup as the Sun's rays beat down on their ice.
  • Discuss with students how radiation from the sun transferred heat from the light to the ice.


  • Define 'convection.' Discuss how currents in air and water can transfer heat, such as when baking cookies in an oven.
  • Divide the class into small groups and give students paper and pencils.
  • Provide each group with a clear jar half filled with water and ice and let the jar sit for about 5-10 minutes so the water gets cold.
  • While the groups are waiting, boil some water in a heat safe container on a hot plate or in the microwave. Add drops of red food coloring to the water.
  • Fill an eye dropper with the hot water. You may want to wear an oven mitt to hold the eye dropper.
  • Visit each group and drop a few drops of the hot water into the bottom of their jar.
  • Have students observe how the food coloring moves through the jar and write or draw about it.
  • Return to each group and add several more drops to their jar in the same manner. Have students again observe what happens.
  • Discuss with students how the food coloring traveled in currents through the cold water to the top of the water, while cooler molecules of water dropped down to the bottom. This cycle repeats until the whole jar of water turns a light shade of red.

Discussion Questions

  • What are some real-world examples of conduction, convection, and radiation?
  • How are conduction, convection, and radiation similar and different?

Draw and Guess

Engage students in a drawing game to guess real-life examples of conduction, convection, and radiation.


  • Index cards
  • Marker
  • Dry-erase boards
  • Dry-erase markers

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