Play the Marshmallow Challenge

Play the Marshmallow Challenge
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What is it?

A challenge to see who can get their marshmallow perfectly brown without catching it on fire. Seriously though, it’s a team-building game.

Why do it?

Learn a lesson in innovation, creativity, teams, collaboration, as well as the value of early prototyping and incremental delivery.

Time Needed

25 minutes (5 minutes to explain + 20 minutes to build)

Number of Participants

Teams of 4 – 8 people

Supplies Needed

For each team:

  • 20 sticks of spaghetti
  • 1 yard of tape
  • 1 yard of string
  • 1 marshmallow
  • 1 large envelope or small paper bag

The facilitator will also need a measuring tape (and music if you want to play in the background while the teams are working).

Process Steps

  1. Create a ‘kit’ for each team by putting the supplies in an envelope and hand them out. Be sure everyone has one before anyone opens.
  2. Once everyone has received their kit, have them open the envelope and examine the contents.
  3. Instruct each team to build the tallest structure possible to support their marshmallow using ONLY the contents in the envelope. The marshmallow must be placed on top of the structure.
  4. Option: Hold back the marshmallow until they know they have to build a tower – shouldn’t be hard to add a marshmallow, right?
  5. Everyone starts building at the same time and will have 20 minutes to complete their structure.
  6. Repeat the rules out loud a few times during the session. People will ask for clarification anyway.
  7. Draw attention to teams that are doing particularly well (or poorly) – create a little friendly competition.
  8. The team with the tallest free-standing structure that is able to support the marshmallow wins. (If a team decides to stop building after 10 minutes, their tower must still be standing at the end of the game.)

Debrief

Go around the room and have each team tell you the process they went through to get their final product, including their failures and/or challenges.

Part of the real power of the game is in helping people to identify the hidden assumptions that every project has, and to recognize the value in diversity of team membership.


Get more games to share with your team, see how we use gamification in our course development, and/or contact us to help you facilitate learning through play at your organization.

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