Marshmallows and Toothpicks As Team Building Tools
By Vivian A. Scott
The pressure of having to come up with yet another team building exercise can make even the most adept event planner frustrated.
But, props can help and two of my favorites are marshmallows and toothpicks. Not only are they affordable and readily available, but the marshmallows can double as snacks!
Here are three categories I’ve created for developing a team building exercise using marshmallows and toothpicks.
Building something-anything. There are plenty of instructions on the Internet showing you how to create structures so it’s okay to cheat a little and download those.
But don’t stop there. Add your own twist by defining the guidelines for the activity based on your specific needs. For example, if there’s an ongoing issue between sales and accounting make sure you assign people from both departments to a group.
Assign roles within the groups so that one set of folks doesn’t steamroll over the other. Or, build replicas of your product line; build bridges from one group’s table to another; or have participants pull verbs out of hat and ask them to build the action.
Give them something to talk about. Provide instructions that have a few steps missing or are unclear for the purpose of discussion building. For example, tell the groups to build a vehicle that can transport more than two people, is safe, and comfortable. The group will have to discuss what each of those means and will need to work together to accomplish the task.
Put the work on them. Make the assignment about developing an assignment! Put the items on the table and tell the group that their assignment is to create a team building activity using only marshmallows and toothpicks. Let the imaginations go wild and be sure not to jump in with additional instructions beyond a time limit and how to form a group.
No matter the category or directions, the point is to have fun with it so don’t forget to create some structure around the reporting out stage that keeps the bonding going. Be fearless and don’t be afraid to throw in a few strange rules like points taken off for any marshmallows eaten or the ability to earn extra points for using fewer marshmallows than toothpicks.
Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator with a private practice in the Seattle area. Author of “Conflict Resolution At Work For Dummies” (Wiley Publishing 2009), which is a practical guide for resolving problems at work, she believes the book is a must-have for anyone interested in restoring peace, training others to get along better, preventing conflicts from ever starting, and boosting morale.
The advice contained in the book works just as well for individuals outside the workplace. See Scott’s website at http://www.vivianscottmediation.com for more information on mediation and resolving conflicts.
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