Marshmallow Launchers

The story of the Marshmallow Launcher began in 2000 when Pat Bohman (now President, Kelsey’s Kids) learned that her eleven-year-old daughter had leukemia. Desperate to help Kelsey get through the difficult treatments and hours of boredom, Pat found a way to get her daughter to laugh, and as it turns out, exercise her lungs.

Pat, who then worked in management at a lumberyard, found herself at the counter with a bag of miniature marshmallows, a one-foot length of half-inch PVC, and her younger daughter as a target. In the instant that Pat took a breath and pelted her daughter with a marshmallow, the two of them knew how to bring joy to kids who were isolated and fighting to live. Read More...

They experimented with a chop saw, a propane torch, sandpaper and more PVC. Before long, Children’s Hospital staff members carried the Bohmans’ prototype, dubbed a marshmallow launcher, in scrubs’ pockets. Doctors, nurses and their young patients bombarded each other during gleeful marshmallow battles. A supervising physician pointed out that the launchers, much more fun than a standard spirometer, augmented respiratory therapy, “...and the laughing helps, too.” The Bohmans knew they would not turn back; laughter in a cancer treatment center is a precious commodity.

Pat worried that smaller children might inhale a marshmallow, so she and her husband John designed a top loading port covered with a sliding sleeve, and they pinched down the mouthpiece. The patent process began, and the newest, seventh-generation polycarbonate launcher will be dishwasher-safe, sterilizable and manufactured to close tolerances. Easily mailed, it is colorful, light and front-loading. It features an interior safety screen that allows a larger mouth opening, thus encouraging big breaths.

Since 2002, 23,000 launchers have gone to more than 150 hospitals and camps for children with cancer. Many of the launchers are donated to hospitals to introduce the staff to the respiratory tool.

Instructions

Insert a miniature marshmallow in the end of the tube, suck the marshmallow toward the mouthpiece, then blow. The screen near the mouthpiece will prevent the marshmallow from being inhaled.

Disclaimer

Please provide adult supervision regarding the appropriate use of the Marshmallow Launcher. It is intended for use with miniature marshmallows only, which should be aimed at the provided target and never at someone's head. Do not eat marshmallows after using them in the launcher.

Helpful Advice For a Medical Professional

  • Marshmallow Launchers are made in the USA by a medical manufacturer.
  • They arrive medically clean, but not sterile.
  • Backdrop nets can easily be made by stretching gauze loosely over a big box or basin and taping a target in the middle of the gauze.
  • Making targets provides an incentive to try harder to use the launcher. The child could draw a visual of the germ he/she is fighting
  • Test with a spirometer, then have the child use the launcher for exercise. She or he will look forward to trying the spirometer to retest the next day.
  • Put medical tape over the hole if child’s fingers are too small to cover hole

Helpful Advice from Child Life Specialists

Benefits of Marshmallow Launcher play:

  • It increases ambulation (as a child moves about the room to pick up marshmallows and gets in and out of bed).
  • It improves respiratory status from pleasurable activity, additional benefit from sucking marshmallow back into tube before exhaling to launch marshmallow.
  • Provides normalization of environment through play.
  • Shows decreased flat effect when pelting a nurse with a marshmallow.
  • Provides aggression release.

Patients that would benefit from Marshmallow Launcher play include:

  • Any patient able to exhale forced air, usually over 5 years old.
  • Any patient spending excessive time in bed due to surgery, chest tubes, pneumonia, or treatment, burns, etc.
  • Any patient who needs an outlet during or after a painful procedure- for example, Marshmallow Launcher play can be used during dressing changes.
  • Any patient needing to release aggression or feelings. (You can encourage patients to create targets that display the objects of their fear, anger, or frustration.)

Helpful Advice For a Parent

  • Marshmallow Launchers are made in the USA by a medical manufacturer.
  • They arrive medically clean, but not sterile.
  • You can wash Launchers in a dishwasher.
  • They work best if they are dry, so don’t hesitate to point a hairdryer at them.
  • Backdrop nets can easily be made by stretching gauze loosely over a big box and taping a target in the middle of the gauze.
  • Making targets provides an incentive to try harder to use the launcher. Perhaps your child would like to draw a germ to shoot at. Try pictures, too.
  • Many medical professionals recommend the child shoot at a target on the wall without a backdrop net because it encourages the patient to get some exercise when he or she has to retrieve the marshmallows and put them in the trash.
  • It is important that children wash their hands after picking up used marshmallows.
  • Supervise young children so they don’t eat used marshmallows.
  • Test with a spirometer, and then have the child use the launcher for exercise. She or he will look forward to trying the spirometer to retest the next day.
  • Making targets provides an incentive to try harder to use the launcher. Try pictures, too.
  • Targets can be placed in a box so the marshmallows don't end up all over the room.