How (and Why) to Raise a Child Inventor
15 January 2023
Is your child going through an inventing phase? It’s more important for early childhood development than you might think. Read on for all the benefits of encouraging little inventors!
Children love inventing. It’s the perfect mix of imagination and creation. They have an idea, make concept art, work with different materials and end with a finished product. Additionally, inventing develops children’s problem-solving, fine and gross motor skills, manual dexterity and intelligence.
However, inventing is more than just a learning exercise. History is full of children creating everyday inventions from toy trucks to braille! So, to celebrate Kid Inventors’ Day, we look at the benefits of encouraging little inventors, as well as listing some famous child inventors for inspiration.
How to Encourage Inventing at Home
There are several ways to promote invention at home. And remember, not all inventions require crafts or elaborate parts. Many are simple alterations to existing objects. Moreover, just creating concept art is a huge step for the little ones!
A few ways to encourage children to invent are:
- Ask them to identify an everyday problem
- Write a story about an inventor (real or imagined)
- Invite them to draw an invention
Likewise, inventor kits have exploded in popularity in recent years. These are containers or boxes filled with everyday household items and loose parts. Inventor boxes present an evocative safe space for children to explore their senses, while also flexing their creative muscles. They can be bought pre-made or you can create your own in just a few easy steps. You’d be surprised at what children can create with the most basic materials!
Why is Inventing Important for Children?
Inventing is the ultimate form of creativity, as it encourages children to think critically and use their motor skills to turn an idea into a physical form. Importantly, this process engages both sides of their brain, which is fundamental to cognitive development. Moreover, creativity has emerged as a priceless skill across all industries, not just those in creative fields.
At Explorers, our Reggio Emilia inspired philosophy encourages play-based learning goals through project-based education. Therefore, if a child has an idea or passion in a specific area, our Educators actively motivate them down this innovative path. Children need to enjoy learning and be free to explore and create in their own unique way.
Educators, therefore, act as guides. They keep children from straying too far into the fanciful and make sure to ask the right questions. Importantly, they reward curiosity. This is integral to the Reggio Emilia approach, and early learning more broadly.
Famous Child Inventors
Toy Truck – Robert W. Patch (Age 6)
Robert Patch was just six when he invented the toy truck out of shoeboxes, bottle caps and a nail. While it sounds simple, Patch became the youngest person in history to receive an official US patent. Importantly, Patch’s invention didn’t require elaborate parts or intricate designs – just a few materials and a good idea.
Crayon Holder – Cassidy Goldstein (age 11)
In 2006, Cassidy Goldstein was named Youth Inventor of the Year by Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation. This was thanks to her ingenious Crayon Holders, which allowed broken crayons to be reused through a retractable plastic tube. Cassidy’s invention solved a common problem children faced daily, as well as drastically reducing crayon waste.
Popsicle – Frank Epperson (Age 11)
Sometimes, a great invention isn’t enough. At age 11, Frank Epperson accidently invented the popsicle (icy poles) by leaving a sugary mixture out on a cold night, the wooden mixing stick frozen inside. Yet, it was a story of perseverance for Epperson. It took over a decade pitching his product around the neighbourhood, beaches and a fireman’s ball to finally get the project off the ground. Children can learn a lot from Epperson, as hard work does pay off!
Braille – Louis Braille (age 15)
By age five, Louis Braille was blind in both eyes. However, this didn’t deter the brilliant young inventor. At the time, reading and writing systems for the visually impaired were costly and inefficient. So, a 12 year-old Braille embarked on developing an entirely new system. By 15, he’d invented the raised-dot system we know today. Braille is now standard across all blind communities, and it’s not just for books. It can be found on signs in public spaces, keypads, restaurant menus, door signs, medicine labels and so much more.
Overall, inventing is a wonderful way to get children’s brains buzzing. In these early years, children start to understand that they’re part of a wider community. Importantly, they learn that their ideas and innovations can impact the world around them. So be sure to encourage and reward children’s ideas, no matter how silly they might seem. You never know – that electric toothbrush sticky taped to a fork might just be the next million dollar idea!