Do you and your daughter ever notice things around the house that you wish were more efficient? Do you ever think there ought to be an invention to solve a seemingly unsolvable problem? Do you ever wish there was a product to help you do something better?
Try doing some kids inventions brainstorming and innovating with your daughter. You could try to solve one of my pet-peeves: how to get flour from the bag into mixing bowl without having some of it spill and blow all over the kitchen counter. Plus, cleaning it up makes the dishrag all goopy!
Everyday annoyances often lead to great innovation. For example, the Norwegian patent office reports that the cheese-slicer was invented by Lillehammer carpenter Thor Bjørklund in 1927. He wanted thinner slices of gouda in his sandwiches, and a knife didn’t work the way he wanted. Experimenting with his tools, he found that a wood plane worked pretty well, but it was too big and impractical to store in a kitchen. After thinking about the problem over night, he cut a thin slice of steel, bending a small part down, while the back of the steel-slice was bent up so a nice slice of cheese go through. Neighbors and friends loved his invention, word spread, he had a new business—and eventually Norway’s patent-number 43377.
The key is to think wildly and dream big (or small, if the problem is tiny). Don’t let “practicality” get in the way.
Remember that guessing is right; even if it doesn’t immediately lead to an answer (Thomas Edison tried thousands of variations before finding the right combination for a mass-produce-able light bulb).
The Girls Scouts of the USA recommend three important things to keep in mind when working with a girl on projects:
- Let her take the lead in handling materials, giving directions and exploring.
- Work as a team – don’t set out to compete.
- Give her time to think and explore. Silence often means that thinking is going on.
The most important thing about the kids inventions process is the process. This is a fun activity for communicating with and getting to know your daughter. Plus, the process can last for days, weeks, or months!
There are numerous websites aimed at encouraging girls to be inventive and enthusiastic about science and technology. Here are just a few:
- Inventive Kids (www.inventivekids.com)
- Resources from the Girl Scouts of the USA (http://forgirls.girlscouts.org/other-resources-stem/)
- The US Patent and Trademark Office Kids Pages (www.uspto.gov/go/kids)
- FIRST: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (www.usfirst.org)
- The National Inventor’s Hall of Fame in Akron has a summer program for kids in grade one through six called “Camp Invention” (http://invent.org/camp-invention)
Tip: Keep in mind that invention doesn’t have to mean creating a whole new technology. For example, you and your daughter can invent a new way to paint or wallpaper her bedroom. Or even your bedroom! Maintain a broad definition of inventing, and there will be more room for both of you move around and have fun.
Joe Kelly is co-founder of New Moon Girls and author of Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter. He also coaches fathers and stepfathers on challenges of raising healthy, strong daughters.