So, how do we turn our bored kids into imaginative inventors, anyway? Why not institute a “Figure it Out” day? Some people, like soldiers or spies, need to figure things out on their own all the time. When I was a kid, I loved to pretend that I was a spy – I could spy on my mom and try to find out what was for dinner without her even knowing I was watching! Give your kids projects to help them become better spies – not to mention resourceful, creative inventors, too! As a homeschooler, I’m sure you already have a great big trunk (or maybe even an entire closet) full of craft supplies. Well, here are some ideas that combine crafts, imagination, and invention:
- The Periscope: Spies need to collect information while keeping their identity a secret. Here’s a question to ask your little spy…I mean homeschooler: How do you peak around a corner without someone seeing you? Explain how mirrors reflect objects and that mirrors can be positioned to reflect images to each other. Next, give them little pocket mirrors (even shiny spatulas or other shiny objects can work well – as long as they’re not pointy or dangerous) and a plethora of paper towel and toilet paper rolls. Don’t forget the masking tape! Tell them to create an object that will peak around a corner for them. Then let the experimenting begin…
- The Message: Spies also need to get information to each other quickly, but they can’t always deliver their notes in person. So, ask your kids: How would you get a message from your bedroom to the kitchen? Give them access to the craft closet full of string, tubes, pipe cleaners, and everything else your little MacGyver may need and let them have at it. To get them started, you could suggest that they rig up a pulley system or maybe a ramp that a toy truck could run down. Or could they possibly entice Rover to deliver that message for them? To create a bigger challenge, tell them that you’ll need a way to send a return message, too!
- The Secret Code: But what if that message were to fall into enemy hands? Ask your kids: How could we communicate secretly? See if your kids can create their own secret code made up of numbers, symbols, or rearranged letters. If they’ve read any of the books in The Series of Unfortunate Events, then they know that objects (like a lone celery stalk or a half-opened window) can also be used to send messages. Let them really explore different ways to communicate secretly!
Remember: The important part about invention is that there is no one right answer! The learning occurs when your kids develop questions and then seek creative ways to answer them on their own. Spending an entire afternoon developing a message-relay system may seem like a waste of time at first – until you watch your kids using their brains to solve the simple problem. Problem-solving skills, creativity, and inquisitive minds can’t be taught through worksheets or lesson books – you need to let your kids fend for themselves and kick through the frustration…only then can they come running to you to say, “Mom, look what I did all by myself!”