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1) Invention Challenges to Get Kids Started:  Here is a cool booklet to help educators, parents and kids start inventing. Unlike many programs that focus on robotics and coding, this one uses every-day objects for mechanical/building-based challenges. I think an Invention Party would be a cool birthday theme for any age! The last few pages have even more resources listed.

(It prints funny unless you save as a pdf, then print from Adobe)

2) Kid Inventors: These kids invented some familiar items, like earmuffs! So inspiring.

3) Invention One-Page Handout: I created this to share at our table at Engineering Week at The Children's Museum of Houston. "What Could You Invent?"  You're welcome to copy this jpeg image. For a pdf or Word document, contact me through my contact page and I'll email it to you.

4) Owen's Story

How he came up with MagnaFingers, and how parents can provide a creative environment in the home:

Steps to a New Tool

1. Owen had always liked experimenting with magnets. So when he spilled fish hooks on his rug, his first idea was to pick up his fish hooks with a magnet.  He quickly realized that if they were stuck to a magnet, he would have to pull them off and risk poking his fingers.

2. His solution was to put a strong magnet in a clam shell. The magnet could pull the fish hooks to the underside of the clam shell. Then he could release the fish hooks into his box by taking the magnet out of the clam shell.  This worked pretty well, but he wanted a tool that would serve this purpose.

3. In place of the clam shell, he cut a cardboard circle from a heavy duty paper plate. He glued it to a popsicle stick, and glued the popsicle stick to the bottom half of a clothespin.  Then he glued a magnet to another popsicle stick (with a spacer in between to get the distance right), and glued that popsicle stick to the top half of the clothespin.  That was the very first MagnaFingers
4. He made more from other scraps in his room and gave them to his mom and grandmothers. His mom complained that some pins were attracted to the wrong part of the tool, sticking directly to the magnet. So, he created a new version with the sides and top covered by craft foam sheets.  His mom thought other people would like to use this tool, so she helped him get a patent and an engineered design. 

Creative Environment

If you ask Owen how to be creative, he will say, “You need a lot of junk and a lot of time.”  This might be the hard part for parents!  He filled his room with odds and ends that he collected. 
When he was younger, his mom provided him with open-ended toys like blocks, magnets, scissors, foam craft sheets, pipe cleaners, clay, and other interesting things from the craft store.  She lamented that he wouldn’t sit still in front of the tv because he always wanted to do something!
He loved playing outside with water, filling bins, dumping them out, and watching little toys float on the waves.  Bath toys were an extension of this kind of play.  He spent hours playing in the sandbox, which was strategically placed in the far corner of the yard in an attempt to minimize sand in the house!
For lots of simple play ideas that stimulate creative thinking, search online for Montessori education toys, Waldorf education toys, and a fantastic list of ideas on this webpage: