by Brenda S Miles, PhD, C Psych
Clinical Paediatric Neuropsychologist
Another week, another word. This week’s word is invent.
If you’re a fan of ABC’s Shark Tank, you’ll know the show is filled with entrepreneurs hoping to make it big with their one-of-a-kind inventions. Whether it’s a tray for a wheelbarrow so gardening tools stay within reach, a flower with a string that catches hair before it clogs the bathtub drain, or a tiny magnet with a metal loop that holds eyeglasses on your shirt, these inventions have one thing in common. They all solve a problem.
With schools still closed, why not encourage your kids to solve some problems and create inventions of their own? In the last few weeks, parents have told me stories—quite proudly—of how inventive their children have become. One child created a bubble-blowing device with items found around the house, and I’ve heard of many other examples of budding ingenuity!
Inventive people have been grouped in terms of personality traits and common characteristics. Lists vary, but here are a few basic themes. Inventors are:
- Curious about the world
- Recognize good opportunities
- Identify problems
- Act to solve the problems they have identified
- Persist through challenges
- Take pride in their work
- Share their knowledge with the world
COVID-19 has been stressful, but there may be an opportunity for your children now, away from the classroom and the sports fields, to reflect deeply and problem-solve with gusto! Extraordinary opportunities like this don’t happen often. And with children and teens home 24/7, they’re immersed in what works smoothly in your household and what problems persist despite all the gadgets out there.
Kick-off your Invent-fest by asking your children to think about an annoying problem. Siblings don’t count as a problem unless an invention is proposed to keep those siblings happy and occupied! Once a problem is identified, encourage action. Since inventions are new things with no clear solutions, there are going to be frustrations—lots of them. It’s much easier to solve a problem when you know there’s an answer, but even then, frustrations can be big if solutions are hard to come by. Offer help if your kids feel stumped, but be honest if you feel stumped, too!
Google employees are awarded several hours in their work week to tackle problems that interest them. Create some structure around brainstorming by carving off a specific time in the day or week for problem-solving and inventing. Maybe inventing happens for an hour after lunch every day. Encourage your child to jot ideas and diagrams in a journal. Maybe the journal is called My Book of Big Inventions!
Applaud ingenuity in whatever form it takes, however big or small. Maybe your child will invent something that lands you and your family on Shark Tank! Or maybe the invention is a smaller stroke of genius, like wrapping a twist-tie around the tangled computer cords in your makeshift home office. Remember, anything that solves a problem is worth celebrating. And working hard on something—even if a solution in nowhere in sight—is a pretty big deal, too.
Until next week, revel in possibilities.
If your family has been inspired by our Possibilities Word of the Week, send a story or photograph to firstname.lastname@example.org. It might be featured in our next post!