Inventing and fort building go hand-in-hand. Dreaming up designs and solving problems using creative and critical thinking drive the innovative spirit. Yes, fort building toys incorporate all of these concepts. As parents, we can break out Fort Magic kits to encourage our kids to be inventive. While the natural course of play accomplishes this end, how can we inspire broader thinking and maintain a child’s innate ability to see problems as a means to finding solutions?
Consider the perspective of Alexis Lewis. Alexis received one patent and is pursuing another at age 15. She believes that inventing is not something kids can aspire to in the future but something they should do now. Why? Alexis says it this way: “Everybody has lived a different life, everybody has seen it [the world] slightly differently and I think everybody has a slightly different take on each problem. And I think if we all work together we can solve a tremendous number of problems.”
Encouraging this innovative spirit in kids proves easier than a first glance suggests in just three simple steps.
— Make ample time and space for free play.
— Offer engaging materials which encourage building, designing, inventing and more.
— Acknowledge a child’s efforts with positive feedback and open-ended questions.
Specifically, lay out a few Fort Magic pieces and challenge your child to see how many ways he or she can use the pieces. Occasionally, throw out some questions for your youngster to answer.
— What will you try next?
— How can this idea or item be made better?
— What would happen if …?
These inquiries promote creative thinking and innovation while encouraging your child’s efforts.
Furthermore, inspire children with stories of famous inventors. In particular, share the inventions of other kids. Yes, from the age of two, young thinkers are gaining notoriety. In fact, in the U.S., there is no minimum age for filing a patent. Raising this truth in the minds of our children teaches them that they are never too young to invent solutions to problems. The inspiring stories of others become a springboard to their own imaginings. The spark of an idea holds hope as more than an impossible dream.
Do you need some inspiration yourself? Check out these inventions and the kids behind them. As you do, imagine how they can inspire fort building play and spur exciting innovation in your living room or backyard.
Frank Epperson, the creator of the popsicle, invented this cool kid favorite at age 11 by accident. He left a cup of water and powdered soda with a stick outside on a cold night, young Frank discovered a tasty treat the next morning.
Lemonade stand forts, bike washing forts, and other entrepreneurial efforts set kids on a track to think about a need and find a way to fill it. While the play and items sold may seem unremarkable, ideas are refined and solutions grow more plausible.
Kylie Simonds, age 13, brought the i-Pack to life. This unique idea came from Kylie’s personal fight with cancer at age 8 and gives kids receiving chemo a fun and fashionable alternative to traditional IV poles.
Forts themed for play in other countries or mimicking a hospital raises issues addressed in the lives of others. Adding friends to the play expands the exposure to other-centered thinking and inspires humanitarian solutions.
Louis Braille invented the raised dot alphabet when he was 15 years old. Born sighted and suffering an eye injury which left him blind at age 3, Braille developed the alphabet that made books easier and quicker to read for people who cannot see.
Playing in a school or house fort brings everyday problems before the minds of children. Interacting without adult input offers freedom for children to try, fail and try again. Encountering and wrestling with these issues through play could just lead to a real world solution.
The childhood staple, the trampoline, is enjoyed by anyone young at heart. This invention came to life through the mind of 16-year-old gymnast George Nissen. Goofing off as a teen, George stretched canvas across a steel frame which he refined seven years later into the current phenomenon.
Active play forts with Olympic, obstacle course or sport themes get kids moving and inventing around wanting to move differently. Plus, all that physical activity boosts the brain’s power to innovate.
Notice that the innovative thinking of each of these young inventors came out of their own life experience. No special trip or expensive activity led to these discoveries. They were just kids being kids. As problems present themselves in the lives of our children, forts build in them the creative thinking and confidence to know that they offer viable solutions. With our support as parents as we discover this learning potential within our kids, we are likely to hear more and more stories of child inventors.
Have you ever invented anything? Do you encourage inventing with your child? What role does fort building play in inspiring creativity and an inventive spirit? Share your ideas with us below!
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