popsicleToday, February 16, is National Innovation Day.  Innovation is all about imagining new and better ways of doing things, making creativity its cornerstone.  Kids have been inventing things for hundreds of years. Did you know that the popsicle, ear muffs and the trampoline were invented by kids? And, more than a few kids have become rich off of their inventions before they even graduated high school, states a news story by CNBC.

The Popsicle, a summer-time treat, was created in 1905 by 11-year-old Frank Epperson. Epperson had left a mixture of powdered soda, water and a stick in a cup on his porch on a cold night. He woke up the next morning and it was a frozen treat on a stick. He initially called it the “Epsicle,” which was quite popular with the other kids at school and later his own kids. They kept asking for “Pop’s ‘sicle”. So, he changed the name to popsicle and got a patent on it in 1923.

15-year-old Chester Greenwood, in 1873, was testing out a pair of ice skates. He was getting frustrated because his ears were so cold. He tried wrapping his head in a scarf but it was too bulky and too itchy. So, he took wire and bent it into two round loops, then asked his grandmother to sew fur on them. He connected them with a steel headband and got a patent on his invention — Greenwood’s Champion Ear Protectors – now known as Ear Muffs.

In 1930, 16-year-old George Nissen, a member of his high school gymnastics and diving teams, was playing around in his parents’ garage when he decided to stretch canvas over a rectangular steel frame, using materials he found in a local junkyard. Seven years later when he was in business school at the University of Iowa, he and his gymnastics coach refined the invention with nylon. They initially called it a “bouncing rig”, but later changed its name to Trampoline after the Spanish word for diving board.

There are now organizations such as FIRST,  an organization designed to help foster innovations by kids in science and technology, and “By Kids, for Kids,” a group that connects kids with contests for young inventors, to help make kids feel more inspired and more confident to invent. Turning their products into sales is also becoming more of a reality.

CREATIVITY TIP:  So, why not use today as an opportunity to stretch your child’s innovative skills. Come up with a contest for your kids. Ask them to think of something they could make that could be used around the house to make something work better or differently.  Then have them make it using materials they find around the house. It doesn’t have to be something that doesn’t exist at all. For instance it can be making a doorstop out of household materials instead of a store-bought doorstop. It can even be inventing a new game.  Any idea is a good idea, the point of the activity is to get your children thinking innovatively.

My kids were just starting their chant of, “I have nothing to do. What can I do?”, when I stumbled upon the fact that it was National Innovation Day. They had a lot of fun coming up with their “inventions”. My son created his own game to play using wooden blocks and a ball. My daughter created a “toothbrush showerhead” to help end the fighting, over the water stream, when she and her brother brush their teeth at the same time, by putting holes in the bottom of a paper cup.  This creative activity doesn’t have to only be used on National Innovation Day.  It’s fun to do anytime.

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