Create an Invention! Activity

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By and
Updated on Dec 28, 2012

Leonardo da Vinci is probably the most famous Renaissance Man. He was one of the most famous artists of all time but he was also a scientist and inventor. Da Vinci liked to experiment with his materials. His experiments were not always successful. One of his most famous paintings, a fresco called "The Last Supper" has almost completely faded away due to his experimentation with painting materials and processes. Da Vinci’s inventive nature was also responsible for inventing a flying machine hundreds of years before the Wright brothers left the ground. Da Vinci was truly a creative genius.  In this activity, you and your child will create your own invention and help your imaginations take flight!

What You Need:

  • Magazines
  • Catalogs
  • Newspapers
  • Dark graphite pencil
  • Paper
  • Drawing pencils

What You Do:

  1. What if you could change the way people did things? Have your child make a “what if” list. For example: what if people could travel from place to place without airplanes or any other type of vehicle? Or what if we could learn in our sleep?
  2. Talk or think about what a solution to your “what if” would have to do to meet your desires. Have your child make a list of machines (already in existence) that come close to or look like they could be adapted to do part of the “what if” goal.
  3. From this list of machines, you and your child can brainstorm a brand new machine - your very own invention - that builds upon some of the ideas you have already thought of.  You can combine several different machines into one, borrowing certain parts from each to use in your new machine, you can think of a new machine that is an updated version of an old one, or you can come up with an entirely new invention that is nothing like anything that has come before it!  The sky's the limit!
  4. Once your child has come up with her very own invention, she can piece together an image of the invention from her supplies.  She can use pieces cut from magazines, catalogs, newspapers or other sources that be pieced together to make her invention.
  5. She can fill in parts or draw the changes that she needs to make on her inspiration pictures. Use a magic marker if need be to make changes so it will show up.
  6. Take a graphite pencil and completely cover the backs of your various pieces. In order to make a carbon sheet on the back of your paper lay the point of the pencil on its side. Color in the entire back of the piece of paper.
  7. Now put the carbon side down against a new sheet of paper or against a clean page in your sketchbook. With a dull or rounded pencil have your child draw along the outlines of her invention. When you come to parts you have pieced together leave out the parts that don’t work or need to be simplified. When she's done, help her remove all of the cut pieces to reveal a complete new drawing of her invention on the separate sheet of paper. She can then fill in details on her new invention.
  8. Does her new invention achieve her “what if” desires? What would she have to change to make it work? What is keeping this invention from becoming a reality? Have your child write notes about her invention on the page, in the borders, going down the sides of the page, or on the back (Da Vinci often did this).

Sometimes the act of asking “what if” helps our mind unfold. Just puzzling out what fits and what doesn’t, evaluating and analyzing the "what if" possibilities will help our brain to make jumps beyond logic. This ability to innovate and create is one of the most important skills an artist (or anyone!) can have, and it was one of the reasons Leonardo da Vinci is still talked about today. Everyone is a better thinker if they can invent!

Marik Berghs is graphic designer with 30 years of experience. She also illustrates and writes childrens' literature. Jessica McBrayer is her daughter and is a professional crafter.

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