Invention Ideas for Kids

Annette McDermott
Contributor: Michele Meleen
student inventors

Invention ideas for kids can change a boring afternoon into a whirlwind of fun. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to inspire your kids to reach for ideas beyond their traditional realm of thinking. Use these ideas to help your children learn to think outside the box and experiment with common materials around the house to make fun and unique items. Some can even work as invention ideas for kids' school projects!

A Balloon Powered Car

With a piece of cardboard, a balloon and a few other household items, your child can make a new toy. Set some goals for the car before creating it. For example, the car must go at least 10 feet when it is released. Let your child experiment with different shapes for the car and other additions, such as fins and weights to see how they improve or hurt the car's performance.

What You Need

  • A deflated balloon
  • Two wooden skewers
  • Three drinking straws (one must be a bendy straw)
  • A piece of cardboard
  • Four plastic bottle caps
  • A nail
  • A hammer
  • Masking tape

How to Make the Car

  1. Cut the cardboard in the desired shape. Make sure it is wide enough that the wooden skewers hang at least 1/4-inch off the edge on each side.
  2. Cut two straws to the width of the cardboard and tape them on the bottom of the cardboard with masking tape. They will serve as the axles.
  3. Poke a hole in the center of each bottle cap with the hammer and nail.
  4. Place one wooden skewer through each straw.
  5. Attach the bottle caps to the ends of the wooden skewers to serve as wheels. If the wheels keep falling off, add a bit of glue to the hole.
  6. Tape the opening of the balloon to the short end of the bendy straw.
  7. Attach the straw to the center of the top of the car using masking tape. Make sure the balloon hangs off the end so that the short end of the straw sticks up.

How to Move the Car

  1. Blow up the balloon.
  2. Hold the open end of the straw closed.
  3. Set the car on the ground and release the open end of the straw to let the air out.

More Balloon Car Ideas

  • PBS Kids offers instructions for a balloon car and input from kids who have created one.
  • Big Learning features a few ideas for the shape of the car.

A Stethoscope

All children must go to the doctor now and then, but the experience can be frightening. Making a stethoscope at home and discussing how it works may help reduce a child's anxiety. Invention projects for kids like this also relate to health topics. It can open the door to talk about how the heart functions and ways to keep it healthy.

What You Need

  • Cardboard paper towel tube
  • Funnel
  • Balloon
  • Duct tape (be creative and use colored, or printed duct tape)

How to Make the Stethoscope

  1. Insert the funnel into one end of the paper towel tube.
  2. Secure the funnel to the paper towel tube with duct tape.
  3. Stretch the balloon over the mouth of the funnel and secure with duct tape.
  4. If you want, you can wrap the entire paper towel tube with duct tape, or have your child carefully decorate with markers, stickers, or crayons, being careful not to crush the tube.
  5. To hear a heartbeat, have your child place the funnel end of the stethoscope over someone's heart and his ear on the other end.

Resources About the Heart

  • Nourish Interactive provides free printables of coloring pages, learning sheets, worksheets, and healthy eating plans to educate children about living a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Ocean in a Bottle

This is a fun invention that stimulates creativity and introduces kids to ocean habitats. It also opens the door for discussing ways to protect those habitats. It's a great invention any time of year, but especially if you're planning a trip to the beach. It's also one of the easiest inventions kids can make with items you may already have around the house.

What You Need

  • Empty plastic bottle, any size
  • Funnel
  • Tap water
  • Blue food coloring
  • Mineral oil or baby oil
  • Glitter
  • Small seashells
  • Small plastic fish or other animals

Creating the Ocean

  1. Remove all labels and sticky adhesive from the plastic bottle.
  2. Using the funnel, fill the bottle about halfway with tap water.
  3. Using the funnel, add blue food coloring to the bottle. Be careful not to add too much, or the water will grow very dark. Replace the bottle cap and shake to mix the contents of the bottle thoroughly.
  4. Using the funnel, add mineral oil until the bottle is full.
  5. Using the funnel, add glitter, seashells and plastic creatures to the bottle.
  6. Tightly replace bottle cap.

More Bottle Resources

Water Xylophone

A water xylophone is the perfect invention for your musical child. Children can use their new musical instrument to compose water xylophone symphonies or start a water xylophone band. This is among the simpler kindergarten or 1st-grade invention project ideas.

What You Need

  • Five to eight empty glass bottles
  • Food coloring
  • Water
  • A metal spoon

Making the Xylophone

  1. Fill each bottle with a different amount of water.
  2. Add a drop or two of food coloring to each bottle, giving each one a different color.
  3. Tap the metal spoon on each bottle to see what sound it makes. If any bottles are too similar in sound, add or remove water from one of the bottles to change the sound.
  4. Line up the bottles from the lowest sound to the highest sound.
  5. Tap the metal spoon on the bottles to play a song.

Experiment with using different types of glass bottles or mixing and matching glass bottles to change the sounds produced by the xylophone.

More Xylophone Resources

  • Phil Tulga provides an extensive overview of how to make different types of water xylophones.

Egg Drop Container

Challenge your child to design a container for an egg that will allow the egg to drop from a set amount of feet without breaking. The exact design and materials for this invention will vary by the height the egg is dropped from and your child's problem-solving skills. Cool invention ideas for kids can also challenge their skills and encourage them to think 'outside the box.'

Suggested Materials

  • Small empty plastic tubs
  • Bubble wrap
  • Cotton balls
  • Tape
  • Cotton batting
  • Packing peanuts
  • Foam
  • Cardboard
  • Tape

Making and Testing the Container

How the container is created is entirely up to your child. You may want to add extra restrictions, such as not allowing the child to cover the container in layers of bubble wrap or limiting the size of the container. Use a ladder to drop the container from various heights to see how well the egg holds up.

Egg Drop Container Resources

Tips On Creating Your Own Invention

Inventions sprout from the unique imagination and thought process of each child. Come up with the creation only you could invent by thinking like you.

  • Think of a problem you or someone in your home has on a regular basis and come up with a new solution.
  • Take a look at major problems facing your community, country, or people in another part of the world and imagine a product or process that could help.
  • Re-imagine a more efficient way to use a current product or process.
  • Enter kid inventor contests such as the Spark!Lab Dr. InBae Yoo Invent it Challenge to find resources, inspiration, and a network of friends and mentors.
  • Head to a Maker Faire or maker space in your area to see what others are creating.
  • Keep a journal or list of invention ideas with you at all times to be ready when inspiration strikes.
  • Set aside a bin or organized space in your bedroom or home where you can collect random supplies.
  • Watch shows about inventions and ideas like Shark Tank to learn what to do with your inventions.

Inspirational Young Inventors

For centuries kids have been inventing new products and processes that help specific populations and the entire world. Reading about these amazing kids can motivate and inspire you to become a successful inventor.

Braille Pioneers

The Braille language system was invented by Louis Braille starting when he was just 12 years old. While the system has given many people with blindness the chance to read, it wasn't always affordable or accessible. In 2014 Shubham Banerjee, also a 12-year-old kid invented a Braille printer called Braigo out of a Lego Mindstorms set. This new printer costs about one-tenth the price of a standard Braille printer.

The World's Lightest Satelite

In his early teens, Rifath Shaarook and a team of space enthusiast friends began inventing the worlds lightest satellite. In 2017 at age 18, he finally got to launch his invention into space. KalamSat, the satellite, is a 4-centimeter cube that was also the first satellite made from 3D printing. Heavy objects cost more to send into outer space, so this invention could help scientists gather information from space in a more efficient way.

Origami Owl

When Bella Weems was 14 years old, she needed to find a job so she could start saving up for a car. Armed with crafting skills and a flair for fashion, Bella started making and selling custom jewelry. Her customizable and affordable designs have blossomed into a direct sales business called Origami Owl, which was founded when she was 17 years old and has become a multi-million dollar company.

Makin' Bacon

At the age of 8, Abbey Fleck invented a dish that helps you cook bacon in the microwave without it getting soaked in its own fat. With the help of her dad and a lot of trial and error, Makin' Bacon gained national attention in the 1990s and made millions of dollars.

Developing Invention Skills

Keep in mind that virtually any activity you do could inspire some type of invention by your kids. From easy inventions for kids using materials around the house to unique ideas that may require some outside materials, kids' invention ideas are limited only by their imagination. Help them learn how to look at the world with an eye for creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Once your kids begin inventing, they may be unstoppable!

Invention Ideas for Kids