My nephews are constantly building new Lego vehicles, trying a new Toca Boca game, and working on their Minecraft skills all the time. So when I presented them with some craft projects that made them drop their tablets and pick up their paintbrushes, I was impressed. During our family reunion weekend I had them try their crafty hands at a few kits from the Spark!Lab Smithsonian Line from Creativity for Kids. The kits were an instant hit with my 9- and 6-year-old nephews and I found myself wishing I’d brought more.
Spark!Lab is a hands-on invention activity space operated by the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The kits, aimed at inspiring the inventor in all children, are designed to empower our next generation of innovators. There’s a challenge or problem to try and solve with each kit; all supplies are included with each project, so your child can sit down and create right away.
I had the chance to ask Delanie West, vice president at the Creativity Center for Faber-Castell USA, what the inspiration was for a line of fun kits like these.
“Imagination, creativity and learning the process of invention are all skills the next generation of thinkers and doers need,” West says. “Imagination and creativity are the foundation of all of our products so it was a natural fit to collaborate with the invention experts at the Smithsonian. The launch of Spark!Lab Smithsonian Inventive Creativity Kits was inspired by the desire to provide children with the same hands-on experience at home that they would feel when visiting Spark!Lab at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.”
What does West hope children take away from the kits?
“The line is intended to introduce children to the process of invention in a fun and exciting way,” she says. “The kits are designed for open-ended play, helping kids to think of multiple solutions in solving problems – just like the real world. Kids CAN be inventors, even if it takes a few tries to get an idea right.”
The boys thought the sets were great. An inventor’s notebook in the Inventor’s Studio kit was a perfect addition, according to 9-year-old Will, who loves to draw. Not only could he use the notebook during his brainstorming, he could take it with him afterward. Miles, my 6-year-old nephew adored the globe kit and learned how to use glue as a decoupage medium to create his unique globe. Of course, he would have preferred more glue; maybe that’s because we had a little too much fun squeezing a lot out on our work surface! Both boys came together to work on building bridges, which was a great sight to see.
As for me, I was able to help answer only a few questions as the boys really made the kits into their own master works of art. I kept the instructions near by just in case, but their imaginations were in charge on this Sunday afternoon. When their crafting sessions were done for the day, clean up was easy and there were definitely some extra supplies for several more sessions of designing whenever inspiration strikes again.
To learn more about the Spark!Lab creativity kits, take a look at this video from Creativity for Kids.