The 6th Annual Global Invent It Challenge

Go ahead and get your kids thinking about a real world environmental issue because the Invent It! Challenge is back and better than ever! This 6th annual challenge, a partnership between Cricket Media and the Smithsonian Institution’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation is launching on January 17, 2017 and kids from ages 5 to 21 are invited to participate.


To enter the Invent It! Challenge, kids can work individually or in groups to identify a real-world environmental issue and come up with a planet-friendly solution to the problem. Each invention must demonstrate all seven of the Smithsonian’s Spark!Lab Key Steps of the Invention Process. Have your child review the steps below to get a sense for exactly what goes into a successful invention.


Step One: Think it

Invention is all about solving problems, so your first step is to identify an environmental problem you want to work on. Look around you – what environmental problems do you see in your community? Ask friends, teachers, and family members about environmental issues that are important to them. Make a list, and choose the one that you want to help solve.


Step Two: Explore it

Whatever problem you identify, you should know you’re probably not the first inventor to try to solve it! Do some research to learn how others have addressed the problem. What do you like about their solutions, and what do you think you can improve? Think about what your invention will do, who it will be for, and how it will be different from any of the other inventions you read about.”


Step Three: Sketch it

Once you have a basic plan for your invention, make some simple sketches of your idea to show how it might work. Sketching helps you get the idea out of your head and onto paper where you can really see it.


Step Four: Create it

For many inventors, this is the most fun part of the invention process! This is where you create a prototype, or model, of your invention. Using your sketches as a guide, build a prototype. Creating your prototype will help make your ideas visible to others.


Step Five: Try it

Once your prototype is finished, ask friends, teachers, parents, and neighbors to try it or review it. What suggestions do they have for making your invention better?


Step Six: Tweak it

Tweak it Using the feedback you got in the Try It step, identify ways you can improve your invention. Keep working on your idea!


Step Seven: Sell it

Once you’ve created your invention, you want people to start using it! How will you convince others to try your invention? Think about your target audience. Then create a “fact sheet” or a video or a written pitch about your invention. What health problem does it solve? Who should actually use it? How does it work? How is it different from other inventions? Answer these questions to explain how your invention will lead to a healthier environmental future!


Parents, you should also have your child check out the videos submitted by  previous winners to get a good idea of how other kids took on the Invent It! Challenge. And be sure to look for more blog posts here featuring tips, inspiration, and information that might make the process even more enjoyable and productive.


Also, be sure to check out the Invent It! Challenge homepage on January 17, 2016 to view the Scoring Guide for this contest and the Official Rules which set forth entry details, deadlines, and eligibility requirements.


The 6th Annual Global Invent It Challenge


We can’t wait to see the real environmental challenges our young inventors solve this year. We know we’ve got some of the world’s best minds on the case.


‘Tis the season for Shopapalooza.

The first rule of Shopapalooza is we don’t talk about Shopapalooza.

We don’t tell our husbands or our mothers about how much we spent. We hush up about the fact that we likely rebought the same gift we got our kids last year because we forgot we already gave it to them. We remain mum about the basement/garage/attic/playroom/closet(s) that is overflowing with various toys, pieces of puzzles, unwatched DVDs, unplayed games, and half-completed art projects.

And yet, here we are, about to do it all over again with the impending holiday season.

Shopping for kids can be difficult. Here are some valuable lessons I’ve learned after a decade plus of experience:

  1. No matter how many players a game has, do not ever attempt to give one game to all your children.
  2. On a related note, you know the packaging on the games and toys? The pictures that promise hours of quiet play, quality family time, and a lack of sibling rivalry? IT’S ALL A LIE.
  3. If you have a child who is three years old or younger, they’ll like the box more than the gift, no matter what it is.
  4. I often find myself buying things *I* want. Toys I wish I’d had when I was a kid, toys I wish my kids would like to play with, or toys I want to play with now. But not necessarily toys my kids asked for.
  5. Once you’ve finished your shopping, you will find the perfect gift for one of your kids, thus requiring you to go back out and get all the other kids an additional gift because: guilt.

In all seriousness, I read this bit of advice in another mom blog and it really resonated. Try the rule of four for your kids: one gift they want, one gift they need, one gift they wear, and one gift they read. This allows you to buy them useful, practical gifts that should have a longer shelf life, while still giving them something they want and helping you to maintain a budget. And the gift from Santa can be that toy that you really wanted to play with.

And if you haven’t figured out one of those 4 gifts, remember a magazine subscription to one of Cricket Media’s award winning magazines is a gift they can appreciate all year long. You can even announce your gift in style with one of our free print-at-home holiday cards. Best wishes for a warm and happy holiday season from all of us at Cricket Media.

Cricket Media Mama swears she’s not shopping anymore. And that her daughter really did want the super-cool hoverboard that the guy at work was showing off, even if her daughter hasn’t actually seen it yet. You know, the one that’s coming from Santa.