One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was a Magic Orange Peeler. (And no, this blog does not have sponsors!) We all have small things in life that annoy us. One of mine is struggling to peel an orange, ending up with broken nails and orange (if delicious-smelling) fingers. Enter the Magic Orange Peeler. Now, one quick swipe and my orange is scored and ready for easy peeling. Wonderful!
It is amazing how small inventions can simplify our lives. Another kitchen gadget I love is a giant spatula that allows me to lift a piecrust from rolling surface to pie pan without tearing. This is not an earthshaking thing. It isn’t that hard to patch piecrust. But it makes me smile every time I get that crust in the pan smoothly. And my father loves the new cutlery I bought him, with loops so that arthritic hands that don’t grip as well as they once did can still allow him to eat without dropping the fork.
Of course, helpful inventions aren’t just in the kitchen. Catalogs are full of handy gizmos we didn’t know we needed until we saw them, from a handy step to help older dogs out of the car, to insulation to keep outdoor faucets from freezing.
Just like inventions that may seem more earthshaking, each of these small-but-helpful things exist because someone noticed a problem and thought, “Someone should come up with a solution. Why not me?” Think, for a moment, about the moments in your day when something doesn’t work quite right. Might you be the one to invent a solution? Might one of your students?
One of my favorite ways to begin thinking about inventions is to brainstorm “Bug Lists” of situations or objects that “bug” us in our daily lives. (With young students I do have to clarify that they are not allowed to include any human beings on the list!) The results have ranged from an elementary school student who invented a headpiece that allowed his disabled father to turn book pages more easily, to a graduate student who created a giant version of an angled dentist’s mirror to allow him to check the gutters on his house for leaves without having to climb a ladder.
A creative approach to life suggests that instead of simply being annoyed at the things that bug us we stop and play with the idea, “How might this be solved?” You might not come up with an earth-shaking invention. But then again, you might!
Have you had solved a problem with an invention large or small? We’d love to hear about it.