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Young Inventor Needs More Resources
Q: My ten-year-old daughter has an obsession with inventing things. It's not unusual for me to walk into her room and find that she has constructed wire from hole to hole in her closet to hang her purses on, or that she has bent safety pins to create artwork or pencil holders. Every piece of paper has become a "useful item." She's been this way since was four. Do you know of reading material or other things that would enrich her building skills? This is almost all she thinks about.
A: Manipulating ideas and objects to obtain new combinations, intense absorption in listening or doing certain activities, and the desire to continue creative activities beyond scheduled times for quitting are often characteristic of gifted children. Encouraging your daughter to pursue these activities and to help her find new outlets for her creative pursuits are excellent ways to support her creativity.
You might want to explore with her activities at school or in the community that would allow her to pursue her interests in more depth. Science fairs are excellent venues for allowing children to work on a creative project over a period of time. Local colleges or universities may offer Saturday programs in subjects like architecture, math, or science that are activity-based. Similarly, science centers or museums often support creative activities of this sort.
Another avenue you might pursue is finding a mentor for your daughter. A local engineer or other technically-oriented professional might be able to provide some opportunities for your daughter to shadow that person in his/her inventive activities.
The National Association for Gifted Children offers a publication, "Parenting for High Potential," specifically aimed at parents. NAGC also has a special division focused on the topic of creativity.
Two books I would recommend for your daughter are The Kids' Invention Book by Arlene Erlbach and Inventors and Inventions (Grades 4-8) by Lorraine Egan.
Finally, encourage her interest in inventing. When you think of all the wonderful tools we have today -- from computers to Post-It notes to telescoping poles used to help us short people unscrew light bulbs in the ceiling -- they all came from the mind of an inventor.
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Rita Culross is Associate Dean, College of Education, and Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Curriculum and Instruction at Louisiana State University. Culross has served as the consulting school psychologist for a public school elementary gifted program, and has written a book and several journal articles on gifted education.