Teach children that the most useful and world-changing inventions were created to help other people. By using empathy, children will begin to develop the confidence and belief that they can use their creativity to aid the ones they love.
- Ask your child if he or she can think of an invention that helps people.
- Explain that some inventions improve the health and wellness of others. Share a few examples (e.g., a pacemaker, X-Ray machines, prosthetic limbs, special medicines, hearing aids, glucose testing strips, etc.).
- Ask your child if there is a person (e.g., an infant, elderly person) who they wish they could help by making an invention to meet their needs.
- Tell them that the feeling we have when we consider someone else’s needs is called empathy. Empathy is like a superpower that allows us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and take their needs into consideration.
- Explain that many inventors use empathy to design inventions.
- Once your child has a person in mind for whom they want to make an invention, have them sketch ideas for a solution to a challenge or need they have.
- Next, have them use recyclables, craft materials or household items to build a prototype.
- Encourage your child to continue using empathy and the power of invention to consider how they might be helpful change agents in the world.
Educators: Use this activity in the classroom with these modifications!
As a class, have your students brainstorm different global problems (hunger, homelessness, lack of clean drinking water, etc.) and have them work in groups to create an invention to help solve an issue of their choice. After creating their prototype, give each group the opportunity to present their invention to the rest of the class. Encourage those who aren’t presenting to ask questions and come up with one suggestion that the presenting group can implement in their prototyping process. Extend this activity by allowing each group to use the feedback from their classmates to improve their invention.
What are we learning?
Empathy is a key tenet of design thinking. Many National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductees, as well as participants in NIHF’s Collegiate Inventors Competition®, share stories of empathizing with specific needs of individuals in their life and designing solutions through their inventions. The more helpful and useful an invention is, the greater chance it will be successful and benefit people all over the world.