Guest Post: Inventors, Mad Scientists and Explorers Keep Your Kids Creative Through August

The following guest post is by Marissa Long, an artist and Director of Make/Believe Creative Programs for Kids. Make/Believe provides the Art Brains after-school program in elementary schools in the DC, Maryland, and Northern VA areas. 

Summer loves no man like it loves a kid. Hours spent relaxing and vegging out are valuable, but summer is also a key time for cultivating kids’ creative initiative-taking, independent discovery, play and memory making. All kids are brimming with creative energy and will instinctively dive into their three month summer stretch of relative freedom to start experimenting with the raw material of their backyards, neighborhoods, and imaginations.

If you’re feeling the itch for some new ways to connect creatively with your kids, or just want to set them loose with some constructive inspiration, here are a few ideas.

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Encouraging kids to invent or re-invent something builds their mental and creative problem-solving capacities, as well as their confidence in said capacities.  A few prompts for young inventors:

  • Board games: Invite your child to create his or her own game. First, your child will need a theme for their game (e.g. kittens!, or racecars or safari) as well as a way to advance through the game. Path-based games (think Candyland) work well. Then, they can decorate a box and game board in line with their theme using markers, crayons, paint, etc. A sheet of poster paper or cardboard makes a fine game board. Game pieces for each player and accoutrement like dice and cards can be fabricated out of self-hardening clay and/or other materials. Encourage alternate actions in the game – e.g. “If you land on this spot, you’re trapped in the dungeon! Skip a turn” or “You rolled a 3 – sing a song in a frog voice to move forward.” Play the game together when complete!
  • Constellation charts: Use metallic Sharpies on black paper to illustrate and label charts of invented constellations. Help kids use thumb tacks to poke holes where the stars are, then shine a flashlight through the chart to project constellations on the wall or ceiling in a dark room.
  • Re-invent: A simple idea with big implications is to ask kids to re-invent something in your house or neighborhood – a toy, a cereal box, a bathtub, an entire park. How would they re-design something to make it better? What would they change for a  more pleasing aesthetic? What features would they add to make it do more? Ask them to draw and write down their ideas, or better yet: actually make their re-inventions or models of them.


  • Hybrid creature creators: This one requires some playdough, or self-hardening clay. The latter can be found in stores like CVS and Target for about $5, and can be painted. Ask kids to combine two or more animals and/or objects (e.g. a cat and a rhino, a dragon, a tiger, and a toaster) to create never-before-seen creatures.
  • Volcano island: Whip up a batch of homemade playdough (you can find lots of recipes for this on the web) and have your kids sculpt a “volcano island” in an aluminum baking tray, decorating it with sticks, flowers, and leaves found outside. Then create beautiful eruptions by combining 1 T baking soda with ¼ cup vinegar mixed with a squirt of dish soap and food coloring (and maybe glitter).
  • Magic potions: Make “magical potions” by filling empty plastic bottles with water, oil, soap, food coloring, glitter, confetti, beads, and other small objects. Ask your kids to name their potions and make labels describing what the potions do.


Inviting kids to imagine life on another world or during another time is the best! How are the people, creatures, landscapes, weather, and relationships different, and why? These exercises are obviously fantastic for expanding the imagination, but I also believe that they can help develop empathy, too.

  • Imaginatlas: Ask your child to draw a detailed map of an imaginary land, asking the questions mentioned above. Have them label towns, mountains, islands, rivers, and forests, and think about who lives there and what they do.
  • Postcards from Space: Cut 4 x 6” rectangles out of card stock, and ask kids to pretend they are traveling through the galaxy, sending postcards back to loved ones on Earth. Alternately, they can send postcards from the perspective of imaginary ET’s. Drop them in the mail to be received by unsuspecting friends and family! Note: this activity may require translation of alien hieroglyphs.
  • Time Machine Treasure Chest: Give your child a shoe box, and ask them to pretend they are moving backward or forward in time in search of lost treasure. They can decorate the box and fill it with objects in accordance with the time in which it was found. What might be considered valuable in the distant future? What materials can they collect or fabricate out of clay, pipe cleaners and paper to represent relics from a time past? Bonus: pair this project with the one following.

Happy travels to you and your family! Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want to share your creative endeavors or borrow a flux capacitor.

Be sure to visit Make/Believe Creative Programs for Kids to help further your children’s imagination and arts education. 




  1. It’s nearly impossible to find well-informed people in this particular subject, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about!


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