One way to encourage kids' creativity and thinking skills is to have them invent things. Making things besides the typical art project allows kids to consider objects in new ways and to problem solve. Inventing ideas can be easy or very difficult depending on the kids' ages, abilities, interests and items available to them. They can turn into long-term family projects or a fun way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon.
Not all inventions have to be major revolutions like the car or the computer. The person who came up with the one-touch option on the microwave was an inventor, too. So let your kids invent things that can help your family around the house---an easier way to sort recycling or laundry, a new way to keep bananas from getting bruised, a system for keeping track of library books and other things that have to go back to school, a way to stop sandals from getting smelly in the summer. Look around your house and talk to the kids about what problems they can solve.
Storing and organising toys (and getting kids to follow along) is challenging for many families. So why not encourage your kids to be part of the solution? Help them invent a way to store and/or organise their art supplies, blocks, cars or whatever items everyone steps on all the time. Kids can brainstorm their own inventing ideas, or you can supply cardboard boxes, paint, glue, duct tape and markers.
Legos do not have to be simple building toys. With Lego Factory, kids can design their own custom model online and then order it so they can create it in real life. With Lego Mindstorms, kids can invent their own robots or other motorised toys.
Kids can invent many objects based on nature and the weather. They can invent a way to measure how much rain or snow has fallen, to make sure gutters don't overflow, to stop balls from rolling into the street. Kids can even invent things at the school or town level. They could invent and build footbridges over local streams, playground equipment for younger children, a play house, a tree house or a go-kart.