We often think of children as these aimless creatures, just running around and possessing all this energy with no outlet. What we sometimes forget is that children possess an unmatched sense of wonder and possibility. To them, the world feels endless and beautiful. When you don’t have an outlet for all that wonder, it can admittedly be disastrous. But when you do, greatness can occur that rivals even that of adults. You may be surprised to discover that a lot of the inventions that we know and love today were hatched in the minds of children.
Frank Epperson: Popsicle
Eleven-year-old Frank Epperson invented what we’ve come to know as a popsicle. It was a winter’s eve in 1905 when Frank decided to mix a frozen concoction containing soda water powder and water. He accidentally left the drink outside overnight, with the stirring stick in the glass. The mixture froze solid and the first popsicle was born.
Though this was where it began, the treat didn’t gain notoriety until 1922 when Epperson gave it out at a fireman’s ball. He originally patented the idea under, “Eppsicle,” but changed it after his children started calling it a “popsicle.” So, funnily enough, kids came up with both the idea and the name.
George Nissen: Trampoline
George invented the trampoline in 1930 at the age of 16. He came up with the idea after seeing trapeze artists drop into a net at the end of their performance. He thought the act would be more exciting if they kept bouncing around so he began working in his parent’s garage. The original invention had a metal frame and a canvas stretched over it, but as he got older he perfected the design with a nylon canvas, giving it more bounce.
Louis Braille: Braille
Louis caught a severe eye infection when he was three years old which rendered him blind. For years he struggled to trace his finger over raised letters and had a lot of difficulty with it. When he was twelve, he learned of a method of silent communication used by the French military. He simplified that process, and suddenly he was able to read a whole lot easier. He first presented his work in 1924. Today, Braille is used by the blind community worldwide.
Albert Sadacca: Christmas Lights
Prior to electric Christmas lights, people would simply use candles to decorate their Christmas trees. Believe it or not, people initially had more difficulty trusting the safety of electric lights than open flames. Nevertheless, public trust started to sway toward the electric lights, but they were ridiculously high priced. That is until Albert came along and invented a version of electric lights that were much more affordable. He used his parents’ novelty lighting company to produce them in 1925 and now, because of him, they’ve become a staple of Christmas tradition.
Chester Greenwood: Earmuffs
It was 1873 and Chester Greenwood was just 15 years old when his ears got painfully cold one day while ice skating. He found that wrapping a scarf around his head didn’t help much, so he decided to find a better solution. Greenwood designed a wire frame and had his grandmother to sew beaver skins to it–thereby making the first pair of earmuffs. He ended up patenting the invention by age 19 and even selling them to soldiers during the first World War.
Joseph-Armand Bombardier: Snowmobile
Joseph was was always interested in mechanics and in 1922, at the young age of 15, he invented the snowmobile. According to Mental Floss, “He mounted the engine of a Ford Model T to four runners, with a handmade propeller perched on the back.” The original model of the invention traveled half a mile across the snow before finally stopping. He continued to tinker with the invention and by 1959 he had created the Ski-Doo AKA the world’s first ultralight snowmobile model.
Ben Franklin: Swim Flippers
We typically know Ben Franklin for his later-in-life accomplishments, but did you know he was actually a child inventor? In the early 1700s, at age 11, he realized he could cut through the water more easily while swimming if he had more surface area through which to push. His original design was handheld fins made out of oval-shaped planks with holes in the middle for his hands and feet.
Abbey Fleck: Makin’ Bacon
Abbey was 8 years old when she noticed her parents struggle with soaking up bacon fat after cooking. She realized that it might be easier to hang bacon while it cooks- that way you wouldn’t need paper towels and it would even make the bacon healthier. She then worked with her father to design a microwave-safe dish that hangs bacon while it cooks. They patented her idea in 1993 and landed a distribution deal with Walmart the following year.
KK Gregory: Wristies
At age 10, KK Gregory was playing outside one day in the cold. Her wrists began to hurt from the cold so she decided to find a way to keep both her hands and wrists warm during the winter. In 1994, she invented Wristies: fuzzy sleeves that can be worn underneath gloves to protect your wrists from the cold. She worked with her Mom to get the idea off the ground and now the product is sold worldwide.
Kelly Reinhart: T-Pak
When Kelly Reinhart was just a child, her parents challenged her and her siblings to a fun game. They were to draw up a picture of an invention and the prize for the winner was to have a prototype made. Thinking of cowboy gun holsters, Kelly drew a thigh pack that would allow kids to carry around their video games. Kelly and her family went through a few rounds of design improvements and officially got the idea patented in 1998. Interest in the idea grew quickly until Kelly sold her company at age nine. She eventually went on to start a non-profit organization to teach kids how to be inventors.