A zip-line space elevator controlled by satellites. Pocket-sized robot friends. The world’s fastest Lego car. Little minds concoct some really big ideas. Then we grow up and begin to consider things like cost, time, and the laws of physics. What if we’d learned how to harness these thoughts, or at least not limit them? We can not all be Elon Musk, but we might be more creative, more innovative, and better problem-solvers.
Kids idea books are an easy way to encourage just this type of thinking. They are also an affordable, camera-free way to capture the wonder of childhood.
Idea Books: An Inspired How-To
The Case for Idea Books:
- Promote creativity and problem-solving.
- Teach kids how to brainstorm and put their thoughts on paper.
- Support developing drawing and handwriting skills.
- Tell children that their ideas have value.
- Nurture innovation, especially when used with Genius Hour
- Capture the wonder of childhood.
How to Introduce and Use Idea Books
Buy your child a notebook
While this may seem intuitive, consider what type of notebook suits your child best. Does she need something portable, or would large pages with lots of drawing room work better? Should it have lined, unlined, or graphic paper? Is she the type of child who would want to keep her ideas in a hard-bound book, or does she need an easy-tear spiral?
We use an assortment of notebooks: A large, spiral notebook for *big* ideas, a hardbound blank sketchbook for Genius House activities, and a small portable field book on-the-go creativity.
Introduce the concept
Idea books are just that– books for ideas. There are no rules. In fact, rules would be contrary to the process. Instead, encourage your child to draw or jot down any idea he fancies in his book no matter how feasible it is. My son has filled his with planned Minecraft villages, monsters and other made-up creatures for books he hopes to write, and several Genius Hour activities.
Teach brainstorming with The Wheel of Wonder
When I first gave my son his idea book, he treated it just like any other drawing pad he’d used. After doing some research, I decided to paste his own, personalized “wheel of wonder” on the first page. As you can see, we just cut slits in a circular piece of paper, but you could use whatever visual or shape you’d like. I sat down with him and simply asked him questions to get his creative juices flowing and wrote them behind the segments of his wheel. I asked him what kinds of things he thinks and wonders about, or what kinds of things he’d love to invent. He has dyslexia and dysgraphia, so I chose to fill in his wheel for him.
Follow-through: An open mind begets an open book.
Idea books are all about nurturing big ideas–ideas your child might actually want to carry. Let her. Encourage her. Help her. See where her unfiltered ideas take her. For more tips, check out or Rules of Genius Hour post.
Keep it handy.
Inspiration can strike anytime, anywhere. I recommend keeping idea books out where they’ll be seen and used. It also suggests stashing a small portable idea book in your bag for restaurants, park trips, and other on-the-go adventures.
Review often. Together.
Sitting down with my son and reviewing his idea book is an act of nostalgia for me, and one of confidence-building for him. The practice helps you both remember how creative kids can be. It also reminds them that you value their thoughts, aspirations, and creativity.