Children Of Invention

The old saying goes that a worry shared is a worry halved. But what about a worry shredded? The “worry shredder” is a box with a stack of cards on the top. You can write your worry on the card, then stick it in the machine and shred it to bits. In return, the box prints out words of wisdom for you instead—and gives you a chocolate to make you feel better.

The mastermind behind the “worry shredder” is Thomas, an 8-year-old from the United Kingdom. “I decided to invent this so I can get over my worries and to try and make other people happy,” he says.

Thomas is one of many kids whose invention was realized by Little Inventors, an organization in the U.K. that brings children’s ideas to reality.

“When a child comes up with an idea and it’s really clever, it really gives me a buzz,” says artist and designer Dominic Wilcox, who runs the organization.

“We really think that children have the best ideas because they don’t have any limits to their thinking,” says Katherine Mengardon, chief educator at Little Inventors. “They don’t think about what’s possible or not possible.”

Young inventors begin by drawing their idea on a piece of paper. “That is really the shortest distance between the child’s imagination and us,” says Wilcox. “And then, we can take it seriously and push it further than a simple model.”

Any inventor between the ages of 3-12 can submit their idea to the organization. Then, the Little Inventors team takes standout ideas and partners with local makers, manufacturers, and scientists to transform the idea into the real thing.

The result? Inventions like an odd sock sorter…

moving gif of machine with lots of red and blue wires that drops colorful socks onto various trays

…an alarm that tells you how long until a piece of fruit goes bad…

moving gif of drawing of bowl with fruit in it, then a woman placing a piece of fruit in the bowl to determine whether it's gone bad

…and of course, the worry shredder.

gif of boy writing a worry (will it work?) onto a piece of paper, then shredding it and a new slip of paper emerges from the machine

“Invention and creativity is like a muscle,” says Wilcox. “And if you stop using it… you lose it in a way. And that’s the thing about creativity—that’s why it’s so important to encourage children to be creative, and then to get through to adulthood where they can really do things that make the world a better place.”

If you know a little inventor with a big idea, submit it here! It just might become a reality.


Produced by Luke Groskin
Filmed by Katie Garrett
Article by Johanna Mayer
Music by Audio Network
Illustration Animations by Risk of Bear
Additional Footage and Stills Provided by Little Inventors, John Isaac

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About Luke Groskin

Luke Groskin is Science Friday’s video producer. He’s on a mission to make you love spiders and other odd creatures.

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