The value of creative thinking and inventing is an important topic to share with parents. However, parents are often more worried about their children learning reading and math skills than building creative-thinking skills. They may not initially understand how creative and critical thinking and problem-solving are a part of their child's growth and development, in part because these skills are not as tangible or easily observable. Here are some things you can do to underscore to parents the importance of inventing with children:


GAIN PARENTAL SUPPORT. Inventions may not have been part of their own preschool or kindergarten experience. Explain what children will be learning in your invention projects. Use some of the information in this article to write a simple handout or newsletter for parents. If parents understand the purpose of the activity, they will be more likely to support their children's processes.


EXPLAIN THE PROCESS. A parent may not recognize that the wonderful invention made of recycled materials her child brings home is the product of much thinking and experimenting. It can look like a piece of junk-certainly not art or science! Send home a note with the project telling about the process the child went through to make it. Mention the skills the child had to use to create the invention. Suggest questions the parent can ask to discuss the invention with her child. "What can you tell me about your invention? How is it used? What does it do?"


SEND HOME "BRAG SHEETS." You can help parents share in the joy of inventions by periodically sending home "I did it" messages. Just jot down, in a sentence or two, something about an invention or other problem their child solved.


OFFER INSPIRATION. Suggest activities families can do at home to experiment with inventions. Suggest they choose a single item or material and explore all the possible ways to use it. How many ways can you use boxes? How many ways can you use a paper bag?