Austin Elementary students have ‘inventive’ new toy ideas

BY PATTI SELLS | News-Telegram Feature Writer

Apr. 2, 2007 - Who would know more about the toys kids want than the children who are going to be playing with them? 

Courtesy Photo

Austin Elementary third grade teachers, Jill Shelby and Misty Teer, challenged their students to come up with ideas and new toy inventions for the third annual Invent-a-Toy World Games presented by Mattel’s “By Kids For Kids.” Winners from Teer’s class at  are from left to right: Rebekah LaRue, “Have You Been There?” board game; Brenna Murray, “Make-up Says Wake Up”; and Alexis Karpinski, “MAGic Glove.” 

That’s how Mattel came up with the idea for “By Kids For Kids,” and that’s why third grade Austin Elementary teachers Jill Shelby and Misty Teer challenged their students to open their minds and develop new toy ideas that could possibly make it to the market place.

For the past three years Mattel has offered kids a premier invention site,, and contest for young inventors to learn about and obtain U.S. patents, commercialize or license their inventions.

�Last year my class did an Invention Convention and when I heard about Mattel�s toy contest I thought the kids would really love that,� said Shelby. �For several weeks, we discussed famous inventions and inventors and the inventive thinking process.�

Shelby said last year she had to give students lots of guidance with their inventions, but this year, because it had to do with toys, they were the experts on the subject. 

�They knew exactly what they wanted or would like to have,� she laughed.

According to Shelby, she began the assignment by having her students bring their favorite toys from home.

�They played with them and then discussed problems with the toys and talked about ways they could make them better,� Shelby explained.

Soon, her students were coming up with ideas for toys by assessing some of the problems they had with the toys and finding solutions to make the product better.

�I didn�t really know what to expect, but they stepped right in and came up with some really good ideas,� she stated.

Cassey Farley, who participates on a jump rope team, faced the dilemma of finding someone willing to turn the rope when she was ready to practice. 

Her solution: an automatic rope turner, for which she won first place class prize.

Aide Lopez took third place for her   “Stay Out Of Jail” board game which promoted good behavior, according to Shelby.

�When they made good choices, they got to advance,� Shelby explained. �And when they made poor choices, there were consequences to pay.�

In Ms. Teer’s class, Rebekah LaRue made up a game called the “Have You Been There?” game, which is a board game where players must answer yes or no questions dealing with different places and historical buildings. 

Brenna Murray came up with “Make-up says Wake-up,” a makeup for girls that stays on longer and makes lips softer, while Alexis Karpinski developed a “MAGic Glove,” made of magnets. The glove could be used for catch or to control magnets. 

The goal of the project was to encourage inventive and critical thinking, as well as problem solving skills, according to Shelby.

�So often today, kids imaginations are suppressed,� she said. �We get to use a little of it in the classroom, but we don�t have a lot of time for it. So many children don�t want or even know how to think for themselves and just expect to be told how and when to do everything.��

With so many rules to abide by while in school, Shelby said this was one project that had none.

�There was no right or wrong way to do this,� said Shelby. �It aloud them to use there creativity.�

The students inventions were put on display in classrooms at the school during Open House for families to enjoy. Winners were determined by teacher votes but all students were encouraged to submit their ideas in Mattel’s third annual Invent-a-Toy World Games where prizes include a $5,000 savings bond, a trip to New York City, and of course, licensing and patenting of their invention! 

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