This project is about inspiring the next generation of inventors, scientists, engineers, designers, and, well, kickstarters. The goal is to have kids experience the thrill of the invention process to ignite their own creativity. These are kits to build action toys--toys with clever mechanisms that do something fun. These action-toy kits will give kids the challenge and pride of building the toy themselves. Then they can decorate it to make it their own one-of-a-kind creation. In the process their brain gets engaged as they discover and explore how the toy works. Finally, they experience the excitement of the "Eureka!" moment when it works just the way they thought it would. The project is a success when the kids want to keep on building and inventing on their own.
These kits give kids the intense thrill of inventing a toy, and the gratification of knowing it is something of their own creation and construction, even if they don't have basic woodworking tools and knowledge.
They help teach fundamental skills such as following diagrams, reading instructions, and using basic tools. The kits provide a fun way to put these toys together! Kids get to enjoy the fruits of what THEY assemble, not someone in a factory. This isn't something they just take out of the box and play with for a few days and then becomes lost amid the toy piles. YOU are involved from start to finish in making these toys.
For parents, these kits provide a lot of side-by-side time as you watch or help a child build, decorate, explore, and invent their toy. There's bound to be many teaching opportunities, plenty of smiles, and much laughter. Above all, seeing a child beaming with pride after building their own toy is priceless.
About the Kits
The kits contain everything needed to make the toy except the tools, and the only tools needed are a basic hammer or screwdriver. There will be detailed, illustrated instructions and exploded diagrams to show how everything fits together. The toys are all action toys meaning that they have a simple mechanism that does something cool and perhaps unexpected. They are all based on the toys in my book Zany Wooden Toys that Whiz, Spin, Pop and Fly published by Fox Chapel Publishing. More on that later!
The toy pieces are primarily made of wood. For beginner inventors, wood is a great choice because it's strong, very easy to work with, and most people have basic household tools.
I've been building toys since I was about 9 years old when my parents handed me my first book on making them. I spent countless hours studying the pictures and drawings trying to figure out what all the toys did. I then spent many more hours constructing and playing with them. Looking back, each toy taught me something--either a new skill, some science principal, or what doesn't work (white glue on plastic, for instance). Perhaps the best lesson was perseverance to keep trying to find a better way when things didn't work right the first time.
Toy building continued in college when I entered design competitions sponsored by Mattel, but the best inspiration came from my own kids. We were always in the garage cutting wood and pounding nails to make something. It got to the point where, after dinner, they'd say, "Dad, let's go build a toy." That's quite a challenge because they fully expected magic to happen. They had total belief that we could make an amazingly cool toy in the short time between dinner and bedtime stories, and your kids can, too!
Well, after building many toys for many years and with many kids (I have five boys) I collected all the ones that actually worked and drew up plans. Fox Chapel Publishing turned them into an amazingly fun book called Zany Wooden Toys the Whiz, Spin, Pop, and Fly. The intent of the book was to show the invention process with illustrations and diagrams, along with all the mistakes and wrong turns so kids didn't get the false impression that inventors get a miraculously clear idea, build it once, and have it work perfectly on the first try.
Because of the book I was fortunate enough to be invited to lead toy-building workshops at libraries, schools, and scout meetings. Kids, ages 3 and up, have built several hundred of the Tissue Launchers at these events. Kids' faces just light up when they walk into a room and see tables set up with wood pieces, real tools, rubber bands, sand paper, and art supplies. They know they'll be building something amazing. I have not yet met a kid that was not totally fired-up to make their own toy!
The Business Plan: Why I Need Your Help
So how do we get more kids building their own toys and experiencing the
thrill and delight of the "Eureka!" moment? That's where you
Kickstarters come in.
Check out the rewards, and try building some of the toys. See how much fun kids have building, decorating, and playing with them. Make some for yourself. I think you'll be amazed.
The funds for this project will be used for the first volume production runs of the kits, graphic art for the layout of the instructions, and for liability insurance. Brown Wood, Inc., a company in Maine, will be producing the first round of kits. They have both the expertise and equipment to make these toys efficiently, but they can only do so via mass production, which of course can only be done with your funding support.
A graphic art team will be enlisted to make the instructions and packaging. These have to be both very clear and fun to read.
The final and perhaps most crucial area for funding is the liability insurance. The toys are very simple, and it's inconceivable how someone could get hurt. Nonetheless, insurance is a necessity for doing business. No one wants to build or sell the toys unless there is liability insurance.
I sincerely thank you for your support of this project and for Kickstarting the next generation of inventors! I can't wait to see what they come up with!
#1: "No one wants to buy wooden toy kits"
Book sales strongly indicate that many people still love making toys with and for kids, but not everyone has the tools to cut out the basic shapes. Thus, kits are a great way to start out. The toy-building events provided great market research and the conclusion is: several hundred kids can't be wrong. More importantly, the most common question from parents after a toy-building event is, "Do you sell kits?" So far I've the answer has been a disappointing, "No." I've also contacted several toy stores that would love to sell kits that provide a learning experience, are fun on multiple levels, and are environmentally "green."
#2 High volume manufacturing is a lot different than building toys in the garage.
This is true, but I'm currently an engineering manager in the semiconductor industry. That's considered ultra high-volume manufacturing and requires effectively managing a diverse global team of engineers on a variety of projects. I have gained the management and leadership skills needed to introduce and manufacture new products.
#3 Are three kits enough?
Yes, three is enough in the beginning to work out all the details. The long range plan is to keep introducing new kits from the book. Book 2, Zany Wooden Toys Reloaded, is scheduled to be published in August 2013 and will have many more projects that can be turned into kits.
#4 How soon can kits be delivered?
The lead time is 4 to 5 weeks. The first 100 kits are being created before the kickstarter project even begins. They will go to the first 100 backers with the goal of having them delivered by Christmas.
Simple plans to make your own Tissue Launcher. If you already have the tools then create fun making a bunch of these with kids young and old. These are a copy of the black and white plans I sent to the publisher.
One Tissue Launcher Kit--launch a tissue wad across the room. Comes with instructions and all pieces. You just supply a hammer, Phillips screw driver, a few tissues and some tape. You'll be having fun for hours.
The Tissue Launcher Kit and a signed copy of Zany Wooden Toys that Whiz, Spin, Pop, and Fly. The Tissue Launcher is shown on the cover of the book and in the How-To chapter. You'll also get the plans so you can make as many as you want. But wait there's more! In the book you'll get plans for 27 more action-toy projects to keep the fun going strong.
All three kits and a signed copy of Zany Wooden Toys that Whiz, Spin, Pop, and Fly. The book will light off a kid's imagination and the kits will show them that they have all the skills they need to start inventing on their own.
The full meal deal--All the tools and supplies needed to make 20 tissue launcher kits, including a copy of Zany Wooden Toys that Whiz, Spin, Pop, and Fly. Drop 20 kids on a deserted island and they'll have everything they need to make the toys. Includes 5 hammers, 5 screwdrivers, sandpaper, markers, tissues, tape, safety goggles, and instructions. Kids can work in groups of 5 at 4 different stations. If you do drop the kids on a deserted island don't forget to bring them back.