Benjamin Franklin Inventions Kids Can Create

As part of your history lessons, spend some time learning about Benjamin Franklin inventions. Its a fun way to make history hand-on. You can also study him and his inventions as part of your science class.

When is the last time you used paper money, visited your local public library, or sent a letter through the US Mail?

I’m guessing you have probably done at least one of these things within the past week! 

Did you know there is one person we have to thank for all of these (and dozens more) conveniences – Benjamin Franklin!

Ben Franklin Inventions and Hands-on History

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Benjamin Franklin Inventions

No study of early American history would be complete without spending some time examining the life of Benjamin Franklin. He is often referred to as one of our county’s “Founding Fathers” but his contributions reached well beyond his politics and diplomacy. He was also a writer, printer, scientist, and inventor.

From a young age, Benjamin Franklin was very curious. He was also patient and a good observer – he liked to study things around him in order to understand how they worked. His observations often lead to ideas about how things could be changed or improved, which then resulted in experiments and inventions of many common items we still use today.

As part of our history study, we have been reading Poor Richard by James Daugherty so I decided to look for some Franklin inspired hands-on activities for my curious boys to try (always looking for those opportunities to “bring their learning to life”).

Things Benjamin Franklin Invented

I was thrilled when I found Amazing Ben Franklin Inventions You Can Build Yourself. This book includes a brief but informative background and context to introduce fun and easy activities that can be completed with items found around the house.

Ben Franklin Inventions and Hands-on History

Mapping the Gulf Stream

We had no idea Benjamin Franklin helped to map the Gulf Stream.

It seems Ben kept busy during those long voyages across the Atlantic by observing the ocean currents. He noticed the water in the Gulf Stream was a different color and temperature than the surrounding water, and that different animals and plant life lived in the current.

Franklin would have used a mercury thermometer to measure the temperature of the Gulf Stream waters, but we were able to create a thermometer using rubbing alcohol.

Ben Franklin Inventions and Hands-on History

Invisible Ink

Before the American Revolution, the colonies used gold and silver coins for money. During his trips to London, Benjamin Franklin began to see the ease and convenience of using paper currency.

He shared his reasons for why he thought paper currency would be good for the colonies and in 1730 the Pennsylvania Assembly asked Ben (a printer) to print money for the colony. 

Franklin took his new responsibility very seriously, as he was concerned with people trying to make illegal copies of paper money. He developed very detailed designs through an engraving process to help prevent counterfeiting.

Now US money is printed with special inks and watermarks to make it difficult to copy. We tried our hand at making a special, “invisible” ink using items from our kitchen.

How Do You Make Invisible Ink?

It’s actually quite simple. There are quite a few ways you can make your own invisible ink with household products.

Here’s the grape juice method.

  • Put 2 tablespoons of baking soda into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of tap water to it. Mix together until the baking soda dissolves.
  • Dip a cotton swab into the solution and write a message onto a piece of paper.
  • Let the paper dry.
  • Pour some grape juice into a small bowl. Using another cotton swab, dip it into the juice and paint over the message. You should immediately see your words appear on the paper.

This works because the baking soda is a base and the grape juice is an acid. They react together and make a contrasting color on the piece of paper.

Ben Franklin’s Inventions for Kids to Try

Some of the other “make your own” projects include:

  • Swim paddles
  • Solar-powered oven
  • Armonica
  • Hornbook
  • Paper
  • “Frugal” Frame
  • Kite
  • Fire Bucket
  • Paving brick
  • Feather pen
  • Liberty Bell

In addition to the projects, there are many “Fun Ideas to Try” like:

  • Write a pamphlet describing the benefits of a new invention
  • Listen to what an armonica sounds like
  • Take a tour of a newspaper office
  • Use a magnifying glass to examine the details of dollar bills
  • Read an almanac

There are dozens of activities in Amazing Ben Franklin Inventions You Can Build Yourself – we have been using it for a month already and we still have so much more to explore.

Benjamin Franklin is just one of the inventors and inventions we’ve added to our middle school science classes.

Which invention is your tween going to recreate first?

Ben Franklin Inventions and Hands-on History

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