Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself

Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself

My family and I are eagerly awaiting our chance to visit the interactive da Vinci exhibit in St. Louis next month. We already have spots and half-price tickets through one of our homeschooling groups (sweet!), so we’ve been exploring da Vinci through literature in order to introduce our five-year-old daughter to the inventor. Among the books we’ve recently checked out, our favorite is definitely Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You Can Build Yourself by Maxine Anderson.

The main reason it is our favorite is not because it has provided us with a fantastic introduction to the genius himself, though there is a great, brief introduction to him and the Renaissance in general at the beginning of the book, including a helpful timeline for those interested in that sort of thing. It’s because the book is so interactive and full of just what the title says—amazing inventions and experiments we can do on our own. Though the book is only 122 pages long, don’t let that full you; there are enough cool inventions to keep you interested for weeks. We only checked it out from the library, so I know this is one that we may end up purchasing just so we can do all of the projects in the book!

From your own perspectograph to paper mache masks to drawing lessons, such as one- and two- point perspective, there are plenty of inventions and experiments for the artistically inclined. You can even learn how to make your own paint out of eggs and dirt! Science lovers, too, will delight in many of the activities—such as geometric figures with toothpicks (we’re doing that one tomorrow) to floating animals to the famous camera obscura. How to make a favorite science joke of children, invisible ink, is also included. Even gearheads like my husband will smile when they see how you can make your own monkey wrench.

What’s really cool about the book is that each experiment or invention starts with an explanation of how Leonardo did it himself, and the history behind each thing he was known for—from math to art to invention new concepts entirely. Many of the inventions may even be new to parents; though I had heard of the shoes that could walk on water (you can make them with instructions from the book, too!), I had never known that da Vinci was the inventor of the world’s first parachute. The webbed gloves project is sure to be a hit with the animal lover in your house (that would be my daughter), while the helical air screw model helicopter will impress even the most stoic person in your household. I dare your teen to not enjoy at least one of these projects!

Clear instructions and diagrams make this one of my favorite how-to books I’ve ever come across. It’s paperback and simple to tuck beneath whatever you are doing, so you can easily follow the directions. I heartily recommend this book to any teacher, parent, or creative person—that means just about anyone!—for a kick of extra creativity.