Orville and Wilbur Wright didn’t go to college. They were bicycle salesmen from Ohio. They weren’t engineers, they didn’t have any technical training, they didn’t have much money, they didn’t know anyone who could help them financially or intellectually with their pursuit of becoming the first to fly. Meanwhile, there were teams of engineers from the top universities working on the same problem. One was funded by a grant from the U.S. War Department. One had some seventy times the personal finances the Wright brothers had.
How could they have possibly become the inventors and pioneers they became?
“It began for them with a toy,” David McCullough writes in The Wright Brothers, “a small helicopter brought home by their father, Bishop Milton Wright, a great believer in the educational value of toys…it was little more than a stick with twin propellers and twisted rubber bands, and probably cost 50 cents.”
It might not seem like a toy could change a child’s life, but of course it can. As Simon Bolivar said many years earlier, a child can learn as much from a stick as any teacher. Toys are more than just things to play with. They are worlds to discover. They are things to be responsible for. They are things to take apart and put back together. They are, as we talked about a little while back, projects they can throw themselves into.
We spend a lot of time introducing our kids to the world of ideas. Let’s add that it’s also our job to bring home cool toys. Toys with educational value. Toys that teach them about other cultures. Toys that get them interested in flight or science or math or history or technology. It can be made of sticks and rubber bands. It doesn’t matter.
Just bring home cool toys. You never know what it might lead to.