History of Inventions: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Kathryn Miedema Dominguez

Kathryn has taught elementary students for over ten years and has her master's degree in elementary education.

In this lesson, you'll learn about some of the inventions humans have created throughout history, including the everyday tools we still use today. You'll also learn the names of some of the people who came up with these new ideas.

History of Inventions

An invention is a device that has been created and changed our way of living. Humans began creating inventions about 2 ½ million years ago during the Stone Age; let's take a look at some of these machines and tools.

Prehistoric and Ancient Inventions

During the Stone Age, early humans started making simple tools. Originally, humans used rocks to cut up meat taken from animals. When they figured out how to break the sides of rocks, they found they could cut the meat more easily with a sharp edge.

Around 30,000 BC, humans figured out how to attach a large stick to a rock and invented the hammer and then the ax. The handle on the hammer gave the user more force to hit something. Hammers are still used today, but are designed with longer lasting materials, such as metal.

Early evidence of a potter's wheel, used to turn clay as it's being formed, was found in Mesopotamia around 3,500 BC. However, it would take another 300 years before wheels were used to transport humans in chariots.

Middle Ages and Inventions

During the Middle Ages, which lasted from the 5th to the 15th centuries, humans invented windmills, gunpowder, compasses, and the printing press. For example, around 600 CE, the Persians designed windmills, an engine driven by wind. Windmills were used throughout Europe in grain and saw mills and to pump water.

In the 9th century, the Chinese invented gunpowder, which was later used to make bullets and fireworks. Ancient Chinese also invented the compass; around the 11th century, they figured out that a magnetized needle points north and can be used to find a direction.

15th-17th Century Inventions

Some famous inventions of the 1600s and 1700s included the telescope and microscope. A telescope is used to see objects far away, such as the stars. The first refracting telescope was invented in 1608 by Hans Lippershey and used two lenses to bend light. Later, Galileo improved upon his invention to make it a reflecting telescope, which used two mirrors to reflect light.

Refracting Telescope

Microscopes are used to see small things that cannot be seen by your eyes, such as germs. While Hans and Zacharias Janssen invented the first microscope in 1590, Anthony Van Leeuwenhoek was the first person to use one to look at bacteria, or small organisms, in 1676.

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