Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

Lifting the flap on inventions

Posted on | March 16, 2012 | 8 Comments

As National Science and Engineering Week draws to a close, I have a second inventions book to share with you: See Inside Inventions by Alex Frith, illustrated by Colin King.

We are massive fans of the Usborne Flap Book series, to which this is the latest addition. They are robust (great for in classrooms, or for when your kids fight over them, as ours do), they are hugely informative, they are exciting to read, and they’re just lovely to look at.

In fact, I think there’s a lot to be said for flaps. They draw out curiosity (who wouldn’t want to know what is hidden behind a flap), they introduce drama to reading (what’s going to be revealed…?) and they keep hands busy (great if your reader isn’t one who likes to sit still), so See Inside Inventions was already looking like a winner, even before we started reading.

And when we did start reading, we loved the book even more: It’s always exciting to read a book and feel you’ve learned lots of interesting things.

To see if See Inside Inventions might be a book for you, why not take this mini quiz and see what you might learn?

Do you know your inventions?

If you read Usborne's See Inside Inventions, you'll learn everything you need to know to answer these questions. Is it a book that you might have fun learning something from? Press the start button on this 5 question quiz to find out :-)
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Congratulations - you have completed Do you know your inventions?.

You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%.

Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%


Your answers are highlighted below.
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You may recall I reviewed another Usborne inventions book last weekThe Story of Inventions. So how are these two books different and is it worth getting both?

Both are definitely great books. See Inside Inventions has a slightly narrower focus than The Story of Inventions, the former looking mostly at 19th century western inventions. I can imagine that See Inside Inventions works better with a younger age range of kids than The Story of Inventions, primarily because the format (rather than the content) is more appealing to little hands and minds. Certainly J (3) loves the flap book, but hasn’t spent any time with The Story of Inventions, whilst M has really enjoyed both books.

And on Sunday you could find out for yourself about these two books, as I’ll be giving a way a mini-bundle of the two of them… :-)

Image: James Steidl

The section on the invention of the telephone in See Inside Inventions inspired us to make our own tin can telephone. It was with some trepidation that we set out to do this; I couldn’t believe it was really going to work. Yes, I’ve seen people talk about tin can telephones, yes, they are almost a staple of childhood lore, but do they, would they really work for us?

To make our tin can telephone I got two empty tins of Golden Syrup. These tins are ideal because they have reusable lids, and so when you remove the lid, you have an empty tin with no sharp edges.

I then stuck a piece of blu tack on the bottom of the tin, in the centre, and used a bradawl to make a very small hole. You want to make sure that the hole you make is barely bigger than the diameter of the string you are going to use to connect the two tins to each other. By placing blu tack (or modelling clay) underneath, it makes it easy to apply the pressure to create the hole, without damaging your table.

Once the holes were made we threaded kite string through and knotted it on the inside of each tin. And Lo! Our telephones were ready for testing.

To our utter delight, and almost disbelief, the telephones worked really well! The kids thought our voices sounded a little like aliens, but it really was perfectly possible to hold a conversation down the wire.

It was so successful we decided to up the length of wire in our telephones. In the picture below you can see M at the top of the hill listening to her dad (circled in blue) over 100 metres away.

I don’t know whether we just struck lucky in that we had great, safe tins and kite string to hand, or whether tin can telephones are always this successful, but I certainly urge you to give it a go (here are some possible tips on optimizing a tin can telephone). I think it would be a great project to do down a long street, or across a school playground.

Whilst making our telephones we listened to:

  • Tiny Telephone by Recess Monkey
  • Hanging On the Telephone by Blondie
  • The Telephone Song by The Andrews Sisters


  • Other activities we could have tried having enjoyed See Inside Inventions include:

  • Making a lift-the-flap book. We’ve done this before, but it’s always a fun activity.
  • Making rockets. Se7en has an amazing round up of rockets they’ve tried.
  • Creating a pinhole camera using a Pringles tube. Exploratorium has a helpful tutorial.


  • Today I’m joining the weekly STEM roundup. This week’s host is Hands-on-Books – I do hope you’ll pop over to discover more children’s books with a science, technology, engineering or maths theme.

    Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review remains my own and honest opinion.

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    Comments

    8 Responses to “Lifting the flap on inventions”

    1. se7en
      March 16th, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

      Finally getting to read my feeds for the day – head straight to “books” and there you are… This book looks fab – I have glanced at this series but only briefly… (Our library seems to be getting heaps of sort of pink girl series about nothing at the moment and no cool fact books… oh to live in the same country as usborne books!!!)… I know the tin can telephone works… my kids make then with anything container-ish – even paper cups… we have a tall tree at the gate that they climb and it is level with their bedroom about 30 meters away and they can whisper secrets to and fro – fab fun!!! And there are our rockets!!! Thank you – so glad you liked them!!!
      se7en recently posted..Se7en Make Mini Hobby Horses…

    2. Zoe
      March 17th, 2012 @ 8:32 am

      Ha! I can just imagine your kids with their telephones Se7en. So do Usborne not distribute in SA? I’m a bit surprised by that…
      Zoe recently posted..Kidlit radio #10

    3. Elli
      March 17th, 2012 @ 10:55 am

      Good excuse to make lots of sticky syrup cakes!
      My Child3 taught himself to read largely from ‘How Things Work’ in this series – really good to see another one out. I hope it’s been better edited than the others though, as some of them seem riddled with niggling errors.
      Elli recently posted..Going Up the Hill

    4. Zoe
      March 17th, 2012 @ 10:58 am

      That’s interesting to hear Elli – I haven’t noticed any errors, but then I’m reading stuff that is by and large new to me. What sort of errors were you finding?
      Zoe recently posted..Kidlit radio #10

    5. choxbox
      March 17th, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

      The See Inside series is tops for sure. For a few, but not this one. Will keep my eyes open, thanks Zoe.

    6. Elli
      March 17th, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

      Zoe – mainly typos, although I can’t think of any specific ones off-hand. ‘See Inside Your Head’, if I remember rightly, has quite a few. And there’s contradictory information in ‘See Inside Your Body’ about exactly where the villi are located, although as it’s new to me too I can’t remember which one is correct!
      But other than that, they’re fantastic books, and definitely up there among Child3′s favourites.
      Elli recently posted..Going Up the Hill

    7. Zoe
      March 17th, 2012 @ 8:17 pm

      Thanks for that Elli, I shall have to put on my eagle eyes now! I’m rather surprised, to be honest, (and a little bit saddened!)
      Zoe recently posted..Kidlit radio #10

    8. STEM Friday: Plagues, pox and pestilence « STEM Friday
      August 3rd, 2012 @ 7:16 am

      [...] started reviewing them all (my review of the Usborne book, my review of the Dawkins book), and today it’s the turn of the most stomach churning one of [...]

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