2020 Young Inventor Challenge Now Open to Kids Across the Country
Originally published in NY Metro parents
By Jacqueline Neber May 22, 2020
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The CHITAG Young Inventor Challenge, when happens every year as part of Chicago Toy & Game Week, has previously only been open to kid inventors from around the Chicago area. But this year, the Challenge has partnered with brands like Mattel and Scholastic to launch a special spring competition that is open to kids ages 6-18 from across the country—so your New York kids can bring their best inventions to the table to compete for some awesome prizes! To enter the competition, your young inventor has to create an original prototype toy or game (the Young Inventor Design Guide can help), take photos and a pitch video, and submit. During the judging process, your child could potentially work with toy companies to bring her invention to the market! Nick Metzler, who won in 2010 and 2011 when he was in high school, has shared his tips for kids looking to invent something totally unique.
Metzler has been making toys and games since he was four years old. He first checked out the Young Inventor Challenge when he was 15, and he noticed that most of the games kids were presenting were square and flat, like Monopoly. That inspired his first game, a “board game version of BS” where players win by having the best cheating strategy. As a result of winning the challenge, Metzler met many people in the game industry, including CEOs of major game companies, when he was only 16. He became the face of the Young Inventor Challenge, grew the competition to include more kids, and got schools involved. He won again at 17 for a three-dimensional, very physical board game called Squashed, in which players move around a cube and get to squash any other players they want.
Metzler went on to become Young Innovator of the Year for the toy and game industry for Squashed, and considers that as the start of his career. He was named the Rising Star Innovator of the Year in college and was named in the top 100 most influential people in the industry for the past two years. He has been at Spinmaster for five years.
“I feel extremely lucky and thankful for this entire experience,” Metzler says. “I think it’s amazing that [the Challenge has opened up]. These kids are now officially professional inventors, because professional inventors are submitting videos of their products to the same people who will be judging the kids. That’s a cool new aspect of the competition.”
Metzler’s tips for kids entering the challenge this year include
- Have your child think about what he likes in a game, what is fun for him to play. “Take the things they find most fun and smash them together with other things they find fun,” he says.
- “When you’re pitching a game or toy, find a way to be different,” he continues. “Do what it takes to be completely different than what everyone else is doing. [Make the game] uniquely them. Make something that is so uniquely “out there,” [judges] can’t help but watch the video.” Metzler knew all board games were square, so he made a circular one. He knew all games had a single rule, so he “made my game about cheating. There wasn’t any physicality in games, so I made mine physical.”
- Ask your family to play your game with you—and encourage your family to be honest about what they don’t like about the game. “Look for things that are bad, so you can keep improving those things,” Metzler says. “I think that’s a tough piece of advice to hear, but an important piece if you want to be in the invention space. It’s weird for a kid to hear that, but that’s how I grew as a kid, hearing that negative feedback.”
- Some questions to ask: “What do you hate about this product? What is the most difficult part of playing this game with me?”
For more information about the Young Inventor Challenge, visit its website. Chicago Toy & Game Week will be held on November 19-22, and kids can start submitting their pitch videos now through the Young Inventor portal. Some young inventors have gone on to have their games and toys sold at Target or Amazon—your young inventor could be next!