Little Inventors


Maybe you’re in the bedroom – there’s a light above you, an alarm clock next to you, a duvet on top of you and a bed underneath you. Perhaps, like me, you’re in the living room – there’s a TV, a sofa and a dog being sick into the fireplace. Pippin, stop that!

Everything around you that doesn’t twinkle in the sky or grow or woof or fart was invented by someone. Like the scientist who invented the microwave by accident, the teenager who came up with the trampoline and the genius being Smell-O-Vision.

To have a brilliant idea, you don’t have to live in a castle, or have the nicest trainers, or be the cleverest person in the classroom, or be athletic or good at drawing or gaming or anything like that. You just need to be yourself and believe in the power of your imagination.

Do you have an idea for an invention that will change the world forever?

Think of an invention that would fit at home for the Bathroom, the Bedroom, the Kitchen or the Living Room.

Adam Kay and Kay’s Incredible Inventions have teamed up with Young V&A, a new museum in London designed to energise young creators, to offer the chance to win a truly one-of-kind prize. Kay’s Incredible Inventions illustrator Henry Paker will draw the winning entry and Little Inventors will build it in real-life! The winner will also receive membership to Young V&A and their invention will feature in the paperback edition of Kay’s Incredible Inventions published in May 2024.

Here's some examples to help inspire your own invention!

THE BATHROOM • A Royal Flush

Bathroom drawing

It’s difficult to know what present to buy for a king or a queen. A diamond necklace for their corgi, maybe? A massive rubber duck to put in their moat? Four hundred years ago, John Harington had this problem – it was made even worse by the fact that Elizabeth the First was his godmother, so he didn’t want to mess it up. Apart from anything else, she was a big fan of chopping people’s heads off.

But John had a great idea. He’d just built the first-ever toilet you could flush and named it the Ajax. He thought old Queenie would really like a massive toilet as her present, so he had one built in Richmond Palace. Elizabeth loved her amazing new toilet, and she did some of her favourite poos in it.

FACT CHECK: There is no evidence that Queen Elizabeth the First had any favourite poos.

THE KITCHEN • Yes we can


The tin can was invented in 1810 as a clever way to keep food fresh. In those days it was difficult for sailors to eat meat and vegetables, because they would start to rot only days into their long boat trips. The meat and vegetables would rot, I mean, not the sailors. Then along came a man called Peter Durand with an excellent idea for putting things in cans. He would boil food inside tins, then cement the lids on. Hooray! Tinned carrots for everyone!

One tiny problem: nobody had invented can openers yet, so if you wanted to get your delicious carrots or disgusting mushrooms, then you’d have to bash the top of the can with a knife or a rock or something. In fact, it took sixty years before someone came up with a solution. That person was an American inventor called William Lyman, who patented a can opener a bit like the ones we use today, with a little cutting wheel that spins round the top of your tins. It was a totally brilliant invention – if you weren’t bothered with keeping absolutely all your fingers.

THE LIVING ROOM • See ya later, radiator


Central heating systems have existed for seven thousand years. Which means that for 6,999 years, grown-ups have been turning the heating down and asking children if they know how expensive it is to heat this place. In Ancient Korea, houses would have a big fire at one end, and then the chimney that took the smoke away would go all the way under the rest of the rooms and pop out the other side. This meant that, instead of lighting a fire in every single room, one fire could keep lots of different rooms as hot as a pot on a yacht.

These days a boiler burns gas or oil, which heats up water, which then travels all round your house through pipes, then goes into radiators, and that’s what heats up your room. When I was nine, I wanted to know how radiators work so I unscrewed one of the pipes that held it in, then loads of really dirty, really hot water sprayed everywhere and totally destroyed my bedroom carpet. And then I was in trouble for about three months. My lawyer, Nigel, has asked me to remind you that it’s extremely dangerous to mess around with radiators and ‘not to be a total nincompoop’ like I was, which I think is slightly unfair.



The first zip went on sale in 1905 and was designed by Whitcomb Judson, although he called it the C-Curity Clasp Locker. These days half of all zips in the world are made by a company called YKK – if you look at a zip, then it probably has those initials on it. If you took every zipper they make in a year and put them all in a line, it would wrap round the world 150 times. But please don’t do that, because then loads of people’s trousers would fall down.

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