Kids + Toys (Educational + Fun) = Future Innovators

Monthly Archives: October 2013

boomerangLike most of you, I’ve been fascinated by boomerangs and always wanted to know how to throw a boomerang.  So, continuing on from earlier posts about flying toys –Flying Toys for Kids – Paper Airplanes & Electric-Powered Paper Airplanes and Aeronautics & Flying Toys for Younger Kids – we bring you one on boomerangs.

Boomerang History 

Made in USA Free Spirit Magic Boomerang

Free Spirit Boomerangs from Channel Craft

Most of us associate boomerangs with the Aborigines of Australia. This is the best known connection, but anthropologists have discovered that throwsticks were also used in other cultures such as ancient Egypt, eastern Europe and Southwest US.  Throwsticks used for hunting were non-returning. From the US Boomerang Association:

At some point (perhaps by accident) the stick became more curved and refined (and much lighter) so that, when thrown vertically, it would return to the thrower. These true boomerangs were probably only used for fun and games, not as weapons.

How to throw a boomerang  

Here’s a video from Dean Helfer at Channel Craft showing how to throw boomerangs from the Spirit series.

 Throwing Basics

  • Always throw overhand  (like a baseball) and never sidearm.
  • There are two kinds of grips:  pinch and cradle.
  • The pinch is what is sounds like: hold the boomerang between your thumb and forefinger, allowing friction to keep the boomerang in your hand during the throw. Snap your wrist at the end of the throw to create spin.
  • The cradle grip is similar to the pinch grip, the difference being that you wrap your forefinger around the front of the boomerang. At the end of your throw, snap your wrist and “pull the trigger” to create spin.
  • Factors that will affect your boomerang flight:  amount of spin, wind (too much, too little), weather

Different boomerangs for different skill levels

Boomerangs are precision flying toys.  There are plenty of mass-produced toy boomerangs that most likely won’t return.  Turner Toys carries boomerangs from Channel Craft that are birch plywood and hand finished. 

There are different skill levels for different abilities and, like all good things, throwing a boomerang takes skill and practice. All are rated for ages: 9+.  Left- and right-handed boomerangs available.  Our boomerangs are made in the USA.

Turner Toys & Hobbies Boomerangs

Calico Jack Jolly Roger – Flies up to 25 yards.  

Calico Jack boomerang

Calico Jack Jolly Roger

Free Spirit Magic – Flies up to 40 yards even in high winds.

Graffiti Fire – Flies up to 35 yards.

Graffiti Earth – Flies up to 50 yards.

Graffiti Wind – Flies up to 25 yards, even in high winds.

Spirit of the Wind – Flies up to 25 yards.

Have you ever thrown a boomerang (successfully!)?  How were you successful?

Photo credit: sidstamm / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND


I've been on a ball track craze lately.  Last time, I wrote about 12-year old inventor and his Wall Coaster (wall-mounted ball track).  Here's another opportunity to nurture your child's inner inventor:  Haba Domino Building Block Set.  I fell in love with Haba's video showing a Rube Goldberg way to treat your dog!

The Domino Building Block set combines traditional building blocks, marble track and domino races.   It’s recommended for ages 3-10 but you can see how this would appeal to older kids, too.  Of course, in addition to all of the fun kids will have, it helps to develop fine motor skills and spatial reasoning.

Open-ended play

There is no “one” way to play.  You can play with them like dominos or create a ball track – or something in between.  Here are just a few ideas:

  • set up in simple rows
  • create long serpentine figures
  • build high towers
  • experiment with the add-ons: wheels, clamps and rods 
  • young kids can sort and count as well as build and watch the dominos tumble.

What will your child invent?

 

The wooden pieces are made of beech and the set is made in Germany so you can be assured that this is a quality toy set that will last for ages.  My husband still has his wooden ball track from when he was a kid.  Quality lasts!

The domino blocks come with 61 domino blocks, 8 naturally colored wooden blocks, 6 block clamps, 2 wheel clamps, 2 conveyor wheels, 2 metal rods with eyelet, and 6 marbles and a comprehensive instruction booklet.  Bonus:  you can combine with any of the marble run and ball track sets from HABA!

What can your child invent with this set?  Something to water the plants?  Please send me pictures of your child’s layouts!

 


Kids are natural inventorswall coaster kid invention.  Famous kid inventions include the trampoline & Popsicles.  Here’s a list from Women’s Day of some other things kids invented.

When we were at Toy Fair last year, we met Jake who invented the Wall Coaster when he was 12.  He spent time in his basement – with his dad’s help – messing around and came up with something like a marble track – but it goes up on the wall!   The young inventor’s idea was simple: how can you make a marble roll down a wall? After weeks of experimenting with different materials and concepts, the Wall Coaster was born.

The Wall Coaster uses plastic track that adheres to the wall with reusable non-stick adhesive.  The track can be set up and moved into any configuration you want.  It’s a great activity to learn about and test scientific concepts such as:

  • Centrifugal force
  • Gravity
  • Friction

There are two kits (Super Starter Set and Extreme Stunt Set) and trick add-ons (Super Loop and Crazy Stairs.)  The sets come with track, non-stick adhesive, marbles (including glow-in-the dark marbles!)  Here’s a video showing how it works.

How can you help your child become an inventor?

Inventors try to solve a problem, fill a need or make something better.  The Young Inventor Challenge, an annual competition of the Chicago Toy Fair, has an amazing Inventor’s Guide that has activities that lead your child through the invention process.  The keys to success:

  • Imagination
  • Brainstorming….which leads to
  • The BIG idea
  • Prototyping & building
  • Testing &
  • Revising, if you need to.

Imagination

It all starts with imagination.  I really love the questions from the section on “Imagination:”

What do you imagine? Have you ever spent time dreaming about a really cool idea you had? If you could pick only one game or toy to play with, which would it be? What is it about that game or toy that appeals to you so much? Do you make up new rules to the games you already own? Do you make up games to play with cool bits and pieces of stuff you have laying around? Do you play with your toys in new and entirely different ways? Could you make a better game or toy? A large part of invention is seeing old things in new ways. What do you imagine?

This year’s Young Inventor Challenge will be held November 23-24 at the Navy Pier in Chicago.  The deadline to register is November 4th.

Have you or your children ever invented anything?  Please let me know!



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