Kids + Toys (Educational + Fun) = Future Innovators

Tag Archives: children

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 / / CC BY-NC-ND

Not sure how I feel about this, but the New York Times ran an article today:  Gym Class isn’t Just Fun and Games Anymore.   In some school districts, PE teachers are incorporating academic concepts and lessons into their PE classes.  For example,

” while in push-up position, they balanced on one arm and used the other (“Alternate!” Ms. Patelsky urged. “That’s one of your vocabulary words”) to stack oversize Lego blocks in columns labeled “ones,” “tens” and “hundreds.”


credit: Angel Valentin for The New York Times

I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to combine physical activity or entertainment with education.  Isn’t that what parents are looking for in educational toys?

As a seller of classic and educational toys, Turner Toys, is proud to offer many toys that provide fun and learning opportunities.   For example, our Butterfly Alphabet Wooden Puzzle uses puzzle play to teach capital letters, colors, problem solving and improve your child’s fine motor skills.   Plus it’s fun.  Wooden Butterfly Alphabet PuzzleIs it any different than what these schools are doing?

As a music educator, I know that teachers are being required to incorporate literacy and math concepts into all subjects.  I do want my students to know that when they study violin, they are learning science (acoustics), language (music notation & foreign musical terms), math (rhythm reading and performing), etc.  That’s on top of the art, beauty and emotion that they express through their music.

There is the argument that kids need to run around and move.  Some say that’s what recess is for.  I know that my children only have recess through the 5th grade.  More and more schools have cut recess and PE (and music and art) for budgetary reasons but also to devote more time on “academics” because of the pressures of test scores.

Tell me what you think about integrating academics (even superficially) into physical education (or art or music)?

Turner Toys is proud to carry almost 100 toys that are made in the USA.   Why do we carry American-made toys when we could probably buy less expensive products?  Many of the American companies that we work with have been crafting their toys for generations and share our values and love for “the toys we grew up with.”   We feel confident in the safety and quality of American-made toys.   Most importantly – these are great toys!



Some of our American-made products

These include Slinky– still made in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania with the original equipment Richard James created.  The Slinky has changed little in over 50 years. A crimp was added to the ends of the wire to ensure safe play.  Though it was developed to be a toy, other applications for the Slinky have been discovered. The Slinky has been used as an antenna by soldiers in Vietnam, as a therapy tool and for coordination development. The possibilities are endless.

Roy Toy Log Cabin Toy Set

Roy Toy Log Cabin Frontier set

Roy Toy log cabin toys are made in Maine, the “Pine Tree State”.  Roy Toy was established in the mid 1930’s by one of the earliest pioneers in the wooden toy industry, Roy K. Dennison.  Roy would often say, “There’s no greater feeling for a parent than helping their child explore their own imagination”.  After Roy died in 1960’s, the business was shuttered.  Roy’s grandson, Bruce Dennison, decided to revive the Roy Toy business in 1992.  He has honored his grandfather’s vision by producing the precisely made realistic  square logs that fit together perfectly.  All the parts are cut from fresh Maine Pinewood, colored with non-toxic dyes. You know that Roy Toys is the real thing when you open the box and smell the wonderfully fragrant pine! Bonus – Roy Toy log cabin sets have no plastic parts!

Uncle Goose Classic Alphabet Blocks

Uncle Goose Classic Alphabet Blocks

Turner Toys carries heirloom-quality alphabet block sets from Uncle Goose in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  They offer an array of classic alphabet blocks and  foreign language blocks (Chinese, Arabic, Greek, Russian, Korean and Hebrew.  Pete Bultman runs the family business that his father started in Michigan in 1983.  Uncle Goose blocks use quality materials to recreate nostalgic toys that mix playing and learning in a graphic, tactile way.

G70 Folding Wing Catapult Balsa Glider 12 inch wingspan.

Balsa wood Folding Wing Catapult Glider

We also have a collection of Guillows balsa wood airplanes – from the basic balsa gliders you had as a child to  complex balsa model airplane kits of famous military and civilian aircraft. The Guillows model airplane company was founded in 1926 by Paul K. Guillow, a World War I U. S. Navy Aviator. His experience as a Navy pilot created his passion for  aviation which led him to create a line of small balsa wood construction kits of famous World War I combat aircraft.

In upcoming blogs, we’ll highlight other American-made toys.  Turner Toys is s a resource on Buy Direct USA‘s website and our products are featured in their 2012 Made in the USA Gift Guide.  Turner Toys is also listed on Americans Working site.

Is buying American-made products important to you?  Tell us why.

At Turner Toys, we’re developing our Pinterest site  and would love to let to let you know what we’re thinking about these days and to get your thoughts on what you’d like to see.  Actually, my wife is creating it.

Right now, we have Autumn and Halloween on the brain.  My wife and daughter are really into everything Halloween.  Me, not so much though I’m a sucker for Fall colors.  Maybe not raking.  So – how does this relate to Turner Toys’ Pinterest site?  We’ve added two boards – “Fall” and “Halloween” and we’re pinning some of the best fall colors shots and great Halloween DIY projects.

We’ve also created boards for things we like and great products we carry:

  • Nature pictures – amazing pictures from around the world
  • Science Play – we like science at Turner Toys and we want to share science activities that your kids will like
  • Reading – when we find great book and reading links, we’ll share them here
  • Snow! – ok, we’re in fall right now, but snow is around the corner.
  • Parenting –  we parents can all use some words of advice
  • Learning Play – well, we know that children learn through play
  • Classroom activities – great activities for groups of children
  • Made in the USA – fun memorabilia and Turner Toys products that are made in the USA
  • Flying Toys – Turner Toys is known for its collection of  flying toys (now including rockets) and its support of Science Olympiad flying competitions.  We have “how-to’s” on building helicopters for Science Olympiad on the Turner Toys website and will post these to Pinterest, too.
  • Birthday Party Ideas – again, great activities for groups of kids
  • Dinosaurs & Fairies – two popular themes for kids    
  • Christmas – many craft ideas for the Christmas season
  • Classic (pedal) cars – Turner Toys has some great classic pedal cars.  We’re fans of great classic cars, too.
  • Vermont/New England – We’re based in Vermont, after all.

We plan to share articles and information about children, play and learning. What would like to see on Turner Toys’ Pinterest site – or our website

Selecting a Balance Bike

Turner Toys is a big fan of Balance Bikes and we believe that they are the best way for toddlers to learn to ride a 2 wheeler.  Balance Bikes make learning to ride a bicycle as natural as crawling, walking, and running.  Sitting comfortably on the adjustable-height seat, your child is having too much fun to realize
he or she is rapidly developing superior balance, reflexes, and coordination that will make the transition to a pedal bicycle easy.  Since they are less than a generation old most parents are not familiar with them.  This article explains why they work so well for teaching toddlers to balance first, suggests age recommendations and gives our picks of what we feel are the best Balance Bikes out there.

Balance Bikes let the rider learn balance first, pedaling last. With a pedal-equipped bicycle fitted with training wheels, the rider learns to pedal first, balance last. Although opinions differ regarding which learning sequence is easier for most riders, it is generally agreed that a bicycle with pedals is too difficult for most very young children and that training wheels may encourage the rider to learn some bad habits which later must be unlearned. Training wheels actually make the bike unstable and hard to control! To function properly, a balance bicycle must be small enough that the rider can walk the bicycle while sitting comfortably in the saddle, putting both feet flat on the ground. The rider first walks the bicycle while standing over the saddle, then while sitting in the saddle. Eventually, the rider feels comfortable enough to run and “scoot” while riding the bicycle, then to lift both feet off the ground and cruise while balancing on the two wheels.

Teaching a child to ride a bike with training wheels requires a high level of hands on parent involvement.  The opposite is true with balance bikes.  Teaching or coaching “how to ride” is counter-productive -introduce it, explain it, then allow them to figure it out and progress with it entirely at their own pace! At most, watching an older child demonstrate it may be helpful.

Age recommendation: 2 to 5 years.   A child is ready as soon as he or she is walking and running confidently with good balance and coordination, and can place his or her heels on the ground while sitting on the seat with knees slightly flexed.  A few children from age 18 months to 30 months may be a little too short to do this.  Seat height is adjustable from 13″ to 17″.

Turnertoys recommends the KaZam, Kettler  and the Kinderbike  balance bicycles.
After obtaining and testing samples of many of the wood and metal balance bikes available we have concluded that:
1. The metal bikes are far superior in function and durability to the wooden bikes.
2. The KaZam, Kettler and Kinderbike models have the best combination of quality of construction, finish, and child-friendly design of any of the metal bikes.

The KaZam Balance Bike
Seat height range of 14.0″ – 17″ – Weight 11 lbs
1. Molded saddle with raised rear portion to keep kids positioned correctly on the bike. Seat adjusts for height using quick release – no tools required for height adjustments.
2. Handlebar can be adjusted for height and tilt angle.
3. All-steel and heavy polyethylene construction survives roughest use for many years.
4. Patented frame design includes a step in foot rest to encourage kids to get their feet off the ground.
5. No brake is included. Most kids at this age do not have the hand strength to use a brake and they can always put their feet down to slow or stop themselves.
6. Headset uses ball bearings instead of plastic bushings for great durability and longer life

The Kettler Balance Bike
Seat height range of 13.5″ – 17.5″ – Weight 12 lbs
1. Comfortable padded saddle, adjusts for tilt angle and height.
2. Patented device limits steering angle to prevent spills caused by jack-knifing when standing still. This does not affect natural steering at full speed
3. All-steel and heavy polyethylene construction survives roughest use for many years.
4. Front mud-guard keeps things cleaner when little stunt riders blast through the puddles. Kickstand is a nice added touch.
5. Steering column alignment is automatically straight, never needs adjustment.
6. Enclosed, adjustable hand-operated disc brake resists impact, dirt, water.

The Kinderbike Laufrad & Laufrad Mini
Seat height range of 12″ – 16.5″– Weight  10 lbs
1. Easy, 5-minute assembly with included Allen wrenches.
2. Lightweight, rust-proof high-strength aluminum frame and steel mechanical parts. Limited Lifetime warranty on frame!
3. Cam-action headset is same on “real” bikes, allows easy and quick adjustment.
4. Accessories include handlebar bell and front reflector.
5. Comfortable padded seat adjusts for tilt and height.
6. Caliper rear-wheel hand brake is easy for toddlers to use, provides safe, positive stopping, is also easy to adjust.
7. Handlebar can be adjusted for height and tilt angle.

A Balance Bike is one of the most important toy purchase decisions you can make for your young child.
It will reward him or her with enhanced early motor development and the foundations of a strong sense of physical confidence. And of course, lots of healthy, outdoor fun!

A 7-year-old hangs on the store counter like a little monkey.  A 5-year-old constructs a Great Wall of Macaroni & Cheese on her dinner plate.  A 2-year-old climbs into the big box that his birthday present just came in.  (Or was that just my kids?  Ahem.)  Children are full of play, and their world is their playground.

From babyhood, we play with our kids to connect with them.  (Plus, let’s face it: We want to see those precious baby-smiles . . .)  As it turns out, Peek-a-boo is a valuable game that teaches babies about object permanence.  Mommy’s there, then she’s not.  But she’s really still there, even though I can’t see her.  Stacking blocks develops coordination, and knocking them over shows cause and effect.  Hey, that’s fun!  We teach kids to play, and then we spend the rest of their childhood telling them to stop fiddling with that pyramid display of oranges in the produce section.  (Or was that just my kid?) (Again?)  Play answers the question, “What happens if I . . .?”

How many times have you been waiting in line at the post office, bank, or grocery store, and you hear a parent say to their child, “Stop playing with that!”  Remember, children are not small adults.  They’re going to try to play any chance they get, and they really don’t care where or when they do it.  Have you noticed that when they’re supposed to be quiet, kids will often giggle with each other?  Being silly is the play leaking out!  They haven’t yet developed the self-restraint to keep it in.  So we teach our children and grandchildren that there’s a time and a place for play.  A youngster yelling, “This is a stick-up!  Hand over all your money!” at the bank is discouraged.  But a good game of I Spy at a restaurant while waiting for dinner is an acceptable way of playing in the real world.

So when the nearest child is heading for that mud puddle with no rainboots, just watch.  And maybe move away from the splash zone.  You’re about to experience some learning.  “What happens if I . . .?”

When you were a kid, what did you play?  Did you ride your bike in circles in the  driveway until you were dizzy?  Did you dress up in Mommy’s special “going out” dress  and serve tea to your dolls and stuffed animals?  Did you treat your teddy bear’s “broken arm” with an entire box of band-aids when he fell off your skateboard?  Yeah, me too.

As it turns out, play is really a child’s work.  It may seem like kids are just doing silly things sometimes, but those silly things serve a purpose.  Dizzy driveway circles taught us about physics, geometry and biology.  Tea parties taught us how to share with others.  Practicing medicine on teddy bears taught us to tie them onto the skateboard next time, so Mom doesn’t get mad when the band-aid box turns up empty.  See how kids learn through play?

What are the children in your life playing?  Healthy, wholesome activities like riding bikes and playing dress-up (not to mention practicing teddy bear medicine) help prepare little minds and bodies for the work of the grown-up world.  Plus, getting dizzy is fun.  Remember?

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