Kids + Toys (Educational + Fun) = Future Innovators

Tag Archives: play

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

Turner Toys Screen-Free WeekApril 29-May 5th is National Screen-Free Week.

The goal of Screen-Free Week is:

to spend a week turning OFF entertainment screen media and turning ON life! It is a time to unplug and play, read, daydream, create, explore nature, and spend time with family and friends.

At Turner Toys, we offer all kinds of great toys for you and your kids to play with.   That’s what we do – we celebrate all things play!  With all of these great activities, who needs TV or computers?  

The reality is that most of us rely on our screens for work, entertainment, news and distraction.

Here’s what we’re going to try at our house:

  • We’re going screen free for 1 day – today.  Let’s see how it goes.
  • No TV, computer, video games, Bejeweled, Facebook, Twitter, etc., EXCEPT for work or homework
  • Yes to reading, practicing instruments, playing outside, playing puzzles, building constructions, making art…..

So, I’m on the computer writing this blog and I will return emails, but otherwise I’m not going on the NY Times website or FB….  No games on my phone.  Seriously, this might be harder for me than my family.

As a precaution my husband took the power cords to the TV and computer.

Screen-Free Week Activities

The organizers at Screen-Free Week have loads of printables:  pledge cards, activity logs,  certificates of achievement to celebrate the week….

They also have lots of ideas for screen-free activities.  I think my favorite might be:  Fix Something.

The Educators’ Spin On It blog has loads of great activities and ideas for Screen-Free Week along with great printables such as activity cards for kids.

Toddler Approved blog also has great ideas and links to other parenting blogs.

Please let me know if you are going screen-free this week and how you are going to do it!  Let’s share strategies and experiences!

To coincide with today’s blog on Image Aeronautics & Flying Toys for Younger Children

Turner Toys is offering 15% off all Ready-to-Fly Toys.

Just use the code FLYING at checkout on our website  Sale runs through Sunday, March 3rd.

Happy Flying!

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)?

Wooden Block Play

As parents and owners of Turner Toys, we’re big believers that children learn through play.  As schools face more pressure to have kids  “learn to the test,” many are pushing academic pressures down through the grades to even the kindergarten and preschool level.  With more time needed for academics, play is getting pushed out of the classroom.  Some schools (and parents) are quick to think of playing with blocks as just a toddler activity without any connection to learning.

As often happens, old things become new again.  Last year,  The New York Times’  Kyle Spencer wrote about about the renewed interest in blocks in With Blocks, Educators Go Back to Basics.   Blocks have never gone out of fashion in progressive schools, but now traditional – even academically-rigid – schools are expressing interest in the value of blocks to today’s educational approaches.

Benefits of Block Play

Why blocks?  In addition to being fun, several scientific studies have established links between children’s block play and later success in math, language acquisition, science, spatial skills, and more.  The New York Times’ article specifically mentions two academic studies:

Citiblocs A 2001 study demonstrated how more sophisticated preschool block play could result in higher math grades and test scores.

A 2007 study  showed the connection between block play and better language acquisition skills.

We found a Temple University 2011 study that demonstrated when children play with blocks they strengthen spatial skills and concepts that are critical in math and science but, perhaps more importantly, in everyday life.  How well do pack your suitcase or park your car?  The answer might show how much you played with blocks when you were a kid!

Turner Toys carries lines of wooden building and unit blocks from Haba, Guidecraft & Citiblocs.

Citiblocs has created a list of just some of the benefits of block play: Playing with giant wooden blocks

  • They learn to create buildings and other structures, and to design imaginary things based on their own ideas.
  • They develop social relationships with other children, which can be a valuable opportunity when groups of children are sharing. 
  • Children expand their language abilities as they are able to articulate about size, shape, colors, comparisons and other aspects of building.
  • Children learn and practice math skills by grouping, adding, subtracting, matching and sequencing.
  • Children experience science and physics when experimenting with gravity, weight, balance, and stability.
  • Children are stimulated and develop skills and imagination including cause and effect, problem solving, classification skills, and critical thinking.
  • Children gain a sense of achievement when they construct with blocks, building sets, construction toys, and model kits.
  • They build strength in their fingers and hands, and improve their eye-hand coordination.
Citiblocs creation

Citiblocs creation

The fascination of playing with blocks doesn’t seem to end at any particular age (though it seems to take a hiatus as kids get older.)  My wife is a violin teacher and we’ve put out some bags of Citiblocs to amuse students who are waiting for their lessons.  Not only do we see the kids’ creations, we’ve noticed that their parents are really into them!  She’ll frequently hear the clatter of the blocks during lessons and the students will want to see what their parents did.

What are your experiences with block play?  Are you a teacher using a block center? Any further ideas on how kids benefit from playing with blocks?  Let us know so we can share your ideas!

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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