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A Beginner's Guide to Model RocketsEver wanted to launch model rockets but didn’t have a clue where to start? Rockets can be a fun parent-child or family activity but it can be overwhelming when you walk into Turner Toys & Hobbies and see a huge array of rockets and accessories.  Follow these easy tips so you can be a hero in your child’s eyes when you introduce them to rocketry.

Rocket “Toys”

Have kids under 10?  Start off with rocket “toys” that are propelled by baking soda and vinegar.  The  Meteor Rocket Kit or Rocket Car Kit  both by Scientific Explorer are great choices.  If you have a group of kids, go for Science Wiz’s  Bottle Rocket Party pack.  It has the basic tools but you’ll need to supply the baking soda & vinegar.  Note:  all of these rocket toys require adult supervision.

Ready For “Real” Model Rockets?

Estes Rockets are the granddaddy of rockets.  Turner Toys & Hobbies also carries FlisKit rockets.  They’re  quirky, inventive (the Nantucket Sound Lighthouse Rocket, anyone?) and are made in the USA (in New Hampshire) but they require more skill than the beginning rockets I’m listing below. 

All of these model rockets are designed for kids 10+.  Adult supervision is still recommended for kids under 12.

Rockets are graded so you know what you’re getting in to.  For beginners, look for rockets that say “RTF” or “Ready To Fly”.  These don’t require any cutting, gluing or painting.  The next level is “E2X” (Easy to Assemble). Then they are graded 1-5 depending on the complexity of assembly.

What do I need to get started?

You need:

·         Rocket with included parachute

·         Recovery Wadding

·         Engines

·         Launch pad

·         Launch Controller

·         Batteries for the controller 

The nice thing is the rocket, parachute, launch pad and controller are reusable.  All you need to replace is the wadding and the engines. 

You can buy all these items separately, but if you don’t already have a launch pad and controller, it’s cheaper to buy a set that includes the rocket, pad and controller.  In any case, you’ll still need to buy the “consumables”:  engines and recovering wadding.

Engines

You can’t launch your rocket without the right engines.  Each rocket comes with a recommended assortment of engine sizes.  The last ones on the list are the largest recommended engine size for that model.  If you are a novice you should try the engine marked “First Flight.”  This will give you a sense of how the rocket will fly and descend.   The engines are marked with letters and double in power as you go up.  For example, a “B” engine is twice as powerful as an “A.”  You will need a new engine for each flight.

How High Will it Fly And Where Will It Land?

This depends on your rocket and the size of the engine you use (see above).  RTF rockets can go anywhere from 675-1200 feet depending on the engine size.  As I mentioned above, I recommend starting with the smallest engine (marked “First Flight.”)  

Landings will depend on wind and drift.   It’s unlikely that your rocket will shoot straight up and land in the same place.  Tracking and finding your rocket is half the fun!!  I’ve got some more tips below on how to handle drift.

Best Rocket Kits for Beginners

The Riptide Model Rocket Launch Set RTF is a good choice for beginners.  All you do is add engines, recovery wadding, batteries for the launch controller and you are ready to go!  This rocket can fly up to 675 feet depending on the engine you use.  

The Rascal & Hi Jinks Launch Set RTF  includes two rockets, along with the launch pad and controller.  This way you can prepare the second rocket while the first is flying and descending.  No need to wait to recover the first rocket. These can fly up to 1200 ft with the largest recommended engine (C6-7).

The Flash Model Rocket Launch Set E2X  requires more assembly and tools.  This is great for the kid who has already flown RTF model rockets and wants to try a little more hands-on construction. You’ll need to assemble the motor mount, attach the fins, assemble the nose cone, tie on the reusable parachute, apply the decals and head out to the launch pad!  The Flash Rocket can fly up to 925 feet with largest allowable engine (C6-7) and can be used over and over again. In addition to the recovery wadding, engines and batteries, you’ll need to have glue and a hobby knife and paints on hand.

Don’t have a lot of space?  A lot of folks like the Moon Mutt Model Rocket Launch Set because it’s small and inexpensive and you can launch it in a small space.  It’ll fly up to 200 feet.  The only thing is that it uses mini engines and has a small launch pad that you can’t use with the other rocket models.  It can be assembled in less than an hour and has a plastic nose cone and fins and self-stick decals.

There are loads more RTF and E2X model rocket sets.  Once you have the launch pad and controller you can experiment with other model rockets.  Check Turner Toys & Hobbies for more models.

Flying & Weather-Related Tips

This is kind of a no-brainer but make sure that you have the space to launch a rocket – make sure that there aren’t trees or overhead wires.  Remember that the rockets will drift as they float down to earth. It might end up on a neighbor’s property. The wind will affect drift so think about launching on days without much wind. 

How quickly a rocket descends will help cut down on how far it drifts.  Each rocket comes with a parachute.  You might want to cut a circle in the parachute’s peak or slit the parachute.  This will vent the parachute so it will descends more quickly.   If it comes down too quickly, you risk damaging it on impact.  You can also angle the launch pad SLIGHTLY (just a few degrees) so it points into the wind.  This way, it will drift back to you. 

For more tips, read our earlier post about flying model rockets.  What are your best tips and model rocket stories?

Ready to Launch?

Now you know what you need to launch your first rocket: 

1)      RTF or E2X model rocket kit

2)      Make sure you have a launch pad and controller and batteries

3)      Recovery wadding

4)      Engines – look at the packaging to decide which engines your model can use. 

Remember:  Model rockets are not toys and are not recommended for kids under 10.  Kids under 12 really need adult supervision.  But why would you let your kids have all the fun?  Of course, you’ll be launching with them!

Photo credit: Foter / Public domain


We just got in a great new product:  the Firefly Rocket Toy for kids (and adults – I love launching it, too!)   Firefly Rocket Toy for Kids

My whole family has been enjoying this flying toy the past few nights and it’s great to have a flying toy for younger kids (5+) 

How does the Firefly work?

You launch the rocket toy (or helicopter, if you prefer) with a rubber band and watch it twirl down.   The extra neat thing is that it has an LED light so you can use it at night and watch it fly in the sky (firefly, get it?).

Here is a very silly video we made just to give you a sense of what it looks like.

Tips on using the Firefly Rocket Toylaunching firefly rocket toy for kids

For $3.99, it’s amazingly sturdy and we’ve had lots of fun with it. My husband launched it repeatedly in the parking lot.  Not a great idea for it to land on asphalt but it has held up nicely.  Here are some tips:

  • It’s best to launch it over grass. 
  • Make sure that you launch it away from trees – ours got stuck in the tree but managed to shake loose.  
  • Launch it straight up in the air.
  • The rubber band is very sturdy – do NOT aim it at people or pets!!!
  • The battery isn’t replaceable so it’s best to switch off the LED during the day.   You can still enjoy it during the day.
  • When our light got a bit loose from too much asphalt impact, my son just put a bit of tape around it and it still works!

Our son loves to try catching it before it lands.  One of our dogs wanted to attack it.  I’m a sucker for colored lights at night so it was fun for me.  Plus, I was able to launch it well which was very satisfying.

I’m adding this to my earlier blog list of Flying Toys for Kids.  Please let me know if you’ve tried the firefly and please share any tips.

 


Baking Soda Science Toy Rocket Car Science Kit

Scientific Explorer Rocket Car

Happy National No Housework Day!  Why not use some baking soda science to power up some toy rockets?

Baking Soda Science & Toy Rockets

In an earlier post, Turner Toys Has Model Rockets, we highlighted our line of Estes Model Rockets. Now, we have some toy rocket kits that use baking soda science as fuel.  Like other flying toys (see earlier posts on flying toys and science toys), these double as science toys.

These kits are a great way to learn about chemistry and physics.  The baking soda and vinegar starts a chemical reaction in the fueling module.  Experiment with different proportions of vinegar and baking soda or even types of vinegar (balsamic, anyone?) to see how it affects flight.   These rocket kits have received awards and accolades from Family Life Magazine, Parent’s Choice and Discover Magazine.

Bear in mind that these toys are projectiles and require adult supervision.

 

Scientific Explorer Rocket Car Kit

Remember those images of vintage land speed record cars?  Recreate your own with the Scientific Explorer Rocket Car kit from Poof Slinky.  Powered by vinegar and baking soda it can travel over 200 feet on a smooth surface. Fueling module can be adjusted to desired power level to accommodate student drivers and seasoned veterans. Some assembly is required, completed car measures over 15″ long. Ages 9 and up.

 

 Baking Soda Science Scientific Explorer Meteor Toy Rocket Kit Scientific Explorer Meteor Rocket kit

This colorful rocket can fly up to 100 feet powered by its patented baking soda fuel system.  Fueling module can be adjusted to desired power level to accommodate beginning flyers and seasoned veterans. Some assembly is required, completed rocket measures 17″ tall. Ages 9 and up.

 

 

What are your childhood memories of baking soda and vinegar experiments?



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