Friday, May 27, 2011

Folk Toy Fridays - Hand Propeller

I would probably call this toy a helicopter, but I've seen it referred to as a hand propeller, Chinese top, or bamboo dragonfly. At any rate, it has a less interesting name than some of the other folk toys. writes, that the toy has an Asian origin. They also claim, a similar toy was given to the Wright brothers, by their father, when they were children, and helped to inspire their interest in flight.

My own children have played with inexpensive plastic versions, brought home from birthday parties, and children's fairs. We've always enjoyed playing with them. But, making a few ourselves proved educational, fun, and surprisingly easy.

Our supplies were pretty basic - an empty cracker box, bendy straws, scissors, a ruler, and a hole punch.

We started by cutting a strip of cardboard, from the side of the box, somewhere around two inches wide, and 9 inches long, more or less.

We folded it in half, bringing the short sides together, to find the middle.

Then, we started at one end, and cut away about a half inch from the top of the horizontal side, toward the middle. We did the same, but cut away from the bottom of the horizontal side, once we crossed the middle (see the picture below).

We punched a hole in the center (or pretty close to it) with a hole punch.

Pinching the bottom of the straw, we slid it through the hole, until it caught on the ridges of the bendy part. The straw was a tight fit in the hole, so we didn't need to add any tape to keep it from moving around.

But, we did trim the top of the straw, down to the ridges.

After giving it a test flight, we trimmed a little more off of each side of the propeller, and bent the ends up a little. Then, we made several more, so each child could fly their own.

Which they did, by holding the straw between the back of one palm, and the fingertips of the other hand.

Then, they pushed their second hand forward, spinning the propeller towards, and off, the fingertips of the first hand.

Our hand propellers acted with a boomerang-like action, flying up and forward, and then down, and back toward the launcher.

But, they fly differently, depending the length, and shape of the propellers, and how they are bent, leaving room for experimentation, and play.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Ticia said...

I remember getting some of those as a kid as well.

I think I've read somewhere too that the Wright brothers got one of those.

Christy Killoran said...

C and R just got some of these from grandparents. I bet they would like to make their own.

Debbie said...

I forgot all about these, we will have to make some of our own, I know Selena would love them.

Anonymous said...

I love these, though we've never made them, always bought them - they're usually less than a dollar. When we studied flight, we had them and played with them all afternoon. Then, the next day we saw a puppet show about the Wright Brothers and it turns out they had those as kids too. My boys and their science partners all got very excited about that.

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

These are really cool! We'll have to try making some!

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

Anna brought a simple version of this from school, and I was surprised with how well they work. Perhaps we will build a more advanced version one of these days.

Vince said...

They're called flying dragonfly or dragonfly toy. You can get them for about a buck on eBay.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Vince - I think we could make quite a number of these for a buck :)