Board games, puzzles and puppets fill the shelves of Learning How inAnnapolis, but you won't find any Captain Hook action figures or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at this toy store.
"We go out of our wayto avoid the big items you can buy somewhere else," says John E. "Jeff" Faw Jr., vice president of Learning How, which opened its first Anne Arundel store in Annapolis Harbour Center at Route 2 and PatuxentBoulevard.
Instead of the chain toy store staples, Learning How specializes in toys that teach, everything from spelling to anatomy to geography.
Instead of Clue, Risk or Life, you'll find board games with nameslike Anatomia, Save the Forest, Land Ho -- The Discovery of America and Trash is Cash -- The Recycling Game.
The store stocks puppets,art easels, fossils and polished rocks, activity and coloring books,place mats that teach astrology or wildflowers, building toys and old-fashioned wooden blocks. Cloth animals in black and white offer a stark contrast to infants, who don't see colors.
Then there are thescience kits. A child can build his own
miniature volcano then watch it erupt -- lava-like substance included. With another kit, a budding biologist can send away for a tadpole, then watch it grow into afrog.
Faw's father, Jack Faw, started the company 25 years ago inBaltimore as a school-supply center, selling workbooks, flashcards and bulletin board sets.
The original store, School & Pre-School Supply Center, still is located on Edmondson Avenue and caters to teachers as well as parents.
By 1978, Faw's father wanted to expand hisproduct line to draw customers year-round, as opposed to mainly before the start of school in August and September. He opened Learning How in Kenilworth Bazaar in Towson with the additional merchandise.
Faw says educational toys have become more and more popular over the years. December has become the busiest time of year for the Towson store.
"The whole concept is relatively new," Faw said. "But why notgive kids something they can enjoy if they learn at the same time?"
He expects the Annapolis store, which opened in September, to drawteachers and day care operators stocking up on classroom supplies, many of whom spend their own money on extra materials.
"Teachers inAnne Arundel County have come to Baltimore for years and asked us why we're not in Annapolis," said Faw, who spent more than two years looking for an Annapolis site.
But he expects half his business to come from parents seeking gifts or toys for their children.
As if to confirm that, one woman left the store with her purchases, commenting to Faw on the way out, "I don't even want to leave yet. You have agreat store here."