Lunch Box News

How to Play: Musical Chairs

How to Play: Musical ChairsLast one sitting wins!

What you need:
A group of children, a bunch of chairs (one fewer than the number of children playing) and music.

How to play: The chairs are arranged in a circle, facing outwards, with the players standing outside of the circle. Once the music starts, players begin walking around the circle. When the music stops, the players must sit in a chair as fast as they can. The person left standing is out of the game, one more chair is removed and the game continues.

The rules: Any pushing or shoving by players to get to a chair when the music stops will result in that player leaving the game.

How to win: Be the last person left sitting.

What else you need to know: Chairs also can be set up back to back, forming a double line, facing outwards. In another variation, you can play this game without chairs - the last person to sit down on the ground or floor is eliminated.

Annoyed Your Kids Don’t Get Along With Your Best Friend’s Offspring? Here’s How to Make It Work!

It's hard enough to find cool people to hang out with, let alone cool people who happen to have kids your kid's age and who have the same Saturday afternoon free that you do. (Adult conversation! In your very own home!)

Annoyed Your Kids Don’t Get Along With Your Best Friend’s Offspring? Here’s How to Make It Work!But instead of relaxing in the backyard over glasses of wine while the kids swarm the swing set, you keep having to get up and police.

Grrrr. Why can't they just get along?! Can't they see Mommy is socializing???

The good news is if you invest some time teaching the kids how to work things out, you may be able to get your dream afternoon back -- at some point in the future, says developmental psychologist Nancy S. Buck, Ph.D and founder of Peaceful Parenting Inc.

Her advice:

Make a playdate plan with your child in advance.
"Ask her to imagine it and tell you the story of how it will go, so she has a sense of creating the plan," Buck says. "Ask, 'how shall we handle it if there's a disagreement?' Listen to her idea, and if it's too 'magical' give her a reasonable solution." Read more...

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When to Introduce Kids to Music: Early and Often

As a musician, music educator and researcher, parents often ask me when they should begin introducing their children to music. As with most easy questions, there's an easy answer that is incomplete and a more nuanced answer that is correct.

When to Introduce Kids to Music: Early and Often
The easy answer is: You should begin age-appropriate music "lessons" soon after birth, or maybe even before birth. That being said, please stay with me before giving your 6-month-old a trumpet.

There is a great deal of research supporting the notion that musical ability develops during a critical period from birth through age 9 (or 10 or even 11, depending on the research). However, it seems clear that after age 11 the window for developing certain musical abilities is shut -- and shut forever.

This makes sense. Our brains seem to be "wired" for learning and processing the patterns we hear. This is most obvious in how young children develop language. They hear the patterns and inflections in their native tongue and their brains internalize them. Language learning seems natural, and they learn the language of the culture they're living in. A child can also learn multiple languages at this time and being bi-lingual seems natural. Yes, an adult can learn a second language, but it will rarely be as natural as the first language or without an accent.

The same is true with music. At its most basic level, music is made up from a surprisingly small vocabulary of rhythm and pitch patterns. These basic patterns vary by culture, (which is why Japanese music sounds different from Canadian music), but the basic principle of music being comprised of patterns is true of all music. Read more...

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How to Play: Ghost

How to Play: GhostLose the game, and become a "ghost."

What you need:
All you need for this game is at least two players.

How to play: This is a word game in which players take turns adding letters to a growing word fragment, but they cannot complete the word. A player who completes a word loses that round and receives a letter of the word "ghost," as in the basketball game Horse. Each fragment must be the start of an actual word.

The rules: The person whose turn it is may challenge the previous player to prove the current fragment is actually a word. If the player can name the word, the challenger loses that round. If the challenged player cannot name a word, that player loses the round.

How to win: The first person who receives all the letters in the word "ghost" is the loser of the game.

What else you need to know: In some versions of the game, players that have gotten out of the game continue to participate by trying to distract other players and turn them into ghosts. If a player does not have all the letters of the word "ghost" and he or she talks to an existing ghost, they are immediately out of the game and become a ghost.

Agreeing to Disagree: Can Moms With Wildly Different Parenting Styles Manage to Stay Best Friends?

As the mother of three kids under the age of 3, I consider my best friend, Joanne, one of the great saving graces.

Agreeing to Disagree: Can Moms With Wildly Different Parenting Styles Manage to Stay Best Friends?
The mother of almost 4-year old twin boys Kyle and Adam, Joanne hosted innumerable play dates for Ben, my 2-year old son, when I was struggling through my pregnancy with my own twin girls.

She's brought her crew to see us weekly in the 10 months since Charlotte and Elizabeth were born, and helped me on my early voyages out of the house with all three kids (testing the claim of a few restaurants that they are, indeed, "family-style.") She's also given us more baby clothes and gear, advice and moral support than I can count.

But, though we've been friends since second grade, Joanne and I have always been different ("We'll never steal each other's compact discs or men," she used to joke in our single 20s) -- and our parenting styles reflect that.

Joanne is, by her own admission, the stricter mom of the two of us, while I am hopelessly over-permissive. Her boys frequently take time-outs on the stairs ("the naughty step") when they visit our house, whereas my son didn't even know we had a naughty step. Dinner at Joanne's house is a well-mannered affair; ours is a mess of games and songs. And her boys know they must eat the dinner put in front of them, while I'm pushing more food at my son an hour later if he doesn't eat. Read more...

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How to Protect Kids From Online Tracking

Tracking and profiling kids online -- and selling their information to advertisers and data brokers -- has quickly become widespread.

How to Protect Kids From Online TrackingDigital life has lots of benefits -- online tracking isn't one of them.

Our online digital world lets kids connect with family and friends and consume, create and share enormous amounts of content. It also lets companies track kids and collect their personal information.

Online tracking of kids is growing.
Tracking and profiling kids online -- and selling their information to advertisers and data brokers -- has quickly become widespread. The Wall Street Journal recently found that the top 50 websites for kids and teens installed 4,123 cookies and other tracking tools on a test computer -- 30 percent more than were installed by the top 50 general sites.

It's time to take action to protect kids' privacy.
We need a "Do Not Track Kids" law. Policymakers must take action to protect kids' and teens' online privacy. Kids' online behavior shouldn't be tracked, and companies shouldn't be allowed to sell or transfer kids' personal information.

More information can be found on The Wall Street Journal article.

School Lunch Makes Teacher Lose Her Appetite

When we went to school, the cafeteria featured such things as food cooked by human beings, served with big metal spoons from giant trays. But according to Chow.com article, as the blog Fed Up: School Lunch Project demonstrates, times have changed. Each day, an anonymous schoolteacher in Illinois pays $3 for the school hot lunch, photographs it, eats it, then gives a report on her blog.

School lunchesEven after only a few weeks of posts, Fed Up paints a devastating picture of how the school lunch program is failing kids. Mystery meat, still-frozen fruit cups, "pizza" with cheese that separates into fat layers. Everything is individually wrapped and, if it's hot, it's been microwaved. Weird pairings are rampant: Pizza and pretzels? A hot dog, cookie, and Tater Tots? The pictures are disgusting enough, but the descriptions are even worse: "I guess the green beans had some kind of butter sauce. I didn't taste a sauce but there was a little buttery residue on the bottom of the paper package." Is this food supposed to be fueling the next generation?

It makes the work done by people like school lunch activist Ann Cooper seem even more important.

Writing a Will: Yes, Parents, You Need One!

The idea of writing a will gives some of us the creeps. After all, what you're preparing for is your demise -- hardly a rosy thought. But, if you're a parent, it's essential to start planning for that fateful day.

Writing a Will: Yes, Parents, You Need One!
Your kids depend on you f,or more than your love -- they depend on you for their quality of life. And, if something happens to you and/or your spouse, you need to make sure they're taken care of. Who will they live with? How will they be raised? Who gets your wedding ring? You want a say in all these decisions and more.

Beyond a gloomy reputation, there are also lots of misconceptions about wills. Two biggies: what they cost and how they work.

Myth No.1: Wills are expensive. Cost is number one on the list of why more of us don't have wills. In fact, a study by Lawyers.com last year found that more than 40 percent of folks blamed tight finances as the reason why they haven't gotten a will yet. But a basic DIY will kit -- which makes clear who will be the guardians of your children, along with some basic estate decisions -- only costs about $50 on sites such as Nolo and LegalZoom. Read more...

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Connect With Your Child Through Play

When you think about your own childhood, do you recall times when you and your parents played together? Maybe it was hide-and-seek, or Monopoly or rock-paper-scissors. I remember pretending to be circus performers with my mom and dad, and playing gin rummy with my grandmother.

Connect With Your Child Through Play
We used to think of family games as inexpensive entertainment or simple ways to pass the day. Now, with competing demands on everyone's time, the excess of toys marketed to kids and so many electronic diversions, these kinds of activities can seem a bit dated. But they are the stuff memories are made of. They were fun, and they allowed us a chance to feel close to people we love. That's reason enough to play together as a family.

But there are also many other benefits of play -- and research shows its role in children's development.

Play is both a catalyst and context for learning. Through play, children make sense of their experiences, and express their ideas and emotions. Play helps them develop and practice skills underlying success in school and beyond: self-control, working memory, cognitive flexibility, persistence and following rules among others. Playing with others also helps children build relationships. Read more...

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Paging Dr. Buzzkill: Playing Video Games Can Mess Up Your Wrists

This looks fun, but your wrists may suffer.

Paging Dr. Buzzkill: Playing Video Games Can Mess Up Your Wrists
What? You think you can save the world from alien mutant freaks without a little bit of personal discomfort?

If you're not prepared to take the risk, put down the video game.

Researchers tell WebMD you risk a lot more than being blown to virtual smithereens. You may experience (heaven help you) wrist and finger pain.

According to the website, researchers looked at the effect of playing computer games on Gameboy, Xbox and other systems where you have to move your fingers and wrists faster than Liberace. In all, some 257 gamers ages 9 and 15 were studied in St. Louis schools.

"Our study has shown the negative impact that playing computer games and using mobile phones can have on the joints of young children, raising concerns about the health impact of modern technology later in life," Yusuf Yazici, a professor of rheumatology at New York University Hospital, tells WebMD. "We hope that further research in this area will shed light on what could be a serious health concern for today's gaming children in later life."

Well, thank you, Dr. Buzzkill.

WebMD reports kids in the study were given a questionnaire about game consoles, hand-held gaming devices and mobile phones. The hours they used these devices were recorded.

Kids who used a Gameboy or Xbox experienced more pain than kids who used iPhones. Researchers tell the magazine that each hour of play increased the odds of pain twofold.

But, hey, no pain, no gain -- or bonus lives.