Preventing Concussions is a Real No-Brainer

Dear Mr. Dad:  My kids (7, 10, and 12) are excited to sign up for sports in a few weeks, but with all the talk about concussions, I’m more than a little concerned. Plus, I just saw the new Will Smith movie, Concussion, which scared me even more. Short of not allowing them to play at all, is there anything I can do to lower the risk that my kids will get a concussion?

You’re absolutely right to be concerned about concussions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2009, nearly 250,000 children under 19 were treated in hospital emergency departments for a sports-related concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI). There’s no question that many, many more young athletes suffered concussions but didn’t seek medical treatment.

Not all that long ago, people—especially coaches and athletes—didn’t take concussions very seriously. Athletes (mostly male) who “got their bell rung” were often encouraged to get back in the game as soon as possible. Today, scientists know that concussions are far more serious than just a bump on the head, and only about 10 percent of concussions involve a loss or consciousness (which includes “seeing stars”). Concussions are actually a type of brain injury that happens when the brain gets banged against the inside of the skull due to a sudden impact. They can cause a variety of short- and long-term damage, including memory, language, and concentration problems; irritability, moodiness, and other personality changes; difficulty making decisions; and more.
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Sometimes You Just Want to Be Alone. Or Not.

Although our focus here at Parents@Play is on games, toys, and activities families can do together, we all have days when we just want to be alone. That’s especially true during the Holidays, which are prime time for stress and family tension. This week, we take a look at four excellent games from ThinkFun ( All of them are challenging, relaxing, and can be (or are intended to be) played by one player.

thinkfun amazeAmaze
Amaze is almost Zen-like in its simplicity. No batteries, no parts to lose, just a tablet with an attached stylus. And the goal is simple too: trace your way from Start to Finish without lifting the stylus from the surface. There are 16 different mazes to choose from and we recommend that you go through them in order, from easiest to hardest. What makes Amaze different from ordinary maze games, is that you can rearrange the maze itself as you go. But you’re not just making holes in walls. Creating one opening closes off others, so instead of taking a short cut, you could end up boxing yourself in. For ages 8 and up.

thinkfun knot so fastKnot so Fast
On each of the 40 challenge cards, there’s an illustration of a knot. Some are made from one piece of rope, other require two. Pick a card and all you have to do is use your rope to re-create what’s on the card. And by “all you have to do,” we mean “Good luck with that.” The knots are, thankfully, divided into beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert categories. But even the beginner knots are quite challenging. There’s also a bit of trivia about the origin of each knot and what it’s used for. This is a fantastic way to brush up on your fine motor- and spatial reasoning skills, whether you’ve used them recently or not. For 1-4 very patient players, ages 8 and up.

thinkfun gravity mazeGravity Maze
This is another engaging, meditative/frustrating (in a good way) “all-you-have-to-do-is” game. In this case, you’re building mazes out of color-coded towers of different sizes with the goal of carrying a marble from top to bottom. Cards (again, thankfully, in four levels) tell you where to put a few of the towers on the game grid, and give you hints as to which colors you’ll need to add to complete the marble run. But it’s up to you to figure out how all the pieces fit together. Comes with three marbles and 60 challenges. You simply provide logic, spatial awareness, and serenity. For one player, but you could certainly add a timer and compete head to head with one or more others. For ages 8 and up.

thinkfun visual brainstormsVisual Brainstorms
The 100 brain teasers included in this game will keep you captivated, entertained, amused, relaxed, and challenged for hours and hours. On one side of each card there’s an illustration and an explanation of a particular problem. On the other side—which you’ll need to restrain yourself from looking at—is the solution. There are logic puzzles (five guys run out of mine, A is not in the front, B is two behind C, D is neither here nor there, etc.), spatial puzzles (looking at a bunch of gears and pulleys, if you turn the first one clockwise, what direction will the last one turn?), and many more. For pretty much any number of players ages 10 and up.



Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain

Daniel Siegel, author of Brainstorm.
The power and purpose of the teenage brain.
Issues: Popular myths about teenage behavior; why teens are driven to seek out novelty and take more risks; how the brain undergoes rapid changes even through the early 20s; how and why adolescence is really a “golden age” of innovation and creativity; and much more.

Parent-Child Dance + Brainstorm

Ronald Kotkin, coauthor of The Parent-Child Dance.
Strategies and techniques for staying one step ahead.
Issues: Understanding what the parent-child dance is; how to make sure that what your child hears is actually what you’re saying; minimizing arguments and defiant behavior; how to handle it when your child takes the lead in the dance.

Daniel Siegel, author of Brainstorm.
The power and purpose of the teenage brain.
Issues: Popular myths about teenage behavior; why teens are driven to seek out novelty and take more risks; how the brain undergoes rapid changes even through the early 20s; how and why adolescence is really a “golden age” of innovation and creativity; and much more.

How Bullying Affects the Brain

Carrie Goldman, author of Bullied.
Topic: What every parent, teacher, and kid needs to know about ending the cycle of fear.
Issues: Eye-opening stats on the prevalence of bullying; the harmful effects of bullying on the brain; creating a home environment that produces neither bullies nor victims; why typical school anti-bullying/zero tolerance policies do more harm than good.

The Rhythm of Math + Transforming Math to Inspire Success

rhythm of mathKeith Terry, co-author of Rhythm of Math.
A kinesthetic approach to teaching mathematics.
Issues: Using clapping, stepping, and vocalizing to explore patterns and internalize rhythms; how students can learn essential math concepts—addition, multiplication, subtraction, division, and fractions—by using their hands, feet, and voice in a way that engages them mentally and physically.

Jo Boaler, author of What’s Math Got to Do with It?
How teachers and parents can transform mathematics learning and inspire success.
Issues: Why the US is falling behind other industrialized countries in math; new research on the brain and mathematics that is revolutionizing scientists’ understanding of learning and potential; why the math people need is not the same math that’s learned in most classrooms.