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Research, recipes, news and tips for better, healthier living—created and curated by your friends at Pacific Science Center’s Wellbody Academy.


All About Recess

School-time playground play hit headlines recently when the Seattle teachers’ union negotiated a guaranteed minimum 30-minute daily recess for elementary-school students. “Any teacher or parent can tell you it’s important to have time to play and socialize and to get outside of the classroom,” a union official said.

On Mercer Island, district officials banned tag on the playground. Then unbanned it. Here’s one mother’s take on the safety issues that led to the moratorium on playground touching and a thoughtful discussion on unstructured play.

Here’s a powerful Pediatrics article on Why Kids Should Play.

Playworks Organizes Recess

Meanwhile, a nonprofit called Playworks uses “Recess Rock Stars” (coaches who get in the game) and a library of hundreds of games (search or download more than 250 free games) to revive recess in low-income communities through inclusive, cooperative, safe, organized play. Jump ropes, hula hoops, traffic cones, balls—and conflict resolution skills—are standard equipment.

“Playworks’ vision is that one day every child in America will get to play – every day. We create a place for every kid on the playground, a place where every kid belongs, has fun and is part of the game. We offer an essential opportunity for children to explore their imaginations, to connect with other kids and to stretch and grow physically, emotionally and socially.

“Our experience is that diminishing opportunities for unsupervised play in our society have left kids with a very thin understanding of how to manage their own play and that it is important to have grown-ups introduce some basic rules to make play work.”

In a nationwide survey of nearly 4,400 principals and teachers in schools that partnered with Playworks in the 2012-13 school year, respondents reported they reclaimed an average of 20 hours of teaching time because there are fewer behavioral problems on the playground and in the classroom.

Read about Playworks.

What are your thoughts about recess, risk and play? What works? What doesn’t? Comment below or email discover@pacsci.org.

Visit Wellbody Academy’s Playdium to rev up your heart and laugh rate by chasing “bugs” on our ExerGames dance floor. Don’t forget to bounce on the butt-bouncers in Loft-a-Palooza to launch balls into the stratosphere (actually a netted enclosure). Fun for the whole family!

4 Tips To Perfect Picture Day Smiles

4 Tips to Perfect Picture Day Smiles

by Bryana Allen

School is finally back in session. Soon those new haircuts, new clothes, and cute grins will be gearing up for picture day.

Many a school photo features closed eyes, a forced smile, and a squinty face. But these familiar photography faux pas are preventable. With a little coaching and a pinch of parental prep, your child’s “say cheese” can be accident-free.

Help your kiddos put on their best smile with these tips:

Keep outfits simple.
Picture day ensembles should be comfy, simple, and of course — something they love so they can be themselves. Remember, light colors favor darker complexions while dark colors favor lighter complexions and try to keep patterns to a minimum. Also, remember to pack an extra outfit in case of (clothing) emergency.

Pack “safe” lunches.
Picture day shoots can be unpredictable. Time slots may fall after lunchtime, so pack a meal that’s healthy, smile-friendly and mess-free. Think: turkey and Swiss on whole grain bread with carrot sticks and apple slices. Not: PB & J with cheese puffs and chocolate sandwich cookies.

Prep, don’t pose!
It’s difficult to smile on command, especially for kiddos. Take some practice snapshots at home. Help them relax so they don’t force stiff, unnatural poses. Give kids posture freedom and their smile will be picture-perfect.

Embrace the imperfections.
Whether it’s a toothless grin or a mouth full of metal, encourage your kids to embrace their smile style. After all, it’s what makes them unique!

Now that your family is picture day-prepared, get ready to pick those perfect proofs. Tell those frames filled with stock photos to move over — it’s time for school snapshots to shine!

Visit Wellbody Academy’s Germnasium for the science behind oral health and tips on keeping children’s beautiful smiles healthy!

Surgeon General Says: Walk 22 Minutes A Day

Would you walk 22 minutes a day for the U.S.A.?

Walking and walkable communities should be a national priority, says U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who just launched a landmark “Step It Up” campaign to encourage Americans to walk more and to make all communities safer and easier for walking.

Some say the call to walk is as important to national health as the Surgeon General’s anti-smoking campaign in 1964.

Consider: One out of every two American adults is living with chronic illness such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes. Increasing physical activity by 150 minutes a week – or 22 minutes a day – lowers risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression, colon and breast cancer. It improves cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular fitness and bone health. And it can be fun.

Why walk? The country’s top doc chose walking as a powerful public health strategy because it doesn’t require special skills, facilities, or expensive equipment and it’s an easy physical activity to begin and maintain as part of a physically active lifestyle.

Most people are able to walk, and many people with disabilities are able to walk or move with assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or walkers. Walking has a lower risk of injury than vigorous-intensity activities. Walking is a good way to help people who are inactive become physically active because walking can be easily adapted to fit time, needs, and abilities.

But  if you’d prefer to move your body and raise your heart rate another way, go for it!

Visit Wellbody Hall in Wellbody Academy and use the Optimizer, Planner and Barrier Feud activities to create S.M.A.R.T. personal fitness goals. Could one of your goals be 22 minutes of walking (or other brisk activity) a day? Also in Wellbody Hall, get inspired by short videos showcasing local people who improved their neighborhood’s fitness level through a “walking school bus” and community walking programs.

Here’s a good summary of the Surgeon General’s 22-Minutes-A-Day Campaign.

Perfect Back-To-School Snack: PB & J Parfait

Perfect Back-To-School Snack: PB & J Parfait

Creamy yogurt, luscious jam and rich peanut butter are at the heart of this tongue-swirling snack that’s good news for your taste buds, tummy and wallet.

Sure, you could purchase individual 6-ounce cups of fruity yogurt for snacks and breakfast on the go. But at .80 – $2.50 each (for the fancy flavors with mix-ins) it gets pricey. Plus, store-bought yogurt snacks often contain excess sugars and additives it would be better to stay away from.

Why not make your own? You’ll save money, avoid excess plastic packaging and have the satisfaction of creating a deluxe snack with a healthy balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates that’s better tasting and better for you.

Here’s a five-minute recipe, easy enough for small children to handle with minimal supervision if you set out the ingredients and containers for them.

PB & J Parfaits

  • 1 32-ounce container plain yogurt
  • 6 T peanut butter (preferably with no added sugar). Or use almond or sunflower butter.
  • 6 T fruit jam (preferably low-sugar)
  • 6 leak-proof containers that hold one cup of liquid each. Half-pint mason jars work really well, don’t leak and are reusable. Or wash and re-use the containers and lids from previously purchased commercial yogurt. Or use small Rubbermaid-type containers with snap-on lids.
  • Toppings (optional): Granola, berries, sliced mango, frozen cherries, shredded coconut, nuts, chia seed, mint leaves.


Spoon five to six ounces of plain yogurt into each container. Top with one tablespoon of peanut butter and one tablespoon of jam. Sprinkle on optional toppings. Close the containers, store in refrigerator (or freezer). Grab, go and enjoy!

Makes six servings.

5 Ear-Perking Facts About Dog Smiles

5 Ear-Perking Facts About Dog Smiles

By Bryana Allen, Delta Dental WA

Though National Dog Day (August 24) has come and gone, it’s always a perfect time to celebrate our furry, faithful, tail-wagging best friends. Since dogs are the givers of so many smiles, we thought we’d take a closer look at their smiles.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

Puppies “teethe” just like babies – Puppies are born with their teeth just below the gums like people. Their needle-sharp puppy teeth “erupt” between 2 and 3 weeks. And, just like babies, puppies “teethe.” They’ll chew on anything and everything to help those puppy teeth come through.

Puppies lose their puppy teeth – Buddy’s puppy, or deciduous, teeth will fall out to make room for her larger, permanent teeth. Puppies have 28 teeth while dogs have 42 teeth. That’s more teeth than humans! Human babies only have 20 teeth while adults have 32.

Dog teeth need brushing, too – Roughly 85% of dogs over 4, or 35 in human years, have some form of gum disease. Gum disease is an infection of the gums that causes pain and discomfort. And, just like in people, gum disease can lead to tooth loss.  That’s why it’s extremely important to care for your dog’s teeth. Feed them dry food and give them tartar-control treats. Brush their teeth once a week with a dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste found at your local pet store. Take them to the vet if you notice their gums are bleeding because they may need professional cleaning and care.

Dogs DON’T have cleaner mouths than humans – Buster’s tongue picks up all the germs and bacteria our hands do throughout the day. He uses his mouth to carry everything from his favorite toy to the ‘cow chip’ he found exploring the pasture near grandma’s house. It’s just one more reason to brush his teeth. Just like us, brushing Buster’s teeth also helps remove bacteria from his mouth.

Dog licks are like kisses – Dogs lick each other and you for a lot of reasons. Mostly, it’s a sign of affection and respect—just like a human kiss. Don’t worry if Fido gives you a big, wet kiss. His licks can be a safer bet than kissing another person because most cavity-causing bacteria are species specific.

To learn more about your dog’s smile and keeping it healthy, talk to your veterinarian.

Visit the Germnasium in Wellbody Academy to learn more about keeping your own smile healthy.

Time To Start Healthy Back-To-School Routines

The last few weeks of summer vacation are a terrific time to ease into healthy routines that will make the start of the school year less stressful.

Before the backpack scramble begins, help your kids start or reestablish habits that will help them get enough sleep, avoid kid-to-kid illness and prevent backpack backaches. It’s also a great time to brainstorm together on healthy, packable, lunch and snack ideas and make sure you have enough reusable lunch containers on hand; if not, check out the back-to-school sales.

1) Teach your children to wash their hands before eating and after using the bathroom or playing outside. Have them practice covering their mouths when they cough and sneeze. Visit the Sneeze Wall and SureWash station in Wellbody Academy’s Germnasium  to practice proper techniques using fun, interactive game technology.

2) Load lunchboxes with colorful fruits and veggies for sweet crunch and antioxidant energy. Watch a tween’s award-winning video about pre-packing a week’s worth of on-the-go fruit/veggie snack boxes. Visit the conveyer belt Food Analyzer in Wellbody Academy’s Cafedium  to scan food choices (similar to cashier scanner) and discover calories and nutrients of your standby lunch choices. You might be surprised when you compare pepperoni pizza, bagel and cream cheese and falafel in pita!

3) Set up a healthy sleep routine. Adequate sleep sets the stage for better learning, better moods and better relationships. Here’s how much sleep school-age children and teens need:

Ages 3 – 6: 10-12 hours per day
Ages 7 – 12: 10-11 hours per day
Ages 12 – 18: 8 – 9 hours per day

Visit Wellbody Academy’s Slumbertorium for tips and inspiration on getting optimal shut-eye.

4) Lighten your child’s load to avoid backpack injuries. Review the contents of their backpack to help them figure out what can reside at home or at school instead traveling on their shoulders. In their backpack, place heavy items closest to their back or in the center compartment. The load should not exceed 10-20 percent of body weight. Talk with teachers about switching to a single sheet or e-homework system instead of requiring students to tote notebooks for each subject.

Check out Ask the School Nurse on WebMD for more useful back-to-school health tips.

Summer’s Gift: Grilled Peaches

Summer’s Gift: Grilled Peaches

Nothing screams summer like peaches. Warmed by the sun, glowing amber and rose, a perfectly ripe peach needs nothing more than a hungry admirer with a few relaxing minutes to savor the flavor – and a napkin to sop up drips.

However, if you want to elevate nature’s bounty to decadent heights (or if your peaches aren’t quite ripe), then use fire. Glowing heat will draw out and caramelize the juices, painting a tangy sweet gloss on the softened golden flesh; flames create a slight char, a papery crackle that dissolves on the tongue and tastes like toffee.

In the midst of peach season, who needs desserts bloated with fats or sweetened with added sugars and high-fructose corn syrup?

One large peach has about 70 calories, no fat. It’s high in vitamin A (important for healthy vision) and vitamin C, an antioxidant key to building and repairing tissues. Peaches also provide antioxidant vitamin E and vitamin K (vital for blood clotting), thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, niacin, folate and pantothenic acid. The potassium in peaches (350 mg), helps maintain blood pressure and prevent kidney stones and bone loss.

Major antioxidants, including chlorogenic acid, in the fuzzy fruits help scavenge free radicals linked to aging, chronic disease, inner inflammation and cancer.

Finally, a large peach contains three grams of fiber, essential for smooth digestion and likely beneficial in regulating cholesterol and reducing risk of heart disease.

Here’s a book recommendation–sumptuous summer reading featuring peaches: Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm by David M. Masumoto. And, of course, a foolproof recipe…

Grilled Peaches


  • Peaches (1 per person)- Select fragrant peaches that give slightly to gentle thumb pressure. However, if they are still hard, that’s OK because the heat will soften the flesh and draw out the juices and flavor.
  • Olive oil.
  • Optional garnishes: Thyme sprigs, sea salt, balsamic vinegar, dried coconut flakes, vanilla, yogurt, coconut milk, vanilla, pomegranate molasses.


  • Heat your grill to medium (either charcoals or gas) while you are prepping the peaches.
  • Wash and dry the peaches. Slice into quarters, removing the pit. Brush with olive oil. If you’re using thyme sprigs or sea salt, sprinkle on the peaches.
  • Place the peaches on the grill and cover. When the peaches start oozing juice (2 to 5 minutes per side), turn them. When all three surfaces have been roasted, remove from grill and eat. Or, optional, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, honey, vanilla, pomegranate molasses, yogurt and/or coconut milk.

Make extra to eat for breakfast or snack. Refrigerate, slice into eighths and top with granola, oatmeal, quinoa or chopped nuts for breakfast or serve atop greens for a salad.

Grilled apricots are also delicious. Cut them in halves instead of quarters. They will only need to grill 1 – 3 minutes per side.

You can also “grill” fruit in a heavy-bottomed pan on your stove top. Heat the burner to medium-hot, add one teaspoon olive oil or coconut oil and fry fruit pieces two or three minutes per side until the juices ooze and caramelize.

Visit Wellbody Academy’s Cafédium to play “An Apple A Day,” an interactive, razzle-dazzle casino-style game that gives the inside story on how different nutrients help your body.

Road Trip Tips For Miles Of Healthy Smiles

By Bryana Allen, Delta Dental of Washington

Summer is in full swing! It’s time to soak up sunshine, warm weather and visit your favorite travel destinations. If you’re hitting the road this summer, don’t forget to pack for your smile.

For miles of healthy smiles, add these items to your road trip checklist before you back out of the driveway.

  • Pack smart snacks. Junk food is convenient, but has a dark side — it’s bad for your figure and your smile. For a refreshing and easy treat, bring fresh fruit. If you want something salty, pack nuts or whole grain crackers with cheese.
  • Load up on sugarless gum. It’s one of the Tooth Fairy’s top tips because chewing xylitol gum serves two purposes. First, it’ll keep you from continuous snacking on long stretches of highway. Second, it’s a great way to clean your teeth between meals when you can’t brush.
  • Bring plenty of water. Coffee, energy drinks, and sodas may give you a quick boost, but they’re full of sugar which is bad for your waist and smile. So, swap them out with water. It’s even better if it’s tap water from home.
  • Pack a back-up. Sometimes things get left at hotels and bathrooms along the way and convenience stores don’t always have what you need. Be prepared and pack an extra toothbrush and travel-sized backups of all your smile care products. No one wants to be stuck in a car for hours with stinky breath.
  • Know your dental benefits. Dental emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere~even far from home. Familiarize yourself with your coverage just in case something happens on the road. If you’re covered through Delta Dental of Washington, you can view your coverage easily and quickly through your MySmile® Personal Benefits Center account.

Now you — and your smile — are ready to hit the road! What road trips are you taking this summer?

Grilling, Marinades & Cancer

‘Tis the season for grilling.

But before you sear chicken, steaks or even salmon over the coals, read about the danger of cancer hidden in charred meats, and learn how certain marinades can mitigate risk—research conducted by 13-year-old Lauren Hodge whose work won top honors at the inaugural Google Science Fair.

One night, when her mom was preparing grilled chicken for dinner, Lauren noticed the edges of the chicken turned white. Later, in biology class, she learned about denaturing, when proteins change shape and lose their ability to chemically function. “So I combined these two ideas and I formulated a hypothesis, saying that, could possibly the carcinogens be decreased due to a marinade and could it be due to the differences in PH?”

Her tests found that lemon, honey and salt water marinades inhibit carcinogenic formation, olive oil has a negligible effect and soy sauce seems to slightly increase cancer potential. Lauren chose to focus her research on chicken because it has more carcinogens than other grilled meats.

This doesn’t mean you need to stop grilling! Just be mindful of marinades, don’t overcook your meats and avoid eating char.

Most of all, remember that VEGETABLES ARE YOUR FRIENDS. They are not carcinogenic when grilled AND they also have antioxidants that help neutralize the free radicals that cause cancer.

On another note, YAY for girls in science! In the same TED talk, you’ll meet two other young women, who, along with Lauren, swept the top spots at the inaugural Google Science Fair.

Grand prize winner, Shree Bose, started researching cancer at age 15, after the death of grandfather. Armed only with freshman biology, Bose went on to figure out how to prevent cells from becoming resistant to a chemotherapy drug.

Naomi Shah studied the impact of indoor air pollutants on asthma. Watch the TED talk to find out which environmental factors most impact human health and what you can do at home to reduce asthma triggers.

Dealing With Teen Sleep Deprivation

The urge teens feel to stay up later isn’t completely driven by late-night movies, web surfing and hanging out with friends. Naturally changing circadian rhythms play a strong role.

Younger children tend to feel sleepy between 8 and 10 p.m. because the pineal gland releases melatonin (the hormone that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle) early in the evening. But as children hit puberty, between the ages of 10 and 14, their bodies and brains go through myriad changes, including a delayed release of melatonin, usually 9 to 10 p.m. or later. That means they may have difficulty falling asleep before 11 p.m.

This natural shift, called “sleep phase delay,” can wreak havoc by preventing teens from getting at least nine hours of sleep per night. NINE hours? Yes, sleep researchers say, at least nine hours, preferably 9½ or 10.

Teens whose schedules are crammed with classes, sports, rehearsals, friends and homework may find getting nine or more hours of sleep per night a near impossible feat. One study found that only 15 percent of teens report sleeping at least 8½ hours per night during the week.

But the consequences of teen sleep deprivation are serious, including increased risk of depression, sickness, weight gain and acne. Studies show teens who are sleep deprived don’t learn as well, remember as much, or perform as strongly in sports.

And their risk of car accidents goes up. The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration estimates that every year more than 40,000 injuries, and 1,500 people are killed in the U.S. in crashes caused by drivers who are simply tired. Young people under the age of 25 are far more likely to be involved in drowsy driving crashes. In one survey, half of teens reported driving a car while drowsy over the past year and 15% said they drove drowsy at least once a week.

Here’s an excellent summary article about the teen sleep cycle.

What to do?

Reset Your Body Clock

Though sleep phase delay is a natural part of puberty (lasting for most young people until they’re about 20 years old) researchers have found it IS possible for people to reset their body clocks.

  • Wake early in the morning and expose yourself to bright light for at least 20 minutes. During summer, take a brisk walk outside. During winter, if you live in a region where the sun doesn’t rise until late, sit in front of a bright “sun” lamp for about a half hour early in the morning – or take a morning walk when the sky lightens at 9 or 10 a.m.
  • In the summer, go camping and hiking for a week. Here’s a fascinating article about using nature to reset your body clock.
  • Wear orange goggles at night to block blue light.
  • Try F.lux, free software that helps your computer’s display adapt to the time of the day by gradually screening out blue light as it gets closer to bedtime.

Embrace Healthy Sleep Hygiene

Practicing sleep hygiene is critical during the teen and pre-teen years—and what better time to establish healthy sleep routines to last a lifetime?

  • Wake at around the same time each morning, even on the weekends.
  • Exercise in the morning, ideally outdoors in bright sunshine.
  • Keep bedrooms cool, dark, and free of distracting electronics and pets.
  • Stop watching electronic screens – especially screens close to your face – at least an hour before sleep.
  • Wear orange glasses or use the computer program f.lux (see above) to screen out blue light.
  • Avoid caffeine after noon.

Public Policy

Some school districts have delayed high school start times to align more closely with teen circadian rhythms. Classes start closer to 9 a.m. instead of 7:20 a.m. Check if there’s movement in this direction in your district and join with likeminded families to push for it.

Visit Wellbody Academy‘s hands-on Slumbertorium to learn about circadian rhythms and for more tips on sleep hygiene and sleep-proofing your bedroom.