Quick hits of news and fresh ideas for busy parents.

Food Allergies and Easter
For a parent whose child has food allergies, holidays are often a minefield of dangers to be navigated. Dena Friedel of Lewis Center, who founded the "My" Food/Allergy Support Group in 2006, learned this seven years ago when her daughter Jordan, now 9, was diagnosed with a double whammy of peanut and tree nut allergies plus asthma.

"It was the highest-risk combination," Friedel said. Beyond the feelings of isolation and being overwhelmed, Friedel learned she would have to come up with new ways to safely experience holidays where food is so often a part of the celebrations.

So each year the support group, which now numbers more than 150 Central Ohio families, stages its own Easter egg hunt (this year's edition takes place on April 23) as well as a Halloween party.

"We do things with all non-food items," Friedel explained. "The eggs, for example, have little treasures inside them rather than candies, and the eggs of course are plastic because a lot of these kids are allergic to the (real) eggs themselves."

The support group, which hosts monthly meetings and has a lively Yahoo discussion group, is part of why Friedel recently was named a national winner of a community service award from The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, based in Fairfax, Virginia. She'll accept her award later this month at their annual conference. They also host a September Walk to raise money and awareness for food allergy treatment.
For more information about "My" Food/Allergy Support Group, go to their website at foodallergyaids.com.




Adoption Hero Nominations Needed
Kids, parents and community supporters of adoption and foster care will gather at COSI on June 4 for the Forever Home Adoption Celebration, a day of fun and information presented by the National Center for Adoption Law & Policy.

The day will also feature the presentation of the first Adoption Hero Awards, presented by Columbus Parent. We're now accepting nominations, and we encourage you to visit our website to let us know about a deserving person or group in any of these four categories:
Adoption or foster-care professionals Adoption or foster-care community advocates, including parents Adoption or foster-care support groups and organizations Youth hero: a child or young adult who has been adopted and/or spent time in the foster-care system, and has made a significant different in the community Residents of Franklin, Delaware, Fairfield, Licking, Madison, Morrow, Pickaway and Union counties are eligible to be nominated; a group of community professionals will select the winners.
Nominations will be collected through May 2 at ColumbusParent.com.


Earth Day Columbus
Here's something else that Central Ohio is the best at - volunteer turnout for Earth Day. According to Green Columbus, the local nonprofit organization that coordinates Columbus' annual Earth Day celebrations, we're tops at showing up the weekend before Earth Day at work projects that repair, recycle and regenerate a variety of public spaces like playgrounds, riverfronts, community gardens and parks.

In 2007, Green Columbus Director Erin Chacey said 1,300 Central Ohioans put in 2,900 person hours at 42 worksites in preparation for Earth Day. Last year, it was 3,679 volunteers, working 13,500 hours at 129 worksites.

This year, Chacey said, they're aiming to get 5,000 people cleaning up 150 sites. And when they're done, everyone can party together - for free - at April 23's Earth Day celebration on the grounds of the Franklin Park Conservatory.

The worksite work will take place on Saturday, April 16, and Sunday, April 17. You can volunteer through April 15 on the Earth Day Columbus website at lightenup2011.org/worksites.

Then plan to join everyone for kid-friendly activities, food, local bands and environmental education and other goodies between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. at the Conservatory's Scotts Miracle-Gro Community Garden Campus, located at 1777 E. Broad St. in Columbus.

I spend a large amount of my personal and professional life playing video games. It's one of the advantages of being a game reviewer, but I also spend a lot of time being a dad. Often these two activities intersect and like most responsible parents I find myself concerned about the amount of time my kids spend online or playing electronic games.
Facebook, Xbox Live!, Nintendo DS - my kids have access to so many game playing platforms that I worry they are over-exposed and are abandoning some of the activities I best remember when I was younger.
They seems to spend less time wandering the neighborhood playing, reading comic books, playing with toys, writing and drawing and just hanging out with friends without playing games.
While I believe video games are a great source of family entertainment (obviously), it is important that we, as parents, try to introduce our kids to the simple, non-electronic pleasures of playing Freeze Tag or Go Fish!
I don't like to recommend absolute limits on video games - you know your own children better than some statistician. But here are a few guidelines for knowing when it's a good time to cut the cord - without discouraging your child's interest in computing and video gaming completely:

At Play
I spend a large amount of my personal and professional life playing video games. It's one of the advantages of being a game reviewer, but I also spend a lot of time being a dad. Often these two activities intersect and like most responsible parents I find myself concerned about the amount of time my kids spend online or playing electronic games.

Facebook, Xbox Live!, Nintendo DS - my kids have access to so many game playing platforms that I worry they are over-exposed and are abandoning some of the activities I best remember when I was younger.

They seems to spend less time wandering the neighborhood playing, reading comic books, playing with toys, writing and drawing and just hanging out with friends without playing games.

While I believe video games are a great source of family entertainment (obviously), it is important that we, as parents, try to introduce our kids to the simple, non-electronic pleasures of playing Freeze Tag or Go
Fish!

I don't like to recommend absolute limits on video games - you know your own children better than some statistician. But here are a few guidelines for knowing when it's a good time to cut the cord - without discouraging your child's interest in computing and video gaming completely:

Consider the weather: In Central Ohio during the spring there are plenty of good and bad weather play days. Encourage them to capitalize on the good ones and get outside.

Watch how they play: If your child is getting excited or out of control, screaming at the game or jumping and fidgeting while playing, it's probably a good time for a break.

Play with them: Nothing should be more interesting to your kids than time with you. Make sure you take the time away from the digital fun to cement that relationship. They might fight you, but in the end you make memories together.

I've found that the application of even these simple points has both strengthened my family bonds and helped the kids to realize that despite the thrill that electronic entertainment offers, there is a world outside the realm of video games that is just as wondrous.
-Shawn Sines, Columbus Parent games reviewer