Quick hits of news and fresh ideas for busy parents.

Take dad out to the ballgame!

Don Dunham of Reynoldsburg was the lucky winner of our first "Take Dad Out to the Ballgame" contest. Nominated by his wife, Jennifer, Dunham got to toss out the first pitch at the Columbus Clippers game on July 16 (with a little guidance from 7-year-old daughter Jennifer) and then enjoy the Clippers' winning effort against the Indianapolis Indians.

Happy birthday!

This year, Columbus Academy has a lot to celebrate: 2011 is their milestone centennial year. Rich in academic excellence, the K-12 school has been educating students since 1911.

Part of their focus includes honoring tradition, and Academy families have helped uphold that mission. Currently, the school has 11 three-generation families, including the Carlins. Led by patriarch Phil Carlin who graduated in 1958, 12 family members have followed in his footsteps. Carlin's family has also served as members of the Academy faculty and on the school's board of trustees.

"Columbus Academy has been very good to our family," said Carlin, "in teaching our children, training athletics, building character and community behavior, and in general preparing us well for college and life."

For more information on Columbus Academy and the centennial celebration, visit their website at columbusacademy.org.

-Heather Weekley

Fill 'er up

The new school year means backpacks stocked with notebooks, markers, No. 2 pencils and glue sticks. As you fill your child's backpack, why not help supply those in need?

Since 1998, the Tom Fennessy/Mike Harden Back-to-School Project has provided backpacks and school supplies to underprivileged children. Originally started by Columbus Dispatch columnist Mike Harden to honor the late Tom Fennessy, a former Dispatch columnist and friend, the project now supports more than 8,000 kids each school year. Harden's name was added to the mission after he died last year.

The Back-to-School Project works to ensure that its recipients have an equal opportunity for education. Several Central Ohio groups provide their time and effort each year, and backpacks are given to children in Franklin County and beyond. Many Columbus organizations and children have benefited, including the Homeless Families Foundation, St. Stephen's Community House and the YWCA Community Center.

This year, it will take $65,000 to fill the thousands of backpacks. Want to donate? Visit tomfennessy.org to make an online donation, or send them to Betty Kletrovets, 5277 Infinity Court, Grove City, OH 43123.

-Heather Weekley

Post Summertime blues

The follies of summer are quickly fading and it's time to get the family back on schedule for early-morning bus rides, daily homework and other scholarly activities. If your kids are like mine, they've probably been glued to their laptops, handhelds or game consoles, and only realized the seasons were changing when you forcibly kicked them out of the house away from their digital entertainment.

With the return to school, we always face the same conflict - how do we wean the kids off their fun and back on track for a productive school year? Playing games, especially video games, are a great vacation activity for kids during the summer, but too much of a good thing leads to poor grades, missing homework and a general lack of progress.

Get ahead of the problem this year with a few simple tips I've used to pull my connected kids back from the brink in years past:

Ration and Reward: Going cold turkey is hard for anyone, so consider creating a schedule for gaming. Also plan some rewards like extra time or a new game if your child manages to keep to the schedule or demonstrates good scholarship and responsibility.

Be prepared to lay down the law: Electronic games are captivating and kids like to be entertained, even when they go through the motions to earn play time. But be firm and clear that gaming is a privilege to be earned, not a right.

Counter-program: Now I understand why my parents always got us so involved in fall sports and other activities until I was a parent. While exercise serves to keep your child in shape and active, it also helps break them from the routines established during the summer months.

Join them: Playing with the kids and setting limits is the best way to control their game usage. Engage and try and share the experience. If you establish that connection, I've found it's even easier to cajole them away from the games toward the textbooks.

-Shawn Sines