Health News

These July 4th Printables Will Keep Kids Busy All Weekend

Although plenty of us are feeling not-so patriotic during this year of pandemic plus protests (and/or already celebrated America’s diversity on Juneteenth and are ready to call it a day) the Fourth of July remains a day of celebration for many Americans. And hey, what’s not to like about food, fun, and fireworks — and a day off? But you can’t spend the entire Fourth day and night outdoors (not in this July heat at least). In between backyard games and grilling, let kids take a break and still keep busy with these printable Fourth of July coloring pages.

We’ve created festive Fourth printouts featuring patriotic pictures of soaring bald eagles, firecrackers, American flags and even an old-timey Fourth of July parade. You’ll also find activity pages where kids can help each other through a Fourth of July word search and name the 50 states as they color in our printable U.S. map. Not only are kids unleashing their creative side, but they’re also using their minds to solve puzzles and learn geography. We’d consider that a win-win, wouldn’t you?

Stock up on your festive kid-friendly art supplies (and, you know, your red and blue crayons) — you’re going to need ’em.

A version of this article was originally published in March 2014.

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Health News

Baby’s First Toys Should Stimulate All of the Senses — These Are the Best

The first few years of a baby’s life is a flipbook of, well, firsts. You’ll document the big moments — the first steps, words, the initial tiny tooth peeking out from underneath their gums — because it’s all special. But even all the small things, like baby’s first outfit outside hospital walls or your baby’s first toy, hold sentimental meaning. These are the artifacts you’ll stash in the back of your closet or in the attic for safe keeping (and, OK, a good nostalgic cry), and there’s no shame in that fact being at the forefront of your mind when you start shopping for these essentials.

Of course, it might be a little while before your baby actually starts playing with toys. After all, a day in the life of a newborn mostly consists of sleeping, eating, pooping and wetting their diapers. That being said, your baby’s first toy will be the first item that really captures their attention.

In the same way they’re drawn to their bottle, your baby will be captivated by the first toy they can grasp with their tiny fingers. It’s typically something that stimulates their senses, like a book with buttons they can press to create sound or a stacking toy with pieces they can build with or bang together. From cloth books to colorful blocks, here are some of the most beloved baby’s first toys to consider.

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1. VTech Musical Rhymes Book

Introduce your baby to the wonderful world of literature early on with the VTech Musical Rhymes Book. Storytelling with musical influence is always a winning combination with little ones, even if the first hundred times they engage with the toy they have absolutely no idea what the words on the page actually mean. Easy-to-turn pages help enhance their fine motor skills, while twist and slide play pieces keep your child engaged with the story. The book comes programmed with different modes that introduce new vocabulary, music and instrumental sounds as they grow. Plus, the vibrant color schemes and piano keys that play different tunes invite your baby to explore with their senses and learn as they do.

2. B. Toys One, Two, Squeeze Baby Blocks

Blocks are a classic kid’s toy but most are made from wood or heavy materials with sides that come to a point, which are far from baby-friendly. B. Toys One, Two, Squeeze Baby Blocks are literally blocks that have been infant-proofed. Each hand-sculpted, soft, squeezable square is 100 percent non-toxic, so your baby can stack them or safely chew them, depending on their mood. The blocks are also decorated with stimulating colors to catch (and hold) baby’s attention, while numbers and animal prints on each side offer teachable opportunities as your little one grows older and starts recognizing them. 

3. ToBe ReadyForLife Cloth Book

Your baby’s first toy should be stimulating in order to familiarize them with their senses and kickstart their developmental skills. The ToBe ReadyForLife Cloth Book does both of these things and more: It tells your little one a story while also providing them with special, interactive features like crinkly paper, mirrors, peekaboo flaps, squeakers and more. But not only is this baby’s first toy educational for your little one, it’s also a learning tool for parents. Each purchase includes an eBook that teaches parents how to use the cloth book at different stages in their child’s development so you can support them as they grow.

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Health News

Research project looks to understand how exercise affects your body all the way down to your molecules

Researchers want to know what happens in your body at the molecular level when you exercise. In the largest exercise research program of its kind, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are part of a National Institutes of Health effort to collect and turn data from nearly 2,600 volunteers into comprehensive maps of the molecular changes in the body due to exercise.

UAB’s Center for Exercise Medicine is one of the clinical sites nationwide participating in the NIH-funded Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium, or MoTrPAC, which aims to increase our understanding by measuring molecular changes in healthy adults and children before, during and after exercise.

“It is well-known from decades of scientific research that physical activity has substantial health benefits; but we do not fully understand why, especially at the molecular level,” said Marcas Bamman, Ph.D., professor in the UAB Department of Cell, Developmental and Integrative Biology in the School of Medicine and director of the Center for Exercise Medicine.

“The large study size is meant to account for person-to-person variation, and to reveal differences based on demographics like age, race and gender.”

MoTrPAC researchers published a paper detailing their approach to this ambitious research project. They are currently reviewing lessons from an initial phase with a smaller group of adult volunteers and multiple rounds of preclinical animal model studies to optimize their protocols and prepare to scale up for full recruitment.

“MoTrPAC was launched to fill an important gap in exercise research,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “It shifts focus from a specific organ or disease, to a fundamental understanding of exercise at the molecular level—an understanding that may lead to personalized, prescribed exercise regimens based on an individual’s needs and traits.”

The MoTrPAC clinical study pairs methods well-established in exercise research with unique study aspects to move our fundamental understanding of exercise forward. One of the most distinctive study features is its size. MoTrPAC set the ambitious goal among its 11 clinical sites to recruit about 2,600 healthy volunteers across a wide age range (10 to 60-plus years old) and with balanced participation by the sexes.

Part of the study will test how the response to exercise changes after generally inactive participants complete a 12-week supervised exercise regimen. Sedentary adults will be randomly assigned to an endurance training regimen (treadmill, cycling), a resistance training regimen (weightlifting) or an inactive control group. Low-activity children will be randomly assigned to an endurance training regimen or to a control group where they pursue their normal activities. Contributing to the overall size of the study is a separate group of highly active adults and youths who will help researchers understand what exercise looks like at the molecular level in those who have exercised vigorously and consistently over an extended period.

Another unique facet of MoTrPAC is that volunteers provide samples—or biospecimens—before, during and after exercise that will go through a complex array of molecular assays. Adults provide blood and fat and muscle tissues, while children provide only blood samples.

Recruitment currently is on-hold due to safety concerns over COVID-19, and will resume when it is safe to do so. To see if a MoTrPAC clinical center will be recruiting near you, visit

“Ultimately, MoTrPAC aims to have a positive impact on human health,” Bamman said. “The study and resulting data integration are an immense undertaking, and provide an unprecedented opportunity to explore the molecular basis for the benefits of exercise. The information MoTrPAC assembles about endurance and resistance exercise in a wide range of individuals and in different tissues may influence exercise guidelines, making them more tailored for specific groups of people.”

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