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Fewer toys lead to richer play experiences, UT researchers find

Any parent knows how toys seem to magically multiply and take over a house. Do children need so many toys?

A team of University of Toledo researchers studied whether the number of toys in a toddler’s environment influenced their quality of play. Their findings: Less is definitely more when it comes to creative, healthy play.

Research by Dr. Carly Dauch, left, and Dr. Alexia Metz found less is definitely more when it comes to toys and toddlers’ creative, healthy play.

The results of the study come just in time for family and friends who are picking up holiday gifts for the children in their lives. The research, which will appear in the February issue of Infant Behavior and Development, suggests that an abundance of toys may create a distraction. Fewer new toys might be a better route this holiday season.

When toddlers had exposure to fewer toys, they played twice as long with the toys they had and in more sophisticated ways, said Dr. Alexia Metz, the study’s lead investigator and a UT associate professor of occupational therapy.

As the mother of 12-year-old twins, Metz has personal experience with the proliferation of toys phenomenon.

“I was astonished by how much our home filled up with stuff,” she said. “I wondered whether there was any risk to having that much stuff.”

Metz said she also had observed people worrying whether their toddlers had attention deficit disorder. Toddlers, by nature, are distractible, but she wondered whether their environment might be a factor in how they played or how easily distracted they were.

Metz and her team of graduate students studied 36 toddlers from 18 to 30 months of age. The children visited the playroom lab twice. On one visit, the children played in a room with just four toys; on the other, they had access to 16 toys.

The team charted how many times the toddler picked up a toy; how long they played with it; and how many ways they played with it.

“When there were fewer toys, they played with them in more ways,” Metz said.

In the 16-toy environment, many of the children played with 10 or more toys in the 15 minutes soon after they entered the room. By flitting from toy to toy, they didn’t take the time to explore the ways they could use each toy, Metz said.

Fewer toys led to “higher quality play,” meaning the toddler stuck with the toy for longer and played with it in more creative ways. Instead of stacking or tipping a toy, they began to hammer with it or feed it or hide it. This increased exploration may support development of motor and cognitive skills.

“Today there is the demand to have the latest and greatest toy that encourages a more technological mind. In this study, we used older toys that encouraged more creative play and tested the theory of is less really more?” said Dr. Carly Dauch, who graduated from UT in May following the completion of the study and is now an occupational therapist at the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. “How the children played supported our hypothesis and provides support for deeper and richer play with fewer toys.”

Michelle Imwalle and Brooke Ocasio, who also graduated in May, were the other graduate students involved in the project.

The bottom line for parents: “If your child receives an abundance of toys, you don’t need to introduce them all at once,” Metz said. “Save some for later and swap them out. If they have a chance to explore a few toys at a time, they might have a richer experience.”

This is also good news for families who may feel guilty for not being able to shower their children with dozens of toys.

“They’re not depriving their children of an opportunity for meaningful play,” Metz said. “This is a less is more story.”

Main Campus Pharmacy announces holiday hours

While most of the University will be closed during the winter break between the holidays, the Main Campus Pharmacy will be open normal business hours except a few days.

Campus community members are welcome to stop in Wednesday through Friday, Dec. 27-29, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., as well as Saturday, Dec. 30, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The pharmacy will be closed Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 25-26, as well as Monday, Jan. 1 and Monday Jan. 15.

Normal business hours include being closed Sundays.

“We want to continue to serve faculty, staff and students, and that means being here for them during the holidays,” Dr. Valerie Householder, manager of the UT Main Campus Pharmacy, said.

The pharmacy will resume normal business hours Tuesday, Jan. 2.

For more information, click here or call 419.530.3471.

UT social media ranked 14th among Division I institutions

Educational, informative, fun and timely. Those are just some of the factors that have placed The University of Toledo’s social media content ahead of the pack.

The University’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts were compared against 338 Division I programs, and the University was ranked 14th for its robust engagement.

Vince DiGuglielmo, social media specialist, left, and Cam Norton, associate director for social media, taped a video on Health Science Campus. The UT team ranked No. 14 among 338 Division I programs for its social media efforts on the University’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, according to Rival IQ.

Rival IQ, a social media analytics company out of Seattle, compared social media engagement figures of university-level accounts from a 10-month period spanning August 2016 to May 2017.

Social media engagement is commonly defined as an interaction on a social media post that can be measured by likes, comments, favorites, retweets, shares and reactions. Once data was gathered, results were weighed based on audience size, activity and engagement.

“This is an effort on our part to inform the campus community while occasionally showing the lighter side of campus,” said Cam Norton, associate director for social media. “Our small team often creates videos and other content to be used on the same day to stay relevant.”

Overall, UT placed 14th out of the 338 institutions. On Twitter, UT ranked No. 8, and the University had top 50 placements in Facebook and Instagram.

UT was the only Mid-American Conference university ranked in the top 100 programs.

During the 10 months analyzed by Rival IQ, UT had several high-performing posts that aided in the  ranking, according to Norton. Posts on research, graduation, sports victories and dogs generated the most engagement.

UT has more than 53,000 followers on Facebook (facebook.com/utoledo), more than 59,000 people follow @UToledo on Twitter, and there are more than 12,000 followers of the uoftoledo Instagram account.

To view the full 2017 Higher Ed Social Media Engagement Report, click here.

Winter break to provide rest, relaxation

As the University announced in April, a new winter break schedule will be implemented this month, in response to feedback from employees over several years. This break will enable faculty and staff to rest and rejuvenate at a time when many departments are operationally slow — from Dec. 25, Christmas Day, through Jan. 1, New Year’s Day.

“The new winter break schedule also supports the University’s long-term sustainability by reducing costs while still maintaining crucial functions, such as hospital operations at UTMC, approved research activities and public safety,” said Larry Kelley, executive vice president for finance and administration. “Therefore, the new policy does not include specific UTMC employees; certain required positions, which might vary depending on annual need; and police.”

In addition to existing holiday pay, UT will provide additional paid days off — either three days or four, depending on which day the holiday falls in the year — to cover the entire specified time period. This year’s winter break schedule:

• Monday, Dec. 25 — Christmas (holiday);

• Tuesday, Dec. 26 – Holiday (Columbus Day);

• Wednesday, Dec. 27 — Paid day off provided for winter break;

• Thursday, Dec. 28 — Paid day off provided for winter break;

• Friday, Dec. 29 — Paid day off provided for winter break; and

• Monday, Jan. 1 — New Year’s Day (holiday).

“If you work on Main Campus or Scott Park Campus, you should not be on campus during winter break unless pre-approved by your department’s leadership in order to conduct essential business,” Kelley said. “Access to buildings will be restricted, and facility operations and ground maintenance also will be limited.”

For departments with an area (such as a lab) that must maintain normal heating and/or requires other specific maintenance during winter break, leadership should immediately contact Jason Toth, associate vice president for facilities, at jason.toth@utoledo.edu to make these arrangements.

Leadership members also are responsible for designating any specific employees who need to be on call and/or must work during winter break in order to provide essential services, such as to conduct research or provide services in the case of an emergency. Further, each department’s leadership should ensure appropriate notification of UT’s closure is provided to their customers and all affected service or product providers, such as vendors and contractors.

Additional winter break details, including frequently asked questions, are available here.

If you have any questions after reading the information on this webpage, talk with your supervisor or contact your human resources consultant.

Bookstore to host holiday party Dec. 13

The Barnes & Noble University Bookstore at the Gateway will hold a holiday party Wednesday, Dec. 13, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The event will have plenty of fun and free activities to help students take their minds off the stress of finals, according to Colleen Strayer, general manager of the bookstore.

Stop by to hear from a Toledo Zoo education specialist, who will bring two small creatures and a touch tank.

There also will be holiday-related games and crafts, and one licensed therapist will give massages.

In addition, Rocky and Rocksy will be at the party and available for holiday photos.

Did someone say free pizza? Grab a slice while the pies last.

“We want to help students manage their stress during finals week,” Strayer. “This will be an opportunity for students to relax and take a break.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist to deliver UT commencement address Dec. 17

Toledo native and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael D. Sallah will return to his alma mater Sunday, Dec. 17, to deliver the keynote address during The University of Toledo’s fall commencement ceremony.

The event will begin at 10 a.m. in Savage Arena.

Sallah

Sallah will address 2,067 candidates for degrees, including 118 doctoral, 523 master’s, 1,370 bachelor’s and 56 associate’s.

The ceremony is open to the public and can be viewed live at video.utoledo.edu.

Sallah’s investigative work as a reporter and editor with award-winning newspapers across the country has revealed public corruption, police abuses and government blunders, resulting in grand jury investigations, legislative reform, and the recovery of millions of taxpayer dollars.

He is a reporter on the national investigations team at USA Today/Gannett Network in Washington, D.C.

“This is where it all began for me,” Sallah said. “From the time I took my first journalism class in the fall of my freshman year, I fell in love with journalism, and UT is a big part of that. It’s part of my foundation — the professors, the values they conveyed to me about journalism, and why it’s so critical to our society, especially investigative work. I’m honored to be coming home to be the commencement speaker.”

“Journalists have an important role to inform the public about the issues that affect our lives, and Michael Sallah has embraced that responsibility uncovering many misdeeds through investigative reporting that resulted in positive change,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “I look forward to him sharing with our graduates how he got his start here in Toledo and inspiring them to stay curious and serve their communities.”

Born in Toledo, Sallah is a 1977 alumnus of The University of Toledo, graduating cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism. He was named UT’s Outstanding Alumnus in the Social Sciences in 2004. Sallah also is a 1973 graduate of St. John’s Jesuit High School.

He was a reporter and national affairs writer at The Blade for more than a decade, and was the lead reporter on the 2003 project “Buried Secrets, Brutal Truths” that exposed the U.S. Army’s longest war crimes case of the Vietnam War. The series won numerous national awards, including the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

While investigations editor and reporter at the Miami Herald, Sallah led an inquiry into local corruption. His team’s 2006 “House of Lies” series exposed widespread fraud in Miami-Dade County public housing and earned the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting. He was named a 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his series “Neglected to Death,” which uncovered deadly conditions in Florida assisted-living facilities, led to the closing of 13 facilities, and was the impetus for a gubernatorial task force to overhaul state law.

During his two years at The Washington Post, Sallah received a Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism for an investigation that exposed a predatory system of tax collection in the District of Columbia. 

He returned to the Miami Herald in 2014 and was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2016 for uncovering one of the nation’s most corrupt sting operations in a police unit that laundered $71.5 million for drug cartels, kept millions for brokering the deals, and failed to make a single significant arrest. 

Sallah is the author of the books “Tiger Force: A True Story of Men and War” and “Yankee Comandante: The Untold Story of Courage, Passion and One American’s Fight to Liberate Cuba.” He also was a consultant for the Public Broadcasting Service documentary “American Experience.”

UT’s fall commencement ceremony will recognize graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters; Business and Innovation; Judith Herb College of Education; Engineering; Graduate Studies; Health and Human Services; Honors College; Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Nursing; and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and University College.

For more information, visit utoledo.edu/commencement.

Dec. 15 deadline to make changes to tax deferred annuities

The IRS recently announced new limits for 403b and 457 plans.

Beginning Jan. 1, the contribution limits are:

• Younger than age 50 — $18,500, and

• Older than age 50: $24,500.

Employees who would like to increase or change their contribution amounts for 403b plans must submit the salary reduction agreement stating the new per-pay contribution amount. And for Ohio Deferred Compensation 457 plans, employees must contact Ohio Deferred Compensation to change their contribution.

Employees can enroll or make changes to these plans anytime during the year.

However, these actions must be taken by Friday, Dec. 15, and submitted to the Benefits Department in Human Resources in order to start contributions the first pay in January.

“We also want to let employees know that all contributions are changing to 26 deductions — and 19 for nine-month employees — per year for 2018,” Kate Johnson, manager of benefits planning and administration, said.

For more information, contact benefits@utoledo.edu or call 419.530.4747 and ask to speak with a benefits representative.

Students now able to donate meal swipes to food pantry, meal bank

To help students who may be struggling to find where their next meal is coming from, UT has started a new program that allows students to donate their extra meal swipes to those in need.

Students will have the option to donate swipes to either the bank of meals or the UT Student Food Pantry.

The bank of meals consists of available swipes that can been redeemed at either of the dining halls. To utilize a swipe, students should contact the UT Student Food Pantry.

If students decide to donate to the UT Student Food Pantry, the monetary value of a swipe will be given to the pantry so staff can use the money to keep the pantry stocked.

“The University of Toledo has a strong tradition of helping others and being a strong family. This is a great opportunity for students to be part of a culture of giving and caring,” said Dr. Sammy Spann, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “The donations directly support their classmates.”

To donate, students can go to the front register at either South Dining Hall or Ottawa House East and let the clerk know they would like to donate a swipe.

“This meal swipe donation will help ensure all students at UT can focus on their academic success without having to worry about where their next meal is going to come from,” Spann said.

For more information, contact the UT Student Food Pantry at 419.530.2171.

Ritter Planetarium hosting holiday shows

Join in some holiday cheer at the UT Ritter Planetarium this year and check out two educational and festive shows.

“The Alien Who Stole Christmas,” recommended for children 4 to 10, will run Fridays at 7:30 p.m. through Dec. 22.

Follow along as Santa meets Mr. Feep, an alien from another world, and watch as they go on an adventure to the farthest regions of the solar system.

This scene is from UT’s original program titled “Santa’s Secret Star.”

“Santa’s Secret Star” will run Saturdays at 1 p.m. through Dec. 23.

The program is geared toward children ages 4 to 7 and tells the story of how Santa uses the constellations to find his way around the world on Christmas.

“Santa fans of all ages should attend,” said Alex Mak, associate planetarium director. “These shows are entertaining, educational and seasonal-appropriate.”

Both programs will take place in the full-dome studio and offer an immersive, 3D experience. UT’s full-dome projector, the Spitz SciDome XD, was installed in 2011.

Admission is $7 for adults; $5 for children, UT community members and seniors; children 3 and younger are free.

For more information, click here or call Ritter Planetarium at 419.530.2650 or its 24-hour information hotline at 419.530.4037.

UTPD’s No Shave November supports UTC3, cancer awareness

Crumb catchers. Muttonchops. Lip sweaters. Face fur.

Whatever you choose to call men’s facial hair, it’s not something you expect to see growing wildly on University of Toledo Police Department officers. Their policy: Officers always must appear clean-shaven while on duty, with the only exception being a neatly trimmed ’stache no longer than the lips.

A few of the UT Police Department officers who supported No Shave November, raising nearly $700 for cancer awareness, include, front row from left, Jeni Gerber, Andrew Thornton and Ryan Lause; and top row from left, David O’Neil, Daniel Protsman, Michael Bagrowski and Kyle Andrews.

And yet, during the entire month of November, you may have noticed some stubbly growth, including chin whiskers of varying lengths, on 21 of UT’s 25 police officers.

“It all began three years ago here at UT in support of No Shave November — a movement now popular among police departments nationwide that helps to raise funds to fight cancer,” explained 15-year UTPD veteran, Sgt. Daniel Protsman. “The goal is to grow awareness by embracing our hair, which many cancer patients lose.”

“We encourage our officers to connect and identify with those whom we serve,” Jeff Newton, director of public safety and chief of police, said. “And most of us know someone who has or will be affected by cancer; we can raise awareness together and fight to find a cure. This activity is one way UTPD can achieve all of these goals.”

Once UTPD officers cleared No Shave November with their department’s leadership, they decided participants must contribute $20 to grow a goatee or $30 to grow a full beard. Mustaches could be worn free of charge, since they’re routinely allowed, albeit they could be grown longer during November.

“Instead of paying for grooming supplies, participants donate that money to charity,” said UT Police Deputy Chief Rodney Theis. “Whose family or friends haven’t been touched by cancer? This is a great way for our police officers to have a little fun while also giving back to our community.”

“Often when people come into contact with the police, it may be a negative situation — their apartment has been broken into, they’ve been pulled over for speeding or are being fined for another type of infraction,” Protsman said. “No Shave November helps officers to appear a little more approachable.

“It also helps us to build an even stronger bond among our own team members as we compete to see who can grow the most hair — an opportunity we don’t get to do any other time of the year, unless we have an extended vacation,” Protsman added.

If you think wiry whiskers on police officers are humorous, consider this: No Shave November originally began in 2009 when a Chicago family of eight siblings lost their dad to colon cancer and started the unique fundraiser. Since then, more than $2 million has been raised nationally for cancer awareness, research and support.

Closer to home, last month UTPD officers raised nearly $700 through No Shave November, with a few nonparticipating colleagues also chipping in to support the cause. Additionally, female officers got involved by wearing pink T-shirts to help raise cancer awareness.

All proceeds from UTPD’s No Shave November will be included in this year’s UT Community Charitable Campaign (UTC3) and specifically have been designated to support the local chapter of the American Cancer Society.

If you would like to support this or another charity of your choice, join the UTC3 campaign by completing your ePledge form, available in weekly emails from Dr. Michele Soliz, assistant vice president for student success and inclusion, who is the UTC3 2017 chair.

For more information, visit utoledo.edu/utc3.