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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Even boys are into weaving Rainbow Loom bracelets


TONI Notarangeli thought she'd misheard when her eight-year-old son Angelo begged her for a toy he just had to have: a plastic loom that helps kids weave colourful rubber band bracelets.

Angelo likes to skateboard and play basketball. He'd never shown much interest in crafts. But when it came to the Rainbow Loom, he was insistent.

"There are like 10 people at school that don't have them. Everyone else is into it," said Angelo.

It's not unusual for kids and parents to obsess over a particularly hot toy. What has surprised toy store owners and parents about the Rainbow Loom is that boys are addicted too.

The Rainbow Loom was invented by Ng Cheong Choon, a former Nissan crash-test engineer from Michigan. His two daughters enjoyed making rubber band bracelets, but Ng struggled to join in until he created a loom that made weaving the bands together easier and allowed him to create geometric patterns.

Each kit, which costs about US$15 to US$17 (RM48 to RM54), contains a small rectangular loom studded with pegs, enough mini rubber bands and plastic clips to make 24 bracelets, and a hook to weave the bands into stretchy, brightly coloured jewellery. So far, Ng said he has sold about three million kits.

At Learning Express Toys of Naperville, Illinois, the area around the checkout counter is surrounded by loom kits, sample bracelets and a screen running Rainbow Loom tutorials on repeat.

There are buckets of shiny Rainbow Loom charms, personalised Rainbow Loom supply organisers and boxes upon boxes of rubber bands – a kaleidoscopic array of neon, tie-dye, glitter and glow-in-the-dark rings stacked above the tops of most of the kids' heads.

The looms are in such hot demand that Chicago toy stores struggle to keep them on the shelves.

"The last time parents were this hot and heavy over a toy, it was Beanie Babies," said Katherine McHenry, owner of Chicago's Building Blocks Toy Store.

Complicating parents' efforts to buy the loom and refill bands is that many chain stores don't carry them. Ng said that before the product became a hit, most retailers turned him down. Some Learning Express Toys franchises began carrying Rainbow Loom products last year, and they've been available at national crafts chain Michaels Stores Inc. since August.

When Angelo first heard about the loom, he thought it sounded "really stupid", but he kept seeing the bracelets on his friends' wrists. "The more complicated ones looked really cool," he said.

At Learning Express Toys of Naperville last week, his mum bought him a second loom so he could hook them together and create more intricate designs. As she paid, owner Steve Zdunek reassured her that boys come in all the time. About 40% of the looms he sells now go to boys, he estimated.

"It's perceived (by adults) as a more of a girl thing, but the kids just ignore it," said John Flanagan, owner of Learning Express Toys of Geneva Commons. His son Conor, 11, regularly sports an armful of bracelets, and at his soccer tournaments, almost every player wears a Rainbow Loom necklace in team colours, Flanagan said.

Most parents weren't sure why Rainbow Loom is such a hit with their kids, but they said they hope the fad sticks around. It requires creativity and fine motor skills and it's screen-free - except for the YouTube videos kids watch to learn new techniques. Others said their kids were suddenly generous, making bracelets for friends and younger siblings.

McHenry suspects the secret to Rainbow Loom's success is social.

"Kids have a lot of fun trading bracelets with friends," McHenry said. "There's a group mentality to it."

Diana Fill, of Geneva, Illinois, said the toy was a lifesaver when her family travelled to the Wisconsin Dells. At the hotel, her son Garrett, 10, and his friends perched on their bunk beds and pulled out their looms, diligently hooking rubber bands around the pegs.

"When he told me about it, I said, 'Honey, isn't that a girl's thing?'" Fill said. "But it was nice for us because they were so quiet."

At one of Learning Express Toys of Geneva Commons' Rainbow Loom classes on Saturday, Garrett, his friend Sydney Parquette, 9, and her sister Sarah, 7, of Geneva, worked on learning a new bracelet design: the triple single.

When asked if she was surprised that boys like Rainbow Loom, Sydney nodded, wide-eyed and emphatic. Garrett, who likes making bracelets with his favourite sports teams' colours, doesn't see it that way at all.

"I like that you can be really creative and make your own designs," Garrett said after putting the finishing touches on an orange, white, lime and teal bracelet. He held out his wrist, proudly inspecting his handiwork. "They make me look swag." — Chicago Tribune/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Related story:

Malaysian-born father strikes gold in Rainbow Loom in US

A 'definitive case' against spanking


Capital punishment does not work better than other modes of correction, renewed research has found.

A NEW book by Murray Straus, founder and co-director of the Family Research Lab and professor emeritus of sociology at the University of New Hampshire in the United States, evaluates decades worth of research to make a "definitive case" against spanking.

In his work, Straus found that spanking slows cognitive development and increases anti-social and criminal behaviour.

The Primordial Violence (Routledge, 2013) features longitudinal data from more than 7,000 US families as well as results from a 32-nation study and presents the latest research on the extent to which spanking is used in different cultures and the subsequent effects of its use on children and on society.

"Research shows that spanking corrects misbehaviour," Straus says. "But it also shows that spanking does not work better than other modes of correction, such as time-out, explaining, and depriving a child of privileges."

He adds: "Moreover, the research clearly shows that the gains from spanking come at a big cost. These include weakening the tie between children and parents and increasing the probability that the child will hit other children and their parents, and as adults, hit a dating or marital partner. Spanking also slows down mental development and lowers the probability of a child doing well in school."

"More than 100 studies have detailed these side effects of spanking, with more than 90% agreement among them," he says. "There is probably no other aspect of parenting and child behaviour where the results are so consistent."

Still, as most parents know, disciplining kids can be tricky business. WebMD suggests that parents focus on rewarding good behaviour, be clear about rules to avoid confusion, and when your child is misbehaving, buy yourself some time to calm down before taking action. Parents magazine suggests that sometimes the best way to do so is with a time-out, to give everyone a chance to cool off. – AFP Relaxnews

Bound by love as husband and wife


Amidst higher divorce rates, many couples work hard to keep their marriage happy.

FOR young couple Aiqa Halim and Harith Ridzuan, each day is a learning process.

Balancing their jobs and caring for their daughter is challenging enough, but they are also determined to keep the flame burning in their marriage.

Aiqa and Harith married young – she was only 22 then and he was 24 – and knew from the start they had to go into marriage with their eyes wide open. They were aware of the sacrifices they'd need to make to juggle new responsibilities, but they also believed in each other.

"We know what we are both like, as well as each other's habits. Along the way, we have picked up some new habits too, whether good or bad.

"But when you have the yearning to improve yourself and change for the better, especially for your significant other, it truly opens your eyes and makes you realise what a relationship is and what a marriage is built on," says Harith, who has been married for four years.

The highlight in their marriage is the birth of their daughter Hanna two years ago.

"Having Hanna has made our family unit closer. She easily puts a smile on our faces every time she enters the room," says Aiqa.

Most precious: Aiqa Halim and her husband Harith Ridzuan is committed to giving their  two-year-old daughter Hanna a happy home.

Most precious: Aiqa Halim and her husband Harith Ridzuan are committed to giving their two-year-old daughter Hanna a happy home.

It's not easy shouldering the responsibilities that come with marriage and parenthood, but Aiqa and Harith say they have always looked to their parents as role models.

"From juggling work, being parents and always keeping the flame alive in our marriage, we have taken a pointer or two from our wise elders.

"It was their faith that gave us the confidence to build a family of our own," relates Aiqa. Having good role models helped them envision what their future would look like.

Their supportive extended family network has been crucial as they navigated through their everyday challenges.

"We have been really blessed with an amazing support system in the form of our parents. While some couples might look at it as an intrusion, building a relationship with my in-laws has never been an issue. They truly play a huge role in our lives, not just as doting parents but as loving grandparents to our child.

"Hence, much like our elders, we understand the need to work, earn and provide for the family.

"With their guidance, we have learned how to cope and to always be prepared financially, spiritually and emotionally to deal with what may come," says the young mother.

Alvin Fernandez and Maria Natasha have been married for one and a half years

Alvin Fernandez and Maria Natasha have been married for one and a half years.

Through thick and thin

AS for newly-weds Alvin Fernandez, 28, and Maria Natasha, 29, their vow to be with each other "in sickness and in health" began long before they walked down the aisle. Alvin stayed by her side even when she was admitted to the hospital for kidney stones in 2009, and proved to be the rock in their relationship.

By the time they tied the knot, Alvin and Maria were convinced their marriage is built on a strong foundation of love, care, trust and devotion.

They also believed that being spiritual helped in building a strong, long-lasting marriage.

"While going through obstacles, Alvin and I prayed together. "It helped us both see the positive side to our issues and how to overcome them. Who knows what obstacles we may encounter in the future? Whatever it may be, we may not be fully prepared, but we will figure them out along the way," says Maria.

The couple also believe in keeping communications open.

"A simple question like 'How was your day?' is good enough to break the ice. Who better than you significant other is there to share your stories with? No matter how bad a day we've had, or how much trouble we go through throughout the day, we make it a point to share our stories with each other and never go to bed upset," shares Maria, adding she learns new things every day in her conversations with her husband.

They also like to keep the romance alive in their relationship by making the effort to go on dinner dates, short getaways and through simple gestures like breakfast in bed.

The Selvaratnams have been married for over 40 years, and say their secret is to always be supportive of each other.

The Selvaratnams have been married for over 40 years, and say their secret is to always be supportive of each other.

Still in love

EVEN after 41 years of being married to each other, retiree K. Selvaratnam can still easily make his wife, Rajini Ponnurajah giggle like a schoolgirl. He still teases her, and cracks jokes for her, and she still finds his silly antics hilarious. They genuinely enjoy each other's company, and are openly affectionate with one another. They don't do romantic candlelit dinners or bouquets of roses, but have built their loving relationship on shared responsibilities.

The couple who brought up three daughters say they have simply always been there for each other, supporting one another through the hard times.

Selvaratnam, 72, also shares how he strongly believes in talking openly with his wife, and finding the root cause of problems together.

"Throughout our marriage, whenever we face any issues, we solve them by communicating and discussing them openly together.

"One of the challenges we faced as a married couple was when we decided to buy our first property. Interest rates were high and my wife understood the need for me to work longer hours. She lent a helping hand by managing our finances wisely," he says taking pride in his wife's financial savvy.

Their advice to newlyweds or those in relationships is to understand and know their partner well.

"Share your needs, wants and aspirations with your partners in order to ensure harmony in the household," says Rajini, 64.

They also believe in resolving their issues without involving others to avoid further conflicts. "As a couple, attempt a clear resolution. No matter how bleak it may look like today, there's always a light at the end of the tunnel," says Selvaratnam.

Related story:

Elusive 'happily ever after'


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