How LEGOs Are Helping Kids Learn Braille

LEGO
LEGO

Children with visual impairments will soon have a new, creative way to learn Braille. The LEGO Foundation and LEGO Group announced yesterday at a conference in Paris that the company would be launching Braille Bricks kits in 2020. Each set has about 250 bricks containing studs that represent the letters and numbers of the Braille alphabet, which empowers people to learn spelling and punctuation, read books, type on a keyboard, and more.

In the U.S., only 10 percent of blind children are learning to read Braille, according to the National Federation of the Blind. Philippe Chazal, treasurer of the European Blind Union, says this trend—which extends beyond the U.S.—is due to the availability of audiobooks and computer programs. “This is particularly critical when we know that Braille users often are more independent, have a higher level of education, and better employment opportunities,” Chazal said in a statement. “We strongly believe LEGO Braille Bricks can help boost the level of interest in learning Braille, so we’re thrilled that the LEGO Foundation is making it possible to further this concept and bring it to children around the world.”

The idea was originally pitched to LEGO in 2011 by the Danish Association of the Blind, and a Brazil-based foundation also supported the concept in 2017. Currently, the Braille Brick prototypes are being tested in Denmark, Brazil, Norway, and the UK, with each set being adapted to the predominant language spoken in those regions.

Because braille is a tactile alphabet rather than a language, it can be used in just about any language, including Chinese, Arabic, and Hebrew. LEGO also plans to test French, Spanish, and German versions of the Braille Bricks this year. The kits will be provided free of charge to some organizations around the world.

Check out the video below to learn more about the project.

What's the Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing?

iStock
iStock

For carbohydrate lovers, nothing completes a Thanksgiving meal quite like stuffing—shovelfuls of bread, celery, mushrooms, and other ingredients that complement all of that turkey protein.

Some people don’t say stuffing, though. They say dressing. In these calamitous times, knowing how to properly refer to the giant glob of insulin-spiking bread seems necessary. So what's the difference?

Let’s dismiss one theory off the bat: Dressing and stuffing do not correlate with how the side dish is prepared. A turkey can be stuffed with dressing, and stuffing can be served in a casserole dish. Whether it’s ever seen the inside of a bird is irrelevant, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong and should be met with suspicion, if not outright derision.

The terms are actually separated due to regional dialects. Dressing seems to be the favored descriptor for southern states like Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, while stuffing is preferred by Maine, New York, and other northern areas. (Some parts of Pennsylvania call it filling, which is a bit too on the nose, but to each their own.)

If stuffing stemmed from the common practice of filling a turkey with carbs, why the division? According to HuffPost, it may have been because Southerners considered the word stuffing impolite, and therefore never embraced it.

While you should experience no material difference in asking for stuffing or dressing, when visiting relatives it might be helpful to keep to their regionally-preferred word to avoid confusion. Enjoy stuffing yourselves.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Uitwaaien, or Outblowing, Is the Dutch Cure for the Winter Blues

sergio_kumer/iStock via Getty Images
sergio_kumer/iStock via Getty Images

Hygge, a Danish philosophy that's recently caught on in the U.S., is all about feeling cozy and relaxed indoors when the weather is cold outside. Uitwaaien takes the opposite approach to winter. Dutch for "outblowing," uitwaaien involves doing physical activity, like going for a brisk jog, in chilly, windy weather. It may lack the warmth and fuzziness of hygge, but many Dutch people swear by its energizing effects.

The practice known as uitwaaien has roots in the Netherlands going back at least a century, Nautilus reports. The name comes from the concept of replacing "bad air" with "good air." While there may not be a lot of science to support that idea, exercise does have scientifically proven benefits, such as boosting energy and lowering stress. And while spending 30 minutes on a treadmill in a stuffy gym can leave you feeling sweaty and gross, running outside in the wind can be refreshing and exhilarating.

There's another benefit of uitwaaien: It's an excuse to get outside during a time of year when you'd normally be cooped up indoors. Research shows that being out in nature can enhance our creativity, sharpen our focus, and help us feel more relaxed. And if temperatures are too low for your comfort, a few minutes of cardio is the best way to warm up quickly.

Still need motivation to exercise in the cold? Think of it this way: Every minute of uitwaaien you take part in will make your hygge time that much sweeter. Here are some ways to practice hygge in your home this season.

[h/t Nautilus]

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