Learn something new for the new year

Video - January 2006


Sylvia Ewing

Yes, you know it—time flies and another year is upon us. This month’s selections help you make the most of a fresh calendar by learning something new. In this case, a wonderful introduction to different genres of music from Buster Bunny and how to help your little one shed the old diapers.

NO MORE DIAPERS, not rated, 2005, $12.98 DVD, www.consumervisiononline.com and www.Amazon.com; ages 2-4.

Glen T Bear comes to grips with giving up his diapers. Although I think most babies view a diaper change as a chore at best, Glen digs having his mom sing to him and loves his diapers.

What may be a human’s ultimate lesson comes across well in "No More Diapers," which helps caregivers teach toddlers how to use the bathroom. Back in my day we didn’t have pull-ups and such for potty training. A friend told me to potty train my kids in the summer by letting them run around without undies. "No More Diapers" is a lot more practical and less messy.

First-time parents will appreciate this helpful, new approach with Internet downloads and stickers to reward the child. It’s a little commercial but I guess it’s also a sign of progress and I embrace the use of technology. This is a sweet and positive approach to teaching this natural function.

Sylvia says: a big B+. It gives parents the ability to make potty training fun.

POSTCARDS FROM BUSTER: BUSTER’S GOT THE BEAT, not rated, 2005, $9.95 VHS, $14.99 DVD; ages 5 and up.

The learning continues for a different audience with "Buster’s Got the Beat," a great selection that has our friend learning about different kinds of music. Buster is a spin-off of Marc Brown’s wonderful Arthur books and TV series. Buster is great for the entire family, and the production is top quality in every way, from content to execution. I was surprised at how much I learned about different types of music. Buster is sightseeing and checks out Mexican-style conjunto music in Texas; then he travels to the West Coast and hops on the hip-hop train in San Francisco. Buster’s journey also introduces us to country music in Tennessee and African drumming and gospel in the Big Easy.

"Postcards" is well done and wonderful, plus it’s a nice way to show a positive side of New Orleans after all the negative things kids may have seen in the news last year.

Sylvia says: A. Go Buster go!


Sylvia says: Talk back

And now I’d like to share feedback from winners of my Talk Back contest. Special thanks to Melanie McNicholas of Chicago and Annette Wallace of Evanston. Here’s what they had to say:

I wanted to let all parents know about a video my child is completely addicted to: "Short Vowels." My kindergartner’s teacher recommended it to me and I swear my son has not stopped watching it since I bought it. "Short Vowels" introduces sight words and has short skits about each vowel. The words are at the bottom of the screen so he can read along.

There is also a song that just sticks in your mind for days. I have shared this video with other neighborhood parents and have received the same positive response. My son’s teacher plays it on the computer in the classroom in small group centers. The kids assess themselves at the end.

According to Mindation, the company that produced the video, it will release a long-vowel version this spring. We will be eagerly waiting.

There are very few good educational videos out there for children that actually keep their interest. This is a rare find. Melanie McNicholas, mom of Colin, 9, Sean, 7, Brendan, 5, and Aidan, 2, Chicago

Sylvia adds: There are good educational videos out there and I will do a future column on them. Find out more about "Short Vowels" (locally produced; $14.95 VHS, $19.95 DVD) at www.mindation.net, www.Amazon.com or by calling (312) 925-5330.

Thank you so much for your cogent reviews on kids’ videos. I have a 9-year-old boy, and I’m not well plugged into the video scene. Rather than laboriously read the descriptions of countless videos only to find out he has outgrown the content, or that it’s better suited for the little girls next door, you lay it out for me. Your reviews of the "Garbage Pail Kids" gave me an idea of what to get for an upcoming birthday and "Thomas" videos are always a welcome treat for the train-obsessed preschoolers I know. But the "Kim Possible" video, as seen through your eyes, is for girls only. It is not! My son really likes Kim Possible and compares it to my love of "Law & Order" and "CSI." She’s a crime fighter, worldwide.

Of course, no video this year can match the excitement of last year’s "The Incredibles" release. Lord knows what will be able to match it in most kids’ eyes. Annette Wallace, mom of Troyer, 9, Evanston

Sylvia adds: I like the fact that Kim is a strong female figure, and that’s great for boys and girls to see.

I also heard from Roxy Ekstrom, youth services reference librarian at the Schaumburg Township District Library. Thanks to her suggestion I’ll add a little more detail to help you locate hard-to-find DVDs. The contest is over and prizes are on the way to the readers I selected, but your feedback is always welcome.

Sylvia M. Ewing is a mom and a writer. She also is a producer at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio.


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