One of the trickiest parts of parenting is knowing when to take charge and when to let kids learn on their own. It gets even trickier during the summer, with more hours to fill and less structure. When children are small, it's easy to protect them from falling or eating dirt and even to know when to stay out of playground disagreements.
This month, your kids can have fun, and you can make sure they get a little exercise, too, with dance and exercise videos and even a regular movie.
In "Like Mike 2," a tween learns the consequences of his choices and the value of real sportsmanship. I was even inspired to consider hitting the basketball court. Whether I actually did it… well, I took the first step-I thought about it!
I'm sure the kids can do even better.
LIKE MIKE 2: STREETBALL, not rated, 2006, $26.98 DVD; ages 6 and up.
The opening sequence of this straight-to-video movie is a close-up montage of unbelievable dribbling and stunts. But you don't have to be into basketball or street hoops to enjoy "Like Mike 2: Streetball."
This is a tale about relationships and values. Young Jerome wants to be a great player like his dad. The only problem is his dad was known more for not being able to deliver at crucial moments than for his skills.
Like the first feature film starring Lil' Bow Wow (now 19 and known just as Bow Wow-perhaps soon to be just BW?), a pair of magical sneakers gives our hero the power to play. This part is not as important as you'd expect. More time seems to have gone into story development the second time around. Instead of formulaic game shots, there are friendship and sportsmanship lessons.
We learn about the temptations that keep too many young athletes focused on material things rather than their education. Young Jascha Washington gives a very entertaining, nuanced performance as Jerome, and Chicago's likable Kel Mitchell has a major role as a less-than-loyal relative.
Sylvia says: A. The movie has a solid moral core, but it is also fun to watch.
SHAKE, not rated, 2006, $14.98 DVD, www.razorfitness.com; ages 6-11.
Get down and get moving! The awkward title of this kids' exercise video ("Something's Hot About Kid's Energy" or "SHAKE") can be forgiven for its enormous energy. Kari Anderson's skill as a fitness instructor has been praised by Self magazine and Consumer Digest, and in this new DVD, she proves that she can get down with the young folks, too.
The tone of SHAKE is that of a party, with high energy combined with simple moves to make it both challenging and fun for repeated use. The music is funky in a generic sort of way, but the real force in the production is Anderson. This mom is in serious shape and has all kinds of fitness guru awards to her credit. Parents can join in, too, and color-coded stars help make the moves easy to follow.
Sylvia says: A+! Anderson designed this video with the help of her kids, and they did an excellent job.
Hip Hop For Kids Pop! Lock! and Break!, not rated, 2004, $24.95 DVD, $19.95 VHS; ages 7-16.
I really enjoyed this production, which is fun to watch and fun to do.
This second "Hip Hop for Kids" production has won the Parents' Choice Award and recognition from the folks at the Film Advisory Board. This is another production where a mom, dancer Lisa Milwe, holds the creative reigns.
"Hip Hop For Kids: Pop! Lock! and Break!" starts with simple warm-up steps, efficiently moving into tougher combinations. There is a contest for kids to send in their own moves, and the DVD is a real value because it comes with a CD soundtrack.
Sylvia says: A big A. The producers of this video promise to help you get fit and learn the freshest moves-I can't vouch for the freshest moves part, as I haven't learned a new dance since the hustle-but the exercise moves are right on.
Sylvia M. Ewing is a mom and a writer. She also is a producer at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio.