Seed kids’ imaginations with these DVDs

Video - April 2006


Sylvia M. Ewing

It happens to all of us: The moment when we look at our children and realize that they are growing up. In fact, it happens many times, at milestone moments such as the first word, first step, first day of school and first time away at camp.

Then things get really serious with the first time behind the wheel and first days in college. Yes, my friends, it happened to me. And you know what? I can look back on the fullness of time and see things more clearly, things that I may have been too busy to fully appreciate at the time. For example, I see how the games we played when my children were small helped shape the interests and talents that they have today. One of the best things we can do for our children is to encourage their imaginations to flourish.

This month’s selections share a special connection to imagination: from Charlie Brown’s rich inner musings to the heroic imagination of Caillou to the way storytellers allow us to create pictures in our minds. Imagination today makes a young author, filmmaker or scientist of tomorrow, so enjoy it on the screen and in the everyday activities of your children.

A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN, rated G, 2006, $14.99 DVD; ages 5-12.

"If you use your imagination you can see lots of things in the clouds." And so begins the very first of the legendary Peanuts animated series. Talk about nostalgia.

True to form, the first lines come not from Charlie, but from his nemesis, Lucy. Everything we have come to love is here, from the jazzy musical score by Vince Guaraldi to the brainy antics of Schroeder and the baseball diamond where a fastball pitch tends to spin our boy Charlie up, around and right out of his clothing.

Charlie’s worries, wonders, hopes, fears and imagination play a big role in all of the stories, whether he’s flying his kite or playing baseball.

Sylvia says: A-. Slow, sweet and yet more realistic than anything created today. The doctor is in!

STORYWATCHERS CLUB: KEYS TO IMAGINATION! not rated, 2006,, (877) 786-7998, $19.95, DVD; ages 5-12.

The premise of "StoryWatchers Club" is simple: Different storytellers perform before a studio audience. The result is back-to-basics, imagination-fueled fun.

The storytellers are unique.

My favorite is a husband-and-wife team, Bob and Kathy Myers, who use a balloon and really funny facial expressions and acting to get the most laughs and response from the audience. Others use aids such as paper folded into origami and a cat’s cradle string to enhance their stories.

Puppets are less engaging. I had the misfortune of screening this video after reading an old issue of The New Yorker about black-faced minstrels, and I have to tell you, the pink lips on the African-American puppets really weirded me out. I also found the overly exaggerated accent on the Latino puppet rather stereotypical and somewhat off-putting.

Still, I recommend "StoryWatchers Club." The intent is positive and the overall production is fun and has won numerous awards

Sylvia says: B. The concept is great. A little more cultural sensitivity for the puppets of color and you’ve got a hit. I look forward to the next one.

CAILLOU: CAILLOU, THE EVERYDAY HERO, not rated, 2006, $14.99 DVD; ages 2-5.

Caillou, the everyday hero, uses his imagination to help his little sister, Rosie, get to sleep when she is cranky from teething, to become a firefighter and to drive tow trucks and cranes.

The way Caillou nurtures his little sister is also really healthy and quite progressive. I know this is a title many families already love from PBS, but it certainly deserves a second look at home.

Sylvia says: A+. Let’s hear it for a hero who uses a car seat.

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

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