Up to date information about children's entertainment – film, TV, DVD and more…. from founder and president of KIDS FIRST! Ranny Levy

Archive for March, 2010

4 Great Baby DVDs You Should Know About

Friday, March 26th, 2010
Baby videos have generated lots of discussion in the last couple of years, and rightfully so. Most of those that I see are just terrible. I wonder why indie filmmakers think they can simply film some pretty images, add music and believe that a baby will learn anything from it. It’s just not so. Even well known brands have been criticized for not being able to hold up to the educational claims they make. And, of course the AAP is well know for its stand on “no media for kids under the age of 2.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not proposing that you stick your infant in front of a TV screen, walk away and expect him or her to become the next rocket scientist in 20 years. But, let’s face it, sometimes a parent needs some alone time, to wash their hair, make dinner, or perhaps take care of another child. Here are four great DVDs from one of my favorite companies, So Smart, that you can feel good about putting your 1 to 3-year old in front of. And, with some interaction from you, they will learn.

So Smart: Baby’s First Word Stories – Get Dressed. We applaud So Smart for creating a sweet, easy to understand show for toddlers with simple stories, gentle rhymes, lovely production values and delightful, upbeat music. The narrator is easy to listen to; the characters are non-threatening. The DVD encourages participation by asking the viewer questions they can easily answer such as, “What words do you remember?” There are a series of short vignettes that address getting dressed, playing in the snow, playing with hats, umbrellas, and shoes. Repetition helps learning new words easier. The characters are very likable, they behave in friendly and caring ways. The stories portray simple things that a child might experience in life: a button falling off, the rain coming, the snow melting, a zipper breaking. Characters are shown dealing with these little inconveniences in such a way that we can see how easy it is to replicate. DVD. 30 min.; $15.99; Age: 1-3. ECHO BRIDGE HOME ENTERTAINMENT.

So Smart: Baby’s First Word Stories – House. In this DVD, your little one are introduced to simple words about objects in the home, and then build sentences and stories around them. The video encourages engagement and participation with its questions such as, “What sound is that?” “What words do you remember?” There are 4 vignettes: Bath time, Who’s Hiding in the House, Sounds in My House and Clean-up Time. The stories respect the fact that children can get dirty (while eating or painting) but lets children know its okay to get dirty and that one must later take a bath to clean up. The stories have gentle humor as the characters get dirty all over again even after they take their baths. Obviously well planned out for this age group, our kid reviewers loved it, learned new words and found reinforcement for social skills they are developing. DVD. 30 min.; $15.99; Age: 1-3. ECHO BRIDGE HOME ENTERTAINMENT.
So Smart: Baby’s First Word Stories – Nighttime. This DVD uses words that the children should already be hearing and mixes them with words that may be unfamiliar. When a parent or caregiver watches along and emphasizes the words in other contexts, then learning begins. The animal characters are very cute. The colors are bright but not over the top. The use of the music is thoughtful and suitable to the program and audience. Our two-year-old viewers stayed focused for the entire show, saying words for objects they knew. As each segment began, one two-year-old would say, “Oooh! More!” Our ten-month-old looked up now and then but was more interested in his toys than the DVD. The two’s enjoyed a second viewing as much as the first. One 22-month-old, who is more verbal than the 25-month-old, said words without prompting – from the beginning he said, “moon, star, night night, book, light, etc.” When the narrator asked, “Let’s see what we can remember…” they didn’t respond. But, when their parent asked the same thing, they did. Grasping the idea of someone onscreen asking a question takes a bit more maturity. DVD. 30 min.; $15.99; Age: 1-3. ECHO BRIDGE HOME ENTERTAINMENT.
So Smart: Baby’s First Word Stories – Outside. I really loved this DVD. Great music. Loved the piano music. Nice uses of pauses to catch a child’s attention. For example, pause then say “leaves fall” and then see them fall. The music is toe-tapping. Coloration is pleasant. Some infant DVDs are just blasting full of brilliant colors, this is much more subtle and thus, more enjoyable. Great use of repetition. Words are restated, then shown again with an image. The producers seem to respect that babies and toddlers need to have their attention caught, then caught again. The pause effect addresses this well. Good use of exercises to encourage memory skills for what was shown. This worked particularly well for slow learning children or a child who takes longer to express himself verbally. The activity guide that comes with it can be printed out and used to reinforce what has been watched. There is also a website to go to for more information about the video and the company. DVD. 30 min.; $15.99; Age: 0-4. ECHO BRIDGE HOME ENTERTAINMENT.
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The Blind Side – Inspiring Tale Based on a True Story

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

More movies need to be made that are like this film! It is a thought-provoking, uplifting movie that is highly entertaining. This is a great family film that you can enjoy with your elementary, middle school, high school and even college kids. Sandra Bullock is a spitfire as Leigh Anne Touhy, a well-to-do wife and mom, with a compassionate heart. The film is based on the true story of the gentle, giant–Michael Oher, a homeless black teenager, who is taken in by the affluent Leigh Ann and her family and who eventually, with his new family’s encouragement, becomes a football star! Oher is currently playing in the NFL. The acting is great, especially on the part of Sandra Bullock, who won an Oscar as Best Actress for this role. The story is skewed towards the positive of what was going on, but it isn’t syrupy. The film inspires and make one feel hopeful about the world at large. There is no sex or graphic violence, just a super interesting story and some good filmmaking. Sit back, relax and enjoy. We recommend this film to families, and particularly those interested in sports.

Here is what our kid juror had to say about it: Loved it. I liked EVERYTHING about the film. The characters made you root for them. The story made me feel good about trying for a good future. The filming was good because you would forget you were watching a movie. The acting and the words they used were great and meaningful. The scenes and sets were so real feeling I forgot I was watching a movie. The costumes were great too. I liked how Big Mike first picked striped shirts that made him look like a big bumble bee. They used the costumes to show different life styles. You got to know everybody like family. My favorite part was the sports action scenes. Especially when Michael pushed the bully over the wall. I like the scenes where Michael suddenly realized he could do it and got really great at football and how surprised the other team was and how happy his team was. I would recommend this film to friends. And I did recommend it to friends and family and they liked it too because it’s a very meaningful movie and it’s a true story. It is for kids age 10 and up because of a little bit rougher scene with a group of guys Michael used to hang out with and I think really little kids wouldn’t understand the story. But for 10 and up they will love it, even grown-ups. It is a family kind of film.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Love the Book; Love the Movie!

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Lauren Boxer, an 11-year-old fan of the books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and a friend of KIDS FIRST! screened the film for us earlier this week. Here’s her review:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid shows us wimpy is cool and in style. You may say, “no it isn’t” but you are wrong. It shows us the ups and downs of middle school and trust me, it is all in there. One thing I was disappointed about before I saw it was it wasn’t animation. But now, I am standing corrected. Zachary Gordon is actually what I would imagine Greg Heffley would be in real life. This is a movie I definitely recommend and Thor Freundenthal (director), Jackie & Jeff Filgo (screenwriters), and last but not least, Jeff Kinney (the book’s author and executive producer) all did a great job.http://www.fandango.com/diaryofawimpykid_126395/moviephotosposters/244214
Here is a review from our partners at Moving Pictures Magazine: http://www.movingpicturesmagazine.com/Reviews/tabid/59/entryid/3300/Diary-of-a-Wimpy-Kid.aspx
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Let’s Make the Most of This Beautiful Day

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

March 20th would have been Fred Roger’s 82nd birthday, and we’re celebrating his legacy on our third annual Won’t You Be My Neighbor Day. You can join in by wearing a sweater and doing something neighborly.

Participants so far include knitting stores, libraries and preschools who are creating to celebrate some of the many ways we are all neighbors – helping one another, reaching out to meet a new neighbor, making something special to give to someone, and saying thank you. Many cultural institutions will be celebrating by offering free or reduced admissions to children and families.

The United Way of Allegheny County, is using Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Day as a way to kick off a “commitment to volunteer” effort, as well as to say thank you to their volunteers. The day’s activities will include volunteer fairs at corporations and community sites, where agencies will be available to promote volunteer opportunities.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Day gives everyone the opportunity to say ”Thank you” to your neighbors, — for  their ongoing support of your work and is a great way to honor Fred Rogers’ legacy.

As Fred often said “thank you” are the two most important words in the English language. For more information, go to http://www.fci.org/e-newsletters/March-2010/neighbor.html

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Trading Popcorn for Peaches at Cinemas Encouraged by Sony Pictures Exec

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
Sony Pictures Entertainment Chief Executive Michael Lynton called on the nation’s biggest circuits to think about the waist lines of their customers, not just their own bottom lines. In a speech at the nation’s largest theater convention in Las Vegas,… Full Article at Los Angeles Times
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Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

I recently discovered these great educational apps on iTunes for my iPhone. They are really well done, the kids love them and they provide entertainment that teaches in a mobile platform. If you have an iPhone and a young child or grandchild like me, check them out! 

PBS KIDS announces two new iPhone and iPod touch apps, SUPER WHY! and PBS KIDS Photo Factory are now available on the App Store. SUPER WHY! and PBS KIDS Photo Factory join the successful lineup of PBS KIDS apps, including Curious George Coloring Book, Martha Speaks Dog Party and Mister Rogers Make A Journal, all designed to enable children and parents instant access to innovative educational content supporting childhood development, including social emotional development, artistic expression, language development, and reading skills.
“These apps empower children to explore the world around them with guidance from their favorite PBS KIDS characters,” said Lesli Rotenberg, SVP, Children’s Media. “They also provide parents and caregivers with a new way to foster learning anywhere, anytime and help their children reach their full potential.”

“PBS transformed television into an instrument for teaching and learning a generation ago, and now we’re blazing new trails in digital media with iPhone and iPod touch,” said Jason Seiken, SVP, Interactive. “We’re constantly experimenting with ways to use media to engage users of all ages with new experiences and opportunities to learn something new.”

The SUPER WHY! App helps children achieve the power to read with four SUPER WHY! interactive literacy games in addition to a virtual sticker book. Children can play along with each of the four main characters from the TV series: Alpha Pig, Princess Presto, Wonder Red, and, of course, Super Why, while practicing the alphabet, rhyming, spelling, writing and reading.

The SUPER WHY! App was developed as a part of PBS KIDS Raising Readers, a national initiative which uses the power of public media to build the reading skills of children ages 2 to 8, with an emphasis on children from low-income families. The effort is funded by a Ready To Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education, part of a cooperative agreement with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), PBS and The Ready To Learn Partnership.

PBS KIDS Photo Factory
The PBS KIDS Photo Factory App makes it simple to bring favorite PBS KIDS characters along on any adventure, featuring art from 11 PBS KIDS series that can be added to any family photo, as well as localized tune-in information for featured series. Photos can be shared via iPhoto, e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter. Kids can also take part in the fun with this safe and easy-to-use app, arranging art from favorite series ARTHUR, CAILLOU, CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG, CURIOUS GEORGE, DINOSAUR TRAIN, DRAGON TALES, FETCH! WITH RUFF RUFFMAN, SESAME STREET, SID THE SCIENCE KID, SUPER WHY! and WORDGIRL.

The SUPER WHY! App is available for $2.99 and the PBS KIDS Photo Factory App is available for free from the App Store on iPhone and iPod touch or at www.itunes.com/appstore/.

For more information on PBS Kids apps please visit http://pbskids.org/mobile/.

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