Our kids are growing up in a wireless world. There are not just television shows for kids, but entire networks devoted to children’s programming (with advertisements designed to reach our pocketbooks through them). Elementary school kids are texting each other. (By the way, the word “texting” makes my spell checker freak out.) Moms are now keeping online scrapbooks in the form of blogs and flickr sites. Young children log on to websites to set up rooms and play games to earn “money” to buy toys and furnishings for the cyberspace alter egos of their stuffed animals and dolls. They learn “keyboarding” in school. Laura can type with all of her fingers, faster than Tom. (I’m still the fastest in the house! Mwah ha ha!) When they want to know something, they ask us to Google it.

I’m not saying that I’ll be replacing quiet talks with my daughter or the good old-fashioned family meeting for dispensing words of wisdom and shaping social growth with an advisory notice posted on my website. But I am saying that my daughter is going to be paying close attention to messages that come to her in a format that holds her interest. And in today’s world, the delivery of the message that effectively reaches the smallest consumer is likely going to involve a screen and/or a pair of earbuds. When kids are out seeking entertainment in the wireless world, it will be up to parents to point them in the direction we want them to travel.

Here is a list of media recommendations approved by Laura that I think happen to contain valuable social messages:

1. Signing Time! DVDs

When Laura was three, she began attending a preschool in which 15-20% of the student population was comprised of children with special needs. Her friend Chelsea, diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, did not have speech; she required aids to hear, and Chelsea couldn’t always wear them. Laura’s friend Patrick, diagnosed with Down Syndrome, also relied on signing to communicate. Because it was important to Laura to communicate with Chelsea and Patrick, she chose to learn sign language. Once she’d exhausted the vocabulary of her preschool teachers and Chelsea’s and Patrick’s moms, Laura’s demand for more words led me to a series of DVDs from Signing Time! Laura mastered the first six Signing Time! DVDs before she was four, and then began to take weekly sign language classes, which she continues to this day. Since our first Signing Time! purchase, the folks over there have made lots more DVDs and music CDs (we have a couple of those too). Not only has Laura’s ability to sign enabled her to communicate with her special friends, she is learning a language that will fulfill her second-language requirement in high school and college. And, here’s the really cool part, with a few of the signs that I have learned from Laura, when the need arises, I can totally scold her from across a crowded room without raising my voice! Seriously, it is nice to be able to catch her eye in a Brownie meeting and be able to communicate, “Good job!” from the other side of the room.

Signing Time! is available over at Amazon, of course, but check out the Signing Time! website. The story of how the Signing Time! DVDs came about will put a lump in your throat and a smile on your face for the rest of the day.

Here’s a little excerpt to get you started:

In December of 1996, Rachel Coleman and her husband Aaron welcomed their first daughter Leah into the world. At the time, Rachel was writing music and performing with her folk rock band. They would take young Leah to band practices and concerts and were amazed that she was able to sleep in spite of the loud music. When she was fourteen months old, they discovered why: Leah is profoundly deaf.

Can you imagine being a musician and your child is born deaf? What was this mother’s response? Signing Time! And in so doing, her outreach was global. I encourage you to read their incredible story.

2. Rindin the Puffer

“Rindin” stands for “Respect Individual Differences.” This eight-minute animated short comes from the creative genius of Len Simon (Curious George, Fat Albert, among others). Rindin carries a socially important message delivered in a kid-friendly format. You can get the DVD on Amazon, but go to the CrocPond website and take a look the cast of characters coming your way. They were “created to inspire children of all ages to make wise choices and realize their full potential.”

Here is an excerpt from the CrocPond website about Rindin:

It’s RINDIN the Puffer! He’s an odd looking fish, with googly eyes and no chin! He has big buckteeth in his ridiculous grin! But what makes him different and unique most of all…is when he’s frightened; he expands…like a prickly beach ball!

As our story begins, three young fish make fun of Rindin for being different. However, when the same three fish get themselves into trouble with a hungry barracuda, Rindin inadvertently saves their lives. With a newfound respect for Rindin, they all become best of friends.

This 8-minute adventure encourages children to be creative, while helping them to recognize the value of tolerance and getting along. Bullying, disrespectful treatment, and separateness based on cliques, races and even gangs, have continued to plague schools. Rindin is an opportunity to entertain millions of kids of all ages, while helping them to see their peers in a positive new light.

3. Chris & Amy’s Movies in My Mind by Imagination Development Group

Laura loves these CDs; we bought them when she was in Kindergarten and downloaded them on my our iPod. When our Brownie troop enjoys “iPod stories” after everyone is tucked into sleeping bags before lights out, they are listening to Movies in My Mind (Chris & Amy are characters who experience the story). The Amelia Earhart story was a hit at our first sleepover! On the way back from a recent field trip with Laura’s school, five tired and hungry children listened quietly to the Thomas Edison story the entire way back to school. When the teacher asked me if the ride back was noisy, I could honestly say, “Not at all.”

Movies in My Mind can be purchased on Amazon, but check out the Movies in My Mind website to read a little more about these great CDs. Laura has all six of them, and has listened to them each numerous times.

Here is a bit of a description from the Movies in My Mind website:

As a constructive alternative to TV these award-winning CDs use detailed dialog, music and sound effects to create vivid stories that kids can “watch” with their eyes closed. This builds the learning skills children need to succeed in school, skills they lose when exposed to too much TV.

With age-appropriate vocabulary and historical stories, the Movies in My Mind series encourages kids to listen and create images better than anything they can see on TV. It encourages them to enjoy the theater of their own imaginations, and movies in their minds.

4. Buck Howdy & BB’s “Chickens” CD

Did I save the best for last? You bet.

Chickens is a Grammy-nominated album chock full of delightful original songs (like “Chickens”) and some happy covers (like “You Are My Sunshine”). Buck tells me (and, yes, this Grammy-nominated singer and musician communicates with his fans) that the reason Chickens appeals to my sophisticated taste is that Western Swing has heavy jazz and blues influences. And to that I say with great maturity: “Hee hee! Buck thinks I’m sophisticated!” Seriously, Buck & BB’s music bridges the generation gap, making it not just tolerable, but actually enjoyable to parents, even when kids do that thing they do and want to hear the same songs over and over again. When Laura does that with Chickens, I’m singing along too.

Not only is the music of Buck & BB appealing, the lyrics deliver inspirational, uplifting, and socially important messages. The song “Woulda Coulda Shoulda” is about making responsible choices. “Are You Havin’ Any Fun?” is about the importance of priorities and perspective. “Friends” is about unconditional love and the power of friendship. One of BB’s favorites is “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” which she says speaks to her of the importance of enjoying your environment, feeling what it is to “be,” and of respecting the time and space we all need to just play.

You can buy Chickens at Amazon and CD Baby, but do click right over to the Buck Howdy & BB website to see videos, hear music clips, and find out when Buck & BB will be in your neck of the woods. Guess what? Buck & BB will be appearing at the White House later this month. You can also find Buck Howdy on Noggin and XMKids. In addition to winning a Grammy nomination for Best Children’s Album in 2008, Chickens was named to the most prestigious top ten lists of children’s and family music in 2007: NPR, The Washington Post, and Newhouse News. And, of course, Blog This Mom! has shamelessly named dropped written about Buck & BB before: Here, here, here, and here.

Buck & BB on the red carpet at the 2008 Grammy Awards:

Dear Readers Reader: Do you have any favs to recommend?

13 comments on “List Day Eleven: Laura Recommends . . .”

  1. I love that you posted this.

    I’m definitely going to check many of these out.

    I just bought a CD for my kids that I listened to (as an LP, yikes) when I was a kid.

    It’s called “Music Machine: Fruit of the Spirit” and it’s chock-full of positive messages. It’s a little hokey at times and overtly religious, but the messages — about patience, self control, etc. — are endearingly presented and the music isn’t half bad.


  2. I’m right on that Signing Time bandwagon. My two-year old knows over 150 signs. I need some new episodes so that she can keep going!

    But better than learning the signs (which I highly value, btw), is some of the other lessons in the videos. I can tell Alexis, “What do you say when you want something?” and she knows the answer is “Please” thanks to one episode. Another has taught her to share, another to be compassionate about feelings. I love me some Signing Time1

  3. I signed with my son and we both loved it. He was able to communicate with me so much earlier.

    I have a kids mix on my ipod filled with music that I like and is also appropriate for kids. The Beatles are good like that!

  4. Wow. Thanks for the tips.

    I must admit, I’m pretty happy with Pre-Schooler TV Programming. Clearly a lot of thought and research has gone into the likes of Dora, Blue’s Clues, etc.. Kids are encouraged to “get up” off the couch and interact. It’s a far cry from say … oh I dunno going OUTSIDE and playing. But we’ve come a long way since the days of Tom & Jerry.

    I worry for the Sponge Bob days when they outgrow the KPBS shows, so this will be a good reference list for the future.

  5. I wish I had thought to avail myself of the signing videos so that my kids could have learned. Now I see all manner of toddlers who know how to sign and I marvel at how this not only helps communication with Special Needs kids…but also with parents at home.

  6. WE love signing times and my children and I have taken several sign language classes together. I specifically wanted us to learn this language for the reason you give at the end, I wanted to be able to talk to them in public without embarrassing them, or anyone else. My daughter had an issue with holding in her pee until she would wet herself. Once I was able to learn the sign for “go potty” I could tell her what to do and help without shaming her.

  7. I TOTALLY scold my kids (and my husband!!) from across the room with ASL. LOL! It’s just funny to put in writing! I’ll have to check out “Movies in my Mind”. Sounds really interesting! Thanks!

    BTW- I’m going to start teaching a signing class in May! I hope to use lots of Signing Times songs and ideas. 🙂

  8. So I commented on this post when you posted it last month, but I’ll add here that not only am I an official “Signing Times” lender, but my co-worker is friends with Rachel (they both have children with Spina Bifida) and we thought we might be able to get our son into one of the videos! Alas, that didn’t work out, but Rachel signed his picture all the same! 😉

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