Learning With a Beat
The concepts of freedom, democracy and patriotism are not easy for young children to grasp. But in light of the renewed feelings of national pride inspired by the events of Sept. 11, 2001, many youngsters are talking about what being an American really means. The animated video Mini Maestro Presents America the Beautiful (The Little Fiddle Company Inc., 888-678-5636, $14.95, ages 3 to 7) opens the door on the topic by introducing some of “what America stands for” – everything from the concept of freedom of speech to presidential elections.

Mini Maestro, a tiny, tuxedoed conductor with an unruly head of rainbow-hued hair, leads the way to various U.S. monuments and natural treasures, while tunes such as “Yankee Doodle” and “America the Beautiful” play. Segments featuring school children discussing what they appreciate about their country appear throughout. Although the inclusion of historic dates and definitions would have been helpful, this fast-paced outing will no doubt prompt some valuable family discussion.

On a lighter, but-no-less-meaningful note, Rock ’n’ Learn: Nursery Rhymes (Rock ’n’ Learn/Big Kids Video, 800-477-7811, $14.95, ages 2 to 5) serves up life lessons, Mother Goose-style. Kindly Mother Goose, along with her children Sister Goose and Brother Goose (who plays electric guitar to “jazz up” many of the favorite rhymes performed here), presents more than 40 of her best-known works. A few original tunes and some structured banter among the various songs and animations encourage children to be careful, polite and considerate. Colorful vignettes reinforce these themes. Now, anyone who didn’t realize it before will know that Humpty Dumpty should not have been climbing a high wall without adult supervision.

See more Video Round-Ups.

Shannon Maughan is a freelance writer and editor specializing in children’s media.

From United Parenting Publications, February 2002.