Thursday, February 12, 2009

Get Your Grove On, Little One

Earlier this winter, the Swingset Mamas sent me a sample of their "Swing, Dance, and Sing" DVD, one Nick Jr. rated in its "best for preschoolers" gift category. I previously mentioned it in my holiday gift guide, but I thought I'd like to give it a more in-depth discussion now that we've watched it multiple times. Two sweet-voiced women with a passel of adorable kids have put together this DVD, which comes with a bonus CD with a sampler of just a few of their songs. The short, colorful videos for each song feature these Mamas in an incredible range of styles -- from zydeco to 60s mod to ballad -- singing about everything under the sun.

Everything that's good for you, that is.

More than just wholesome, this DVD is packed with useful lessons. There are songs about wearing sunscreen and eating your vegetables and reading books and tidying up and many other useful preschool habits. Interspersed among the lessons are sillier songs -- one which is a series of knock-knock jokes, for example.

I appreciated the gentle and widely varying music, the easy-to-understand lyrics, and their attempts to capture children's interest with lots of color, choreographed dance moves for kids to follow, and an overall very upbeat tone.

Frankly, though, I think this DVD is a little boring for adults. The songs are very simple, musically, and the quantity of teaching moments they manage to pack into each 3 minute melody is a little redundant for a grownup who is past the "it's fun to tidy up!" stage. On the other hand, I know I am not the intended audience for this DVD. And it did keep my nearly five and two-and-a-half year olds completely engrossed. Furthermore, compared to the children's bands I've heard that make me want to remove my own ears rather than be forced to continue listening any longer, the Swingset Mamas are a most welcome addition to the repertoire in our car CD changer.

The only complaint I have that is related to the intended viewers of this DVD is that most of the songs have a pace that is a little too slow to really get kids up and moving. Although my children found themselves singing along and waving their arms in imitation of the children on TV, their participation was more passive than I had hoped.

The mamas themselves are energetic and cheerful, and I love that they've included a bunch of singing, dancing, and bopping with kids on the DVD. I will definitely play this again (we've already watched it several times), and I will love it if the conversation we had about the song "Eat the Rainbow," for example, actually helps my kids eat more foods of every color. But I might turn to other more heavy-hitting dance tunes next time I need them to burn off a little steam.

If you are looking for simple, engaging music that isn't saccharine for your preschoolers, I would absolutely recommend the Swingset Mamas.

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