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My backyard friends: The Backyardigans

BackyardigansIf you haven’t heard of them already, chances are you will soon. The Backyardigans are slowly taking the preschool world by storm, and for good reason. I’m not a big fan of putting my kids in front of the TV, but my 4-year old seems to really need the downtime every now and then, so I concede. A couple of months ago, our TiVo helpfully recorded an episode of the Backyardigans. One day, we flipped it on and we were all very pleasantly surprised. The Backyardigans are a funny, sweet and friendly group of creatures who sing, dance and imagine their way through a wide range of adventures. My daughter has learned about vikings, pirates, secret agents, Egyptian pharoahs, medieval knights and even the yeti. I find that she brings elements from the show into her pretend play, but in very creative ways. Her already active imagination is infused with so many new characters and venues.

With names like Austin, Tyrone, Tasha, Pablo and Uniqua, this is a diverse group, and kids will learn a lot of really positive social skills from the interactions they see on the show. A lot of parents I’ve spoken to are impressed. The only real complaint is that they have only ever made 20 episodes. From what I’ve read, each episode requires a tremendous amount of work, from composing the songs to writing the lyrics to choreographing the dance routines using real dancers, to recording the songs and dialoges, to finally animating it all in rich, expressive computer graphics. But all that work pays off, so hopefully Nickelodeon will keep churning them out. You can catch episodes on a wide variety of channels each day. Check your local listings. At this point, all 20 episodes are also available on five DVDs. We’re working on bringing those into the store, but as always, you can find them on Amazon.com.

In response to the growing popularity, Ty has released a series of Backyardigans Beanie Babies. At the moment, the collection just incluldes Pablo, Tyrone and Uniqua, but I know one four-year old who is petitioning for Tasha to join the mix. I’m sure it’s not for everyone, and the theme song will start to give you a headache after repeated exposure, but I think the show has great values, so if you’re looking for something new to watch with your kids, give this a try.

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