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Video & DVD Review:    So Smart! Videos & DVDs

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The So Smart! series of videos and DVDs are original videos for small children. They are probably best for families on the fence about whether they want their kids to watch too much TV, simply because they are quite low-key and they encourage parental participation. They're also appropriate for families who already own and enjoy videos designed for babies, as a change of pace and to add variety to their collection. Children can watch them without parental involvement, of course. However, these videos are less stimulating than many on the market simply because they don't change pace frequently. Some parents will appreciate their gentleness; others will want a little more action.

So Smart! Colors (Video/CD-ROM set)

This video attempts to introduce young children to the world of colors through simple stories and animation. First up is the color green: a green grasshopper finds a green "hill", only to discover that it's actually a turtle. The turtle and grasshopper become friends and explore more green things. Similarly simple stories are featured for the rest of the colors -- a purple fish who loves to make bubbles, a yellow lion and a yellow bird, an orange tractor that is trying to move a big pile of orange dirt, and so forth.

The included CD-ROM doubles as an audio CD that parents can use in the car or at home. There are 3 simple activities featured in the CD-ROM game. Clicks of the mouse or taps on the keyboard will elicit onscreen responses. There's a "musical jukebox" featuring the same gentle instrumentals we hear in the video; a "pop the box" game for each featured color; and a building game in which each tap or click pulls up a new shape that expands and contracts before falling into place. See the screenshot at left to get an idea of what kinds of familiar objects children build in this latter game. 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: So Smart! Colors with CD ROM]

So Smart! Colors DVD

The DVD edition of So Smart! Colors is as above, with some bonuses, including a bonus audio CD of child-friendly classical music. Total runtime (including interactive games) is 120 minutes.

The interactive games that are found on the CD-ROM in the video set are included on the DVD edition--parents can interact with them using the remote control. For example, in the activity with the "pink pig" pictured above, caregivers select a color and then each press of the "play" button on the remote control triggers a shape to appear onscreen. Subsequent presses of the button effectively "build" the object (in this case, the pig is the completed object in the "pink" activity).

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: So Smart - Colors (DVD edition)]

So Smart! Letters (Video/CD-ROM Set)

This video is a simple, but artistic, presentation of the letters of the alphabet. Each uppercase letter is shown along with an object or verb that starts with the letter. The letters and objects glide and dance across the screen. In one vignette, a large letter N almost fills the screen, and then the background fills with black and stars appear to represent night time. Eventually, the N grows smaller, a moon appears, and the word "night" is spelled out. In the next, many letter "O"s move up the ocean-blue screen, and then an octopus appears. Throughout the video, black-and-white patterns are frequently used--presumably to appeal to the very young.

The video provides classical music as the audio backdrop. The letters are not named, so caregivers will need to be on hand to interact with children and talk to them about what the see on the television screen. When used along with adults, this video can be an effective learning tool. 

The learning has two levels: for children just learning to recognize letters, their appearance in this video will help with cognition; older children will be able to associate the letters with objects and words.

The CD-ROM included with the video also doubles as a CD that will play in an audio CD player. It features a handful of activities based on the images in the video. Again, the letters are not named except for in the "Alphabet Story Cards" activity. The design seems to intentionally include parents.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: So Smart! Letters with CD-ROM]

So Smart! Letters DVD

The DVD edition of So Smart! Letters is as above, with some bonuses. For one, the interactive games can be played on the TV or the computer. Also, a bonus 50-minute classical music CD is included.

The interactive games that are found on the CD-ROM in the video set are included on the DVD edition--parents can interact with them using the remote control. For example, in the activity pictured above, caregivers select a letter and then each press of the "play" button on the remote control triggers an object that begins with the selected letter of the alphabet to appear onscreen. Subsequent presses of the button prompt the objects to glide away and new ones to appear from the box.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: So Smart - Letters (DVD edition)]

So Smart! First Words (Video/CD-ROM Set)

This video is a vocabulary builder for the very young. Kids are treated to simple stories about 30 familiar objects through narration and animation. Like the other videos above, the animations are quite basic but eye-catching. There are no sudden changes or unpleasant surprises to be found--just tiny stories about bears, birds, and shoes (and more)!

Gentle music and narration make up the audio portion of this video. Although the narration is clear, we wished it was slightly more expressive.

All the same, this video is ideal for families with young children, especially for caregivers who participate with their children as they watch.

The CD-ROM included with the video also doubles as a CD that will play in an audio CD player. The activities are similar to those found in the above videos--kids get to "build" objects they've seen in the video, one shape at a time; listen to music; and click or tap the keyboard for surprises popping out of boxes.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: So Smart! First Words with CD-ROM (video/CD-ROM)] 

So Smart! First Words DVD

The DVD edition of So Smart! First Words is as above, with some bonuses. The activities can be played via the TV or the computer, and a bonus CD featuring "sleepytime" classical music is included.

The interactive games that are found on the CD-ROM in the video set are included on the DVD edition--parents can interact with them using the remote control. For example, in the activity pictured above, caregivers select a themed box (in this case, "what's inside?") and then each press of the "play" button on the remote control triggers an object to appear from out of the box. 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: So Smart - First Words (DVD edition)]

Series Pros:
  • Excellent for promoting parent/child interaction.
  • Plays much like a "moving" picture book.
  • Original music played on "real" instruments rather than toys.
  • Soothing and gentle.

 

Series Cons:
  • Gentle pace may not be stimulating enough for alone time.
  • Those who prefer live-action video for their young children will not appreciate these videos' animation-only format.

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Published: 2001/2002 By: The Baby School Company Ages 1-3  
 

 

Our Rating:

A

 
Reviewed September 2002   Comments? Email us.
 

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