Baby to Baby
Parents who believe in a complete ban on television for under-fives need read no further. For many of us, however, the flat screen in the living room provides vital entertainment while the main act recuperates with a cup of tea.
There is no shortage of children's DVDs to choose from, from Disney classics to four men prancing about in coloured shirts, which is why I held few hopes for a new low-budget DVD from Australia.
Baby to Baby is the work of Australian mother Jacquie van Santen, who noticed how fascinated babies were with other babies. She recruited 40 children who were filmed dressing up, painting, playing or simply wriggling their toes to original songs performed by acoustic folk singer Miranda Bradley.
The music is interspersed with short clips of animals or toys brought to life with human voice-overs. A French-accented ladybird is seen negotiating a grass blade. Later, wind-up caterpillars wriggle about chattering about how busy they are.
The result is strangely compelling. My four-year-old watched the whole 37-minute tape from start to end and was eager to play it again the next day. In our household, that qualifies as a resounding success.
The 11 songs are as simple as their titles suggest: Balloons, Autumn Leaves, Fingers and Toes, Building Blocks, and so on. There is no forced choreography; the children do what children do. During Baby Cha Cha, one bangs maracas together while another licks a tambourine. No adults appear at all and none of the children actually speak. Sound effects add extra interest.
I didn't want to like Baby to Baby. I'm not completely comfortable with the idea of entertaining a child by showing them images of other children having fun. Why aren't they the ones getting messy with paint? No child should have to live vicariously through television.
Then again, when typhoon warnings force the cancellation of classes and play dates, anything that fills the best part of an hour is to be welcomed. I'd go as far as to say the songs are quite soothing, although that may not be the case after a few dozen viewings.
The last song, Lullaby, is especially soporific. By the end of the track, all the children on the video are fast asleep. I could feel my eyelids getting heavy. Even if you don't watch the rest of the video, the last five minutes alone could work well as part of a pre-nap or bath-time routine.
Verdict: Reasonably guilt-free viewing if you need to plonk the little ones in front of the box.
Baby to Baby, A$19.99 (HK$155) from babytobaby.com.au; for further details, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org