This post has been updated and moved to the Right Brain Child. You can read it here:
While at the video shop, I stumbled across “March of the Dinosaurs” – a CGI documentary that follows the migration of a herd of Edmontosaurs to the south as they attempt to escape the harsh winter in the Arctic. Created by the makers of Walking with Dinosaurs, I figured Gavin would really enjoy it since he really liked the CGI documentary on the dinosaur extinction that was on at the Dinosaurs Alive program at the National Science Center. I also thought he might learn a bit more about dinosaurs from watching it.
When I told him about it, he was pretty excited to watch it. Perhaps there was a bit of a miscommunication because he kept asking me when the asteroid was coming to wipe out the dinosaurs. March of the Dinosaurs was set 70 million years ago so the extinction event was not due for another 5 million years. Nevertheless, the storyline was still entertaining enough and possibly a little too “scary” for Gavin who wanted me to fast-forward the scenes where the carnivours went after the herbivours. Perhaps if they hadn’t hyped up the suspense music, Gavin might not have been so scared.
The movie plays very much like a documentary from Animal Planet where we watch the activities of the dinosaurs while a voice over tells us what’a happening. It was an entertaining way to learn about the dinosaurs. I also liked that they featured the less common dinosaurs. Most dinosaur shows always go for the well-known dinosaurs – T Rex, Velociraptor, Triceratops – but in March of the Dinosaurs, they featured some of the lesser known dinosaurs:
As for how accurate the information about the dinosaurs were, I wouldn’t know since I’m no dinosaur expert. I decided to check out a few reviews on March of the Dinosaurs written by more knowledgeable individuals. Based on what I read, there were some gross errors, like the pliosaur living in a frozen lake (pliosaurs are reptiles, not fish, so they need to come up for air which would not have been possible if the lake was frozen over), and quetzalcoatlus being portrayed as a scavenger (an original hypothesis that was later rejected). Some of the behaviours of the dinosaurs were also based on conjecture and assumptions – fillers that were probably necessary for them to create a more complete storyline.
Archosaur Musings felt that as far as accuracy goes, March of the Dinosaurs is probably one of the more accurate dinosaur documentaries of this kind. However, if you want the top of the list for accuracy, then you should look for the original Walking with Dinosaurs series by BBC.
Everything Dinosaur labelled March of the Dinosaurs as a bit of a mixed bag.
Personally, I feel that there was enough accuracy in its portrayal to make the show a worthwhile educational experience. Like most other movies based on historical fact, the primary intention is to generate interest and awareness on the subject. Any further information can be sought out by the individual viewer according to the level of interest incited.
As far as Gavin is concerned, he is not keen to watch it again purely because of the “scary” scenes in the show. If I worried that the show has put him off dinosaurs, I can breathe a little easier because he has told me he now wants to watch a dinosaur movie about the extinction event.
Here are some videos from Youtube portaying segments from March of the Dinosaurs:
Recently, a friend told me about a new DVD series called Dinosaur Train by PBS. It’s a cute series that teaches children about dinosaurs and trains and a winning combination for Gavin who’s into trains and dinosaurs!
Here’s a brief description about the series:
Dinosaur Train embraces and celebrates the fascination that preschoolers have with both dinosaurs and trains. The series encourages basic scientific thinking skills as the audience learns about life science, natural history and paleontology. Each of the 40 half-hour episodes features Buddy, an adorable preschool age Tyrannosaurus Rex, and his adoptive Pteranodon family as they board the Dinosaur Train and embark on whimsical voyages through prehistoric jungles, swamps, volcanoes and oceans. The episodes include two 11-minute animated stories, along with brief live action segments hosted by renowned paleontologist Dr. Scott Sampson, that unearth basic concepts in life science, natural history and paleontology.
And a short clip from Youtube:
With all PBS programs, there are Dinosaur Train games for the kids and information and activities for parents to implement.
What do we think? Daddy is critical of the inconsistent facts. For instance, T-Rex would have eaten the Pteranodons for lunch rather than having lunch with them. And of course, dinosaurs don’t ride trains since trains didn’t even exist back then but hey, it’s a series for kids. Perhaps that is the downside of children’s programs.
I have been trying to help Gavin consolidate the differences between what he sees on TV and what he observes in real life. After watching the movie Rio, he has been asking me why Blu and Jewel and all the other birds on Rio can talk but the ones we see cannot. Is this akin to the practice of letting children believe in the tooth fairy and santa claus? Well, I’ve been careful to right that belief but in the meantime, if it feeds his desire to learn more, I’ll close my eyes on the little inconsistencies and address them separately.
What does Gavin think? He loves it. He likes it even better than Thomas and Friends! I think that says it all…
I was looking for some new books for Gavin when I stumbled across the Berenstain Bears series by Stan and Jan Berenstain which I thought looked pretty good. Since I haven’t actually read them, I can’t really say if they really are good, but I have two books on order – Berenstain Bears visit the dentist and Berenstain Bears go to the doctor – so I’ll follow up with a review once we’ve received them and read them. They were on the recommended reading list at the back of The Cat in the Hat Learning Library: Inside Your Outside so I figure they have to be fairly decent at least.
I thought the series was interesting because the books cover a whole range of topics that are great for teaching children about a variety of life topics. Here are some of the topics which I thought thought were pertinent to Gavin:
- Berenstain Bears forget their manners
- Berenstain Bears learn about strangers
- Berenstain Bears: Kindness Counts
- Berenstain Bears: Too Much Junk Food
- Berenstain Bears: Too Much TV
- Berenstain Bears: Bad Influence
- Berenstain Bears: Trouble with Money
- Berenstain Bears: Too Much Vacation
- Berenstain Bears: Too Much Pressure
- Berenstain Bears: Birds and the Bees
- Berenstain Bears: Bad Habit
- Berenstain Bears hug and make up
- Berenstain Bears new baby
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a reliable source locally (they were listed on the system as “out of stock”) so I had to purchase them online. They ended up being cheaper anyway based on the listed price since the Book Depository offers free shipping.
While I was searching for their book titles online, I also noticed that they had Berenstain Bears DVDs, too. Maybe we can look for those if Gavin enjoys the series. Check out the sample clip on Youtube on “Berenstain Bears: Too Much Junk Food“.
When it comes to stories about life, it is important to make sure that the stories focus sufficiently on the solutions so that the take home message is not missed by the child. One of the problems with such programs, as highlighted by Nurture Shock, was that many stories spent too much time setting up the conflict but too little time discussing the resolutions that all the children end up learning is the conflict even though the conflicts are all resolved at the end of the stories. Perhaps to reinforce the take home message, it is important to talk about the stories with your child after reading/watching the stories.
I have heard about Leapfrog DVDs for some time but never really took a look at them until I stumbled across one at a DVD shop. After reading so many positive reviews about them on parenting forums, I decided to give it a go.
I bought Numbers Ahoy thinking it would make Math more fun for Gavin. Never having done any research on the DVDs, I didn’t realise that Numbers Ahoy was only about counting from numbers 1 to 10. I figured he would like Leapfrog since we have a few of their talking products (Counting Pal, Phonics Radio, Hug&Learn Globe, Learn Along Piano, Alphabet Pal) which Gavin used to play with when he was a baby so the characters would be familiar.
I put the DVD on for Gavin (against some resistance since Gavin never likes trying new things) only to find that he was scared of the Pirate Octopus and didn’t want to watch the rest of it. Although he was quite absorbed up until that moment so perhaps there is hope for the other Leapfrog DVDs?
Since he can already read, the Leapfrog phonics DVDs are probably more for entertainment and reinforcement. What I was hopeful about was getting him interested in Math.
These are the other Leapfrog DVDs available (with Youtube previews) for those interested:
Although our experience with Leapfrog DVDs have been quite limited but they do sound quite promising. All the comments I have read about these DVDs have been very positive so they must be pretty good.
I did take a look at Numbers Ahoy myself (yes, I watched it through from start to finish without Gavin) and I thought it was pretty entertaining although somewhat basic especially for parents who have done early childhood Math programs with their kids like Doman Math, Shichida Math, or BrillKids Math. It would be interesting to see what the teach in the other Leapfrog Math DVDs though.
Guess with Jess is a relatively new television series that was brought to my attention by my BFF. Launched at the end of 2009, this series explores common science and nature questions posed by children aged 2-5 years old. Here’s a video detailing what it’s about:
What I like about Guess with Jess is that it encourages children to ask questions and to work out the answers rather than having the solutions handed to them. It promotes thinking, exploring and testing ideas out and it teaches children simple facts about science and nature. Like many of the newer Play House Disney programs, Guess with Jess has it’s own set of catchy jingles that children can sing along to.
Currently, there are 5 DVDs with 10 episodes each covering a wide range of topics, such as “Why do bees make honey?”, “Why won’t my kite fly?”, “Where have all the stars gone?” They should be retailing at most of the regular places selling DVDs. I’ve seen them available at Speedy, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Times Bookstore. I’ve also been told that these DVDs have been spotted at Popular Bookstore in Malaysia, and Isetan in Singapore.