By Judy Antell

'eebee' Talks to Toddlers

  |  Movies & Entertainment  

While some studies recommend no television for toddlers, the reality is that kids will watch TV and DVDs. So parents have to choose content wisely. eebee’s adventures, created by New Yorkers, is a new DVD series that is based on the concept “every baby learns by doing.”


Don Burton (left) and Stephen Gass with their friend, eebee.

Co-founder Don Burton, who lives on the Upper East Side, and who created A-Ha! Learning Partners play centers for kids up to age 4, is the father of two; Upper West Sider Stephen Gass, also a co-founder, is a child psychologist who was an executive at Sesame Street. The company’s goal, says Gass, is for parents to “use the screen in a healthy, responsible way.”

Each eebee story is 10 minutes long — “a reasonable amount of time for young kids,” Burton believes. Each half-hour video (from Sony Wonder, $17.95) has three segments: There’s Exploring Real Stuff!, for 6 months and up, with “Brimming with Ideas”, “Out of the Box”, and “On a Roll”. All in a Day’s Play, also for ages 6 months and up, has “Laundry List”, Just You and Me”, and “Little Objects Big Ideas”. Figuring Things Out!, for 12 months and up, has “The Lightbulb Goes On”, “Blocks and Tackling Ideas”, and “On the Go”. The “adventures” are either open-ended play or a series of play patterns, and cover such concepts as taking turns, solving problems, creative expression and dramatic play — scaled right down to the toddler learn-by-doing level.

The videos feature a mix of adults, kids (Burton’s 5-year-old son is seen in the videos; he also has a 3-year-old) and the colorful, animated eebee. The videos, shot in New York, are learning experiences for parents and toddlers. Babies watch a rolling ball; this builds to eebee rolling a ball, then babies on screen rolling balls. The idea is that babies at home will be encouraged to push the spherical object in front of them. And parents are privy to the baby’s point of view, the thought process that goes behind a baby seeing a ball, and being able to use it.

The rolling ball concept is further expanded when ramps are introduced, along with balls with holes or different textures. Ramps can be bumpy or smooth, and balls rolling down ramps can be used to knock things down. Sometimes, a ball is not just a ball!

Burton emphasizes that videos do not replace “getting down on the floor and playing with a kid,” but says the eebee videos can help parents support infant and toddler play. The classic play patterns — scooping, dumping, pouring — are all doable at home, he points out, and parents need to learn to “savor classic moments.” Gass adds, “This is joyful play, relaxing, less pressure.”

A plush version of eebee was just launched at FAO Schwarz and eebee videos are going to be released in Spanish. In addition to the three already out, new videos in development include a focus on water play, and different ways to read to a baby. For more information, go to www.eebee.com.

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