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FAMILY : Videos to Get the Kids Off Couch

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Are you the parent of a pint-sized couch-potato-in-training? Or a “Calvin and Hobbes"-type live wire who never sits still? Whatever your offspring’s style, here are four highly engaging home videos that can get kids moving in the right direction. Moms and Dads too.

Topping the list are “Monkey Moves” and “Move Like the Animals,” two playful videos for ages 3 to 8 that are standouts in imagination, simplicity and child-development awareness.

In each, a group of four young children meet up with various animal friends (adults in costume) who show them such fun moves as how to stretch like a cat, jump like a frog, roll like a baboon, walk like a monkey and crawl like a caterpillar. Created by movement specialist Dr. Stephen Rosenholtz, the videos are unglitzy and easy on the ears and the on-camera cast is likable, without any overeager show-biz aggressiveness.

The easy-to-follow exercises, done to original jazz tunes, are nearly irresistible, even for grown-ups, and all the while what seems like play is teaching children the basics of balance, coordination and physical stability.

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The charming title and set watercolor illustrations and deceptively simple handcrafted masks by designer Yoshiko Fujita are a subtle plus.

* “Monkey Moves” and “Move Like the Animals,” Rosewood Publications, $19.95 each. (800) 223-7899. Running time: 25 minutes. *

“Everyone Can Dance Preschoolers” (ages 2 to 6) and “Everyone Can Dance” (ages 6 to 12) are more formal and may be less immediately understood, in that they teach specific dance steps, but there’s a large fun factor here too.

As professional dancer-instructor Linda Strickland swiftly guides a troupe of children through a musical workout that includes jazz and hip-hop, upbeat children’s songs about trains, ducks, frogs, colors and letters inspire short dance routines.

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Some of the energetic routines are easier to follow for the first time than others, but not difficult to do after a few tries--and Strickland’s encouraging words let viewers know they don’t have to worry about getting it right away. You might want to pause the tape to extend the brief stretching warm-up, though, or even modify it--Strickland uses a bouncing stretch technique that many exercise experts avoid.

* “Everyone Can Dance Preschoolers” and “Everyone Can Dance,” Cat Productions, $19.95 each through the “hand in hand” children’s catalogue, (800) 3-KIDSTV.


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