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Sesame Workshop Launches Series for Babies, Toddlers

30 Mar, 2006 By: Anne Sherber

Sesame Workshop, the foundation that produces “Sesame Street,” in partnership with nonprofit Zero to Three will release “Sesame Beginnings,” a DVD series that targets children aged 6 months to 3 years and their parents and caregivers.

The series will help parents and caregivers encourage children's curiosity and interest in learning through everyday interactions, according to Gary Knell, president and CEO of Sesame Workshop.

The first two titles in the series, Beginning Together and Make Music Together, feature baby versions of the Sesame Street Muppets and will be available April 4 at $14.95 each.

Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, VP of education and research for Sesame Workshop, said the series differs from other DVD series targeted at early childhood.

“These programs were created with the parent or caregiver in mind,” she said. “ They have very slow pacing and a limited number of edits.”

Additionally, the programs have been designed with the idea that parents and caregivers will watch with children. “Many early childhood videos are designed to let a parent take a shower while the child watches the program alone,” noted Dr. Lewis J. Bernstein, EVP of education and research for Sesame Workshop.

Knell said Sesame Workshop undertook the project with the understanding that it would attract some controversy. “We are, of course, aware of the American Academy of Pediatrics' position that children under the age of 2 should not watch television,” he said. “We are also aware of research that shows that 68% of toddlers are watching up to two hours of TV every single day — and not baby videos. Many children are watching programming that is not appropriate. Even ‘Sesame Street' is not designed for children under 2. Our children are viewing TV for better or worse. So we decided to do something.”

The two foundations moved ahead cautiously, according to Heather Hanssen, Sesame Workshop's director of worldwide video and audio publishing. “Our late entry into the category is because we spent three years on research and development,” she said.

Hanssen said that the DVD includes a complete Spanish-language track, which is a first for any “Sesame Street” video. She said that there is also a “researcher's cut” that expands on the educational theories behind the programming.

Jim Wilson, EVP and general manager for home entertainment at Sony Wonder, which distributes the line, said the label has set up special retail programs at both Wal-Mart and Target. Retailers are very excited about the product and that they don't feel that category is too crowded, he said. He said retailers believe that this line will be able to compete with the “Baby Einstein” brand and that the competition will allow the category to expand.

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