Backyardagians: Sweet Lessons, Jokes, and Creativity

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The Backyardigans. From left: Tasha, Tyrone, Pablo, Uniqa, Austin

The Backyardigans reminds me that there is a Latino kid in my son’s preschool class who has a hard time communicating.  He doesn’t speak English, and even has issues with Spanish.  Most of the time he makes up his own language, and like a lot of kids with speech issues, he communicates with his body; he pushes and gets physical when he is frustrated.  I know the teachers are working extra hard to find him a place in class where he feels comfortable but he still gets in trouble frequently.  My son has spoken poorly about the boy, mostly because they are all 4, and he only sees a mean boy in class.  We have been struggling to explain to our son that the boy needs friends and that, if he can, he should try to communicate, to get past what he sees, and try to be kind.

Uniqua, Pablo, Tyrone, Tasha and Austin.  These are the kids in Backyardigans on Nickjr.  Except they are not kids, they are a penguin, hippo, moose, dog, and what may be an alien.  I’m just not sure about her and what she is supposed to be.  She has little curly antennae that I can only equate to a species not of this earth. However these kids could be any animal or creature and the show would still be just as inventive and charming as it is.  Each one is a different color and shape and the whole point is that they walk into their backyards, let their imaginations take over, and play.

Each episode is it’s own full fledge musical that starts with the kids coming out their back doors and starting an adventure.  One of the many things to love about the show is that it captures the simple way kids create.  The other day I came into my living room and found my son talking on the phone.  He was having an imaginary conversation with his best friend and what was obvious to me was that he had a whole plot happening.  There were other characters and things that I had no concept of, but he knew all, and had a whole world happening.  In the show when they start to adventure they go into an extensive musical that I often find has some reference to pop culture, something that parents will like, not too distracting, not Kung-fu Panda or Shrek, but enough to make an adult smile.

The kids are so charming and the musical numbers are so good that you begin to forget you are watching something for preschoolers.  I’m not sure about the the creators, but as someone who has a background in theatre, I had to wonder if the writers either have some education in musical theatre of the 40’s or are just obsessed with the medium.

One episode, based on the bad guys in fairy tales was almost all musical and let the entire 25 minutes revolve around what I consider to be a great Dad joke.  One of the kids becomes a paperboy and rides his bike into fairy tale land where he gets a flat tire and encounters, the big bad wolf, a witch, and the giant from the beanstalk.  Each one tries to help him in some way; the wolf wants to huff and puff and blow his tire up(though he only gets through huff and puff before the kid runs away) and have him for breakfast, the witch and the giant want to have him for lunch and dinner respectively.  That’s the joke.  Each one wants to do something nice, cook for him, but he only sees frightening characters who want to eat him, ones he knows from stories, but they actually just want to be friends.  It’s a simple funny joke that leaves kids with a great lesson about reacting to people you think you know.  When my son finished watching that episode, the first thing we did was talk about the boy in his class.  He took the lesson with him to school and is working on being a friend to the boy.  Whether it works I don’t know, but Backyardigans with it’s sweet lessons, jokes, and creativity, certainly helped.

Adults: ***

Kids: ****

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