Aug 23, 2013

Top 12 Media Recommendations for Christian Kids - by guest blogger Tanya Dennis

Note from Kristina: 

Moms have a unique viewpoint when it comes to media. When my children have been watching secular television shows, for example, their behavior and attitude usually leaves much to be desired. But if we fill our home with Christian music, movies, and other media, I always notice their actions and words are much more Christ-like. 

With that in mind, I asked blogger Tanya Dennis for her recommendations on great Christian media for children. (Her kids are a bit older than mine, and I felt she had more experience in this area than me.) Her list is terrific; I think you'll find it just as helpful as I do.



Media surrounds us. Parents, especially those in the church, often bemoan the effects of the media on younger generations. Movies, music, video games…they all influence our children. Sometimes the impact goes almost unnoticed. Other times it’s quite obvious.

I remember our first day of public school. My then first-grader came home and insisted that she have shorter skirts. “My friends said the boys won’t like me if I don’t wear short skirts.” She said this pointing to a girl wearing a “Future Mrs. Beiber” t-shirt. I was horrified.

There is good news. The media can also to influence our children for good. Christian music and movies have long been criticized for inferior quality. This certainly is warranted in some cases, but we’ve come a long way, now offering highly competitive entertainment with a faith-based education. VeggieTales and Adventures in Odyssey are great, but sometimes you want something different.

As you strive to train your children consistent with your faith, consider these alternative resources. They have proven favorites in our home.

MOVIES

Read and Share DVD Bible [SERIES]: Based on the Read and Share Bible by Gwen Ellis (illustrated by Steve Smallman), this series offers animated vignettes of Bible stories. Most volumes include several pieces from both the Old and New Testaments. A few volumes focus only on certain holidays or stories, such as Christmas. I like this series because they’re peaceful, simple, and biblically accurate. They include a large cross-reference of stories, not just the over-done Sunday School ones.

Age Appeal: 5 and under
Total running time is 60 minutes per DVD.

On the Farm with Farmer Bob [SERIES]: Featuring the voice talents of Amy Grant and Vince Gill,
these videos use farm characters to teach and re-tell parables from Scripture. Many of these are also available in a “Literacy Edition.” These offer interactive bonus features that encourage and teach fundamental phonics and beginning reading skills, each focusing on specific letters or letter blends. My kids loved the quirky talking animals. I liked the applicable lessons taught.

Age Appeal: 4-8
Videos run 40-60 minutes in length, depending on the episode.

3-2-1-Penguins! [SERIES]: The creators of VeggieTales also produced this sci-fi series that teaches moral lessons based on faith. As twins Jason and Michelle travel throughout the galaxy with their new penguin friends they learn a lot about the fruits of the spirit, about friendship and how to live lives that honor God. Their grandmother always comes in at the end to share a memory verse and wrap up the lesson.

This is very, very similar in style to VeggieTales, but it appeals more to boys, specifically, and to older kids, generally. Only seven videos were made in this series, the last in 2008. My kids still think they’re hilarious, and I’ve caught them applying the lessons to their own situations.

Age Appeal: 5-10
Total running time is 30 minutes per video.

What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver [SERIES]: This is by far my favorite Christian video series for
kids. It was created by Phil Vischer, but has very little in common with VeggieTales. Instead of teaching morals or simple Bible stories, this series dives into theology and deeper questions about faith. It’s not just what we believe, but why we believe it, how we can know that it’s true, and what is its relevance to us today. These are crucial questions and I am so grateful to this series for helping me teach my children. As I’ve lent these out to friends and all have confessed how much the kids – and adults! – learn by watching them. Truly a fantastic series, complete with catchy songs, storytelling, animation, puppets and live characters. This series is also available as church curriculum.

The only criticism for this series relates to its interpretation of Creation. Phil Vischer mentions the “Big Bang” twice in the first episode. He does not discuss evolution or the age of the earth. Rather, he emphasizes that Christians believe differently about how long a “day” is and that the most important point about Creation is not “how” but “Who.” He acknowledges the dispute, but re-focuses the discussion on God as Creator rather than the specific way He created. Even with this, I cannot recommend the series highly enough.

Age Appeal: 6 and up
Total running time is 60 minutes. This includes two 30-minute episodes per DVD.


MUSIC 
I do not like children’s choirs or CDs. My kids listen to what my husband and I listen to. Their favorite songs come from Third Day, Jeremy Camp, and Jamie Grace. However, there are a few CDs we have purchased with them in mind.

The Go Fish Guys: Their tagline is “music for kids that won’t drive parents bonkers.” Well, I can get my fill, but as far as kids’ music goes, they’re definitely at the top. With pop sounds and intricate harmonies, they teach kids through songs like “Bible Book Bop” and “The Ten Commandment Boogie.” They even have an entire VBS program based on their albums.

Seeds Family Worship: These  CDs include 12 songs per disk, each one based on Scripture. It’s a perfect way to get God’s Word in their heads and hearts.

Note from Kristina: I'd also add the Hide 'Em In Your Heart CDs by Steve Green. They feature simple but pleasant songs that really get Bible verses into our heads. Green does a nice job of targeting verses that are especially helpful to children (like "children obey your parents in the Lord" and "when I am afraid I will trust in you")

In addition, if you're looking for audiobook CDs that aren't are Adventures in Odyssey, I recommend the Jonathan Park series, which focuses on Creation science.

TABLET APPS 

I’ve not found a ton of apps that I like. Honestly, most are pretty cheesy and not worth the money. Many that are really good – like Jesus Calling – are the same, both in content and price, as bound book versions. If given a choice between a traditional book and a tablet, I’ll always prefer the book for my kids. Here are a few tablet apps that we do like.

SuperBook by CBN: (Available from the Apple Store)This offers a number of educational activities for
kids. They can read the Bible (New Living Translation), view Bible profiles, take quizzes, play games or watch videos. Age Appeal: 7-10

Granny’s Bible Dojo: (Available from the Apple Store) Something like Fruit Ninja, this game features a karate-kicking grandmother who uses her dojo to teach the books of the Bible. Players must break the board in the right order to earn prizes. Mistakes will lead to bruised and eventually broken hands. My kids and I have fun with this one! Age Appeal: 5 and up.

The American Bible Challenge Game: (available for Kindle) This app provides a fun, fast-paced Bible trivia. Any questions that are missed get added to a Bible study section that users access at the end of each level. Not only does it challenge users’ knowledge, but it also teaches and helps fill the gaps with solid Bible training. Age Appeal: 8 and up.

The Bible App: (formerly called YouVersion; available for Kindle or Apple products) This app was not created for kids, but our kids use it. It offers Bible reading plans, several versions of the Bible and daily devotional encouragements. Age Appeal: 8 and up.

Your Turn: Tell me. What are your favorite multi-media tools for your kids? 


Tanya Dennis invites readers to pursue God in the dailies, even those seemingly mundane details of parenting and suburban life. She is a former contributor to Christian Children's Book Review and the author of Big Word Bible Studies, a series of in-depth explorations through the Old Testament. Learn more at her website: www.TanyaDennisBooks.com.


3 comments:

  1. What a great list! It's always scary to try out something new if you don't have a chance to check it out before investing money in it. A lot of these are new to me.
    I've been seeing the "What's in the Bible" series around on the web, but only promotional bits. I appreciate your candor on its weak points. Basic apologetics instruction is greatly needed by all of us and will only become more important by the time our kids are grown!

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  2. I would also recommend the Brinkman Adventures and Lamplighter Theater. Great Christian resources. One focused on a homeschooling family driven by missions. The other focused on great classic Christian literature.

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  3. Thanks for the recommendations, Tereza. One word of caution on the Lamplighter Series...some kids may find them scary. My 8 yr. old can't listen to some of them and there is no way my 4 yr. old could handle most of them, either.

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