Friday, November 06, 2009

Wonder Pets. Yes, the Wonder Pets.

Seeing as how I'm posting every day in November, I now can feel justified in wasting, I mean, writing a post about the Wonder Pets. Not just about the Wonder Pets, but about how much I freaking love the Wonder Pets. Which apparently, is a very odd thing amongst parents.

I can't help myself though. Ever since Noggin changed their schedule to put Yo Gabba Gabba on right in the MIDDLE of Little Bird's naptime (for which I will never forgive them and will remain bitter forever), the only thing we have watched on TV is Wonder Pets (and the occasional Sesame Street). Bird loves it so much, and he knows that it comes on at the end of our day. When we've finished our afternoon errands, or if he sees me starting dinner, he starts asking for "Pets! Pets! Pets!" And I don't mind letting him watch it.

The music is wonderful. The three Wonder Pets, a guinea pig, a duckling, and a turtle, are voiced by children who sing, like children. While that might sound like a stupid statement, just take a step back and think about all the kids you hear singing on Disney or even on the Backyardigans (granted, I've only heard two songs from that show, but the two I heard were enough). The kids singing on those show are not using their pure voices. It sells, but it's not natural, and it's not good for their voices in the long run.

There is no pitch correction or auto tuning. They don't scoop or sing through their noses. It's just lovely little kid voices who sing in tune most of the time.

They sing a lot. Most of the show is sung, and is in the style of an opera. A good bit of the dialogue is done in recitative, and the music is recorded by a live orchestra. As in real people playing real instruments. As in, no midi. Hoorah.

Even though the style of the show is modeled after opera, the different adventures the Wonder Pets have leads to different styles of music. Today, Bird and I heard the blues and Broadway in two episodes. We've heard reggae and jazz, and my favorite was the dinosaur episode when they used chant like music with lots of open fifths. It was brilliant.

Finally, there is plenty of repetition for learning. But even though the Pets sing mostly the same thing at the beginning of every episode, there are usually subtle changes within the songs. Maybe the duck will sing what the turtle usually sings. Maybe they will change a word at the end of a phrase. Maybe they will sing things a little bit out of order.

These subtle changes are training Bird's ears. He can sing most of the Wonder Pets main theme song with me, but if you watch him closely while the show is on, you'll see him actively listening for the changes. It's pretty cool, and it works too. If you have ever learned music with a toddler, you know that the first thing they give back to you is the last word of the phrase. They also start picking up on the rhythm. By subtly changing these elements, Bird's ears are being challenged, and he is learning to recognize musical patterns. If you simply tap out the rhythm to their mantra, "What's gonna work?" without words or pitches, he knows to call out "Teamwork!" That is cool.

Of course, the fact that Bird and I have been going to Music Together classes since he was seven weeks old has something to do with how quickly he picks up on the musical aspects of the Wonder Pets. Our time in the car is spent listening to those Music Together CD's, practicing rhythm patterns, pitch patterns, and speech patterns. That, and just having a good time singing. I really do believe that the best thing I can do to be developing that little brain of his is to be teaching him through music and reading.

Yeah, I'm a little obsessed with exposing my children to music. I don't play Mozart at bedtime (or anytime actually), and I don't put on Bach during dinner. But at 21 months, Bird can identify a piano, a violin, a guitar, and drums by sound alone. He can keep a steady beat for about two measures. He can match pitch. He knows several songs, and the last words of phrases for dozens more. I think he's doing great.

So I confess, I love the Wonder Pets. What can I say? I'm also just a sucker for a cute guinea pig.

Just in case you were wondering, which I highly doubt you were, I received no compensation for this sappy love letter to the Wonder Pets. However, if Nickelodeon were to feel enough gratitude to send us a flyboat with the bobble head Wonder Pets in it, I wouldn't turn it down. Bird's crocodile tears when we left Target without it today were almost too much to resist.