On song with fruit and veg

8th March 1996 at 00:00
Hotch Potch House, Age range 3-5, BBC2 Mondays 10.25am. Repeat Tuesdays 1.40pm.

Activity booklet, Pounds 2.

BBC Education, 0181 746 1111

This series of 20-minute programmes is aimed at the pre-school child or the post-voucher child, perhaps.

Like Sesame Street and many others since, Hotch Potch House is des-igned to be watched by children with parents or other adults and combines gentle light entertainment with some valuable early learning concepts.

Raggs, Woolie and Shelley are the puppet hosts, along with a family of mice living in the Mouse House in the skirting board. Each of the hosts has individual characteristics and moods, with which children will readily identify and from which they will hopefully learn.

Guest appearances from singing fruit and vegetables introduce concepts such as counting. This works well for each task, without being twee or condescending and successfully delivers targets.

Personal and social development is high on the agenda. There is a well-measured introduction to the big wide world and some nicely tuned core skills and concepts, such as phonics.

The early programmes establish a familiar pattern for later editions which move on to not-so-simple science ideas, such as flexibility, flight, water and temperature in a light and accessible style. The programme guide is succinct and makes it easy to support the programmes' flow of ideas.

Learning through play is promoted through creative activities and word play. The ideas are familiar, yet make good sense in the chosen context. There is an implicit realistic understanding that adults who are trying to manage young children are busy people. The booklet text and the programme includes the necessary cautionary notes on health and safety matters.

The producers' intention is to help provide a foundation for the first year of formal schooling, which they have successfully achieved by crossing that difficult boundary between education and entertainment.

Parents and professionals working in early years education should welcome the series as a useful new resource.

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