What started out as whimsical songs to help her 3- year-old son overcome a severe speech delay turned into a collection of educational DVDs that uses hip-hop music to teach early learning concepts.

Oak Park native Candi Carter created It’s Hip Hop, Baby in 2006 using kid-friendly hip-hop beats to help children learn their alphabet, body parts and colors. The DVD, which targets toddlers and preschoolers ages 2 to 6, uses play and music to help children reach developmental milestones like counting to 10 and recognizing animal sounds.

“Everything in the videos are stuff that toddlers need to learn,” said Carter, an Emmy award-winning television producer.

Now Carter will release three new DVDs and companion music CD under her It’s Hip Hop, Baby line. The new series will hit major retailers on March 17. The new product line includes It’s Hip Hop, Baby! Get Healthy Get Fit; It’s Hip Hop, Baby! Things We Do Everyday; It’s Hip Hop, Baby! Rockin’ Dance Party; and the CD It’s Hip Hop, Baby! Fruit.

Carter never set out to create an educational DVD. It grew out of necessity. Her son, Emerson, now 5, is developmentally delayed and communicating grew increasingly frustrating for both mother and child.

But when she began drumming out nursery rhymes on her kitchen countertop to hip-hop beats, Emerson responded. Soon her son began recognizing his colors, some numbers and trying to sing his ABCs.

“My son would scream, literally, all day,” Carter recalled. “He would scream, because he was frustrated and couldn’t communicate. The minute I started beat boxing the ABCs … he completely responded. I kept making up songs to help him transition and learn a little bit faster.”

Eventually she amassed a collection of songs about everyday activities like riding the school bus, taking a bath or naptime, which became the soundtrack for the first It’s Hip Hop, Baby DVD. It also included classics like the alphabet song and “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” set to cool hip-hop beats.

The DVD was widely received by parents and even garnered some celebrity endorsements, including actress Holly Robinson-Pete. It also won the iParenting Media Award, a consumer award for toys and video games in 2007. Carter considers herself blessed since many producers rarely achieve this level of success.

“Literally this whole project started because I couldn’t talk to my son,” she said. “But what is great is the letters from parents, [who] are just so excited to use this with this children.”

Carter was not trying to re-invent the wheel with her DVD. She just improved on an old idea of setting educational concepts to music. She noted children already sing their ABCs and, thanks to School House Rock, a defunct Saturday morning educational television program, children “know how a bill makes it through Capitol Hill.”

“What’s new is taking this very popular genre of music and using it to educate toddlers and to reinforce what they already know,” said Carter, who also has an infant daughter, Lily, and is a producer on a nationally syndicated Chicago talk show.

The new DVD series focuses on eating healthy and exercising, hand-eye coordination and balance. There is also a segment called “Hip-Hop Simon Says,” which teaches kids how to follow simple instructions. Many of the DVDs educational concepts come from her son’s kindergarten curriculum. Carter also consulted a nationally known pediatrician in designing the DVD.

“If a parent is going to buy the video, they want to know it is going to be beneficial to their child,” she explained, adding that the DVD is effective for all children, including special needs children.

While her son inspired the DVD, Carter noted many mothers are sitting on solutions that could help other mothers and their children, but just don’t know it yet. She called those mothers, mompreneurs.

“A lot of mothers are in positions where they see a problem and they have a solution, but they are too fearful to make it happen, and I say, ‘Just do it.'” Be that mompreneur,” Carter said.

To learn more about Carter’s work, visit her Web site at www.itshiphopbaby.com.