With the world shutting down and life-changing dramatically for all of us in 2020, there’s probably been growing pains for nearly everyone. Those of us that are working at home are trying to navigate the waters of doing so with kids at home from school or daycare (the struggle is real, I’m sure).
In doing so, most parents are probably hoping to steal just 10-15 minutes for a Zoom call or some quiet time to write a few emails. Now, as parents, most of us aren’t keen on shoving a screen in our kids’ faces but there are ways to have smart screen time that can benefit everyone in the house!
That’s why we’ve done a round-up of some quality educational YouTube channels that can be easily found on the main app or YouTube Kids. As a parent, I can attest that YouTube kids is worth downloading. If your kiddo is constantly clicking off the safe video you’ve chosen, the kid-friendly app can reduce that stress and the whining that follows.
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For younger children and babies checkout this piece we did on learning videos for babies! Or for a different activity that always entertains and if you’re into STEAM (that’s STEM with Arts added in) learning checkout these posts on non-toxic crayons and which toddler easel is best!
Also, whilst these aren’t activities that are entirely hands off (some kids may need some help or supervision), we spent some time coming up with a list of cool LEGO STEM activities you can do with a preschooler (or toddler).
Benefits of Some Screen Time
The benefits for parents are somewhat obvious. We all have houses to clean, laundry to do, and at some point we need our kids to sit quietly in a public place (Hello doctor waiting rooms without provided toys, I’m looking at you!). Being able to entertain your child for 15-20 minutes is crucial for getting all of these mundane tasks completed, especially when letting them “help” you isn’t an option.
For children, part of the screen time benefit comes from your child being interactive and engaged with the content. The interactive component actually involves engagement with you as you both relate to the content on the screen. Watching educational videos that mirror healthy family dynamics is actually a great way to further introduce social learning. Plus, your kid can learn at his own pace.
With joint engagement, there is an obvious social benefit. You’re there to reinforce the content and provide scaffolding for any questions they may have. This can be as simple as saying “Oh, that’s a bluebird” or “How many animals do you see?” As you discuss the storyline and details, they’re also learning the flow and components of stories. Comprehension of the story is a huge benefit and is something they’ll retain for the rest of their lives.
Entertainment is an added and acceptable benefit too! An educational video with simple but relatable social stories have shown benefits for children. Plus, they have fun characters, and interesting concepts and graphics often accompanied by engaging music like animal sounds. Some educational videos even have a question and answer portion wherein the host, a puppet, a cartoon, or a real person, encourages your child to speak and participate.
A less talked about benefit to screen time (but widely known by veteran parents!) is how it can encourage children to get through an event they dislike. For example, maybe your fifteen month old hates getting her hair brushed or you’re trying to buy an extra five minutes while waiting on the doctor at a well check. If not relied on too heavily, a few minutes of screen time can help as a crutch to decrease stress or impatience. If you aren’t keen on utilizing screen time on a regular basis, maybe using it as a reward for completing a difficult task could be helpful!
How Much Screen Time is Okay?
Sure, some parents don’t allow screen time. That’s great if that’s what works for your family. However, it may not be a realistic standard for many families to ban screen time if they need to grab a minute or two to wash dishes or help older siblings with homework. And while we aren’t saying you should let the phone or tablet substitute as a babysitter, sometimes a mild distraction is necessary. (As a parent of a child that screamed in the car no matter how long the ride, I can confirm a bit of screen time eased the struggle from time to time)
For toddlers ages 2+, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to 1 hour. They also place an emphasis on what kind of screen time you’re exposing your child to. Hence the list of educational gems we’re about to share!
Tip for Safe Screen Time!
Download the YouTube Kids app to make browsing safe and easy for your toddler. It will be helpful in narrowing down the content they have access to. Within the app, you have the power to set parental controls and settings for what channels they can watch and also how much time is spent watching videos.
If your kid loves Sesame Street, you will be glad to know that this all-time favorite TV show run by a nonprofit educational organization is also on YouTube.
This channel is featured on our list of Top Baby Learning YouTube Channels but it’s equally as good for toddlers and preschoolers. That’s because the content covers a broad range of age-appropriate subjects.
The videos teach colors, clothing items, and times of the day to lessons about photosynthesis, manners, and space. Plus, the host, Rachel, incorporates sign language into every lesson!
Most videos feature real kids and animation, making it an entertaining spectacle as much as it is educational.
- Happy, Healthy Me: https://youtu.be/4Kog27loaus
- Hickory Dickory Dock: https://youtu.be/GpXZl8aWfYw
- Our Solar System: https://youtu.be/NDqOcpRSExU
- Photosynthesis: https://youtu.be/xuivYRmIACM
Now, if you’re a veteran parent, you may have heard of Blippi already. If you aren’t already watching him, you’ve probably heard whispering of Blippi’s magical powers to soothe wily toddlers.
He takes viewers on real-life adventures to new and interesting places such as museums, bakeries, farms, indoor playgrounds, aquariums, etc. The content exposes kids to science, tech, and real life. And best of all, kids learn! The channel even features an entire playlist dedicated to early education.
Here are a few of Blippi’s most popular videos.
- Blippi Learns about Jungle Animals: https://youtu.be/rPe4yziWiOg
- Detective Blippi: https://youtu.be/eTvrSLFWmLo
- Blippi Learns at the Children’s Museum: https://youtu.be/XlHzvTEstz8
- Tooth Brushing Song by Blippi: https://youtu.be/Ku-ForS6G3I
Super Simple Songs
This channel features entertaining and educational songs about numbers, emotions, animals, and colors. The animation is bright and eye-catching without being over stimulating. While other videos on the channel feature puppets or actors to sing along with.
Super Simple Songs definitely caters to the entertainment factor, but kids will also flex their memories, comprehension, and language skills. Plus, when you sing the songs together you’re taking part in joint engagement which is good for your kiddo’s social skill development.
Here’s our top picks of Super Simple Songs’ most popular videos on their YouTube channel.
- This is the Way: https://youtu.be/4XLQpRI_wOQ
- Five Little Ducks: https://youtu.be/pZw9veQ76fo
- Put on Your Shoes: https://youtu.be/-jBfb33_KHU
- BINGO: https://youtu.be/9mmF8zOlh_g
Like the tried and true favorite on television, PBS Kids on YouTube features favorites such as Daniel Tiger, Arthur, and Molly of Denali.
Kids will follow social storylines, learn vocabulary, and learn about the world/cultures in family-friendly animated shorts and full episodes.
These shows also cater to a wide range of ages while providing mindful content that will introduce concepts your child will undoubtedly use throughout life. Here are a few of PBS Kids’ favorite videos that you can subscribe to on YouTube.
- Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood/ Oh No Margaret Wants my Stickers: https://youtu.be/lY0jVccFGGc
- Super Why!/ Wyatt Makes a Birthday Cake: https://youtu.be/cS8oaNiVJ50
- Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood/ Come Play Family: https://youtu.be/JZW3fNvqGIA
- Look for the Helpers: https://youtu.be/lxw1pcY1ajM
For children teetering between toddlerhood and preschool age, Lotty Learns could be a great channel for early learners. This channel features entertaining introductions to letters, reading, colors, and nursery rhymes.
It encompasses many of the introductory elements a child will encounter in preschool and is a great way to expose your little ones to these concepts while gauging how much they know!
Take a gander at our list of Lotty’s most popular videos on YouTube.
- ABC Phonics: https://youtu.be/PdtJyKyZB4k
- It’s Bitsy Spider Song: https://youtu.be/e9wZoEsqM54
- Phonics A to Z for Kids: https://youtu.be/g0SFjRzqj94
- Preschool Learning with Colors & Shapes: https://youtu.be/ltehSUtuP2Y