Obviously, my children don’t ACTUALLY watch YouTube. They’ve also never eaten Flings, they always greet strangers warmly and bring me tea in bed when I ring a bell.
Like most pre-parenthood-know-it-alls, my kids were never going to even look at devices with screens. But until I can sit on the loo without a small child trying to climb on my lap, my computer is going to help me raise them. (Hint: if you are freaking out right now, the rest of this blog is going to make you hyperventilate and maybe my brand of humour is not for you.)
In defense of my idealistic former self, we don’t actually have “TV”. No satellite or MNET or even regular old SABC. Our TV is hooked up to the internet, and we grown-ups watch stuff off a hard drive. So when it comes to entertaining our children or distracting them while we shovel veggies into their mouths, we rely on YouTube.
Now. If you search “Wheels on the Bus” on YouTube, you will discover there are a lot of people making kids’ stuff out there. And a lot of it is so horrifiying it could work as contraception for the unparenting population. For example:
WHAT THE WHAT? That was THIRD on the search results. So clearly, we need some guidance in finding kids’ stuff that doesn’t make you gag. Being the discerning Internet-surfer that you are, you probably know about all these and then some. Feel free to share your quality viewing with the rest of us by posting comments!
Before you do ANYTHING – download AdBlock. It blocks all the ads that YouTube insist on showing so your kids don’t see ads for men’s cologne in the middle of a Barney episode. Click here for it.
Disclaimer: Most of these are aimed at under 4’s, and my boys are quite into trains, cars, airplanes, etc. Also, I’m not in charge of enforcing copyright etc. My theory is if it’s on YouTube, its fair viewing game.
And finally. Here are our favourites (if you click on the titles, it will take you to the vidoes):
1. Baby Einstein – educational themes, puppets, words etc. for babies.
These actually are really good, and while aimed at babies, my three year old still likes to watch. They cover all kinds of themes like Animals, Numbers, etc, and each episode is about 25 minutes – perfect for occupying toddler while you’re putting baby to sleep. But the best part of Baby Einstein is the puppets. My 9 month old laughs out loud at the sheep. Cutesies. Someone – who deserves a medal – compiled ALL THE PUPPETS into one video clip, and judging from the 9 million views it has, I’m not the only one who thinks this is brilliant.
2. HooplaKidz – nursery rhymes and songs.
You know all those nursery rhymes you learnt as a kid but forgot? These guys found a girl with a throaty, hipster voice and a little acoustic guitar, and made simple but sweet animations to them. They’ve actually redone the melodies and tunes, and listening to them won’t make you want to bang your head on the table. Some of the older songs are a bit cheesy and annoying, but they’re pretty decent. My favourite is My Dog Ben.
3. Tayo the Little Bus – cars, buses, trains and safety messages.
Tayo is a cute little bus that teaches kids about being friends and not speeding. Only 11 min long, we like watching these during snack time. If your kid is into cars and buses etc, they will love Tayo. It’s wholesome and sweet – you can safely leave the room and make a cup of tea.
4. Pocoyo – mostly just entertainment with topics relevant to preschoolers (bedtime, birthdays, sharing, being kind etc.)
Aimed at pre-schoolers, Pocoyo is an inquisitive little boy with a blue suit and occasionally a yellow dummy (pacifier for non-South Africans). It’s refreshingly simple – no over-busy, over-active screen with sound blasting. It’s not particularly educational or anything, but it’s narrated by Stephen Fry so I feel like my kids are getting smarter just by hearing his voice. He says “whom” and “I should think” and stuff like that. It’s very soothing and English. Truthfully, its a bit arbitrary and random but its quality and innocent and William LOVES it. So I can deal.
5. Shawn the Train – short, very educational and a little annoying.
Shawn is not my favourite. The voices are WEIRD and the animation is super basic. But for some reason, Will loves Shawn and to be honest when I heard him call out “Rhombus!” on the Shapes episode, I was kind of impressed. These are really short, but they some get the message across. Even I learn stuff (who knew there was a shape called “cuboid”?).
6. Roary the Racing Car – British show about a racing car and his friends.
I don’t know why I think British stuff is smarter. But this does seem to have a slower pace compared to a lot of the American-Disney style cartoons out there. For South Africans with DSTV, its more along the CeeBeebies line than the Disney Junior line. Anyway, its just a race car and other race cars and they race and stuff. But its cute. And we’ve had some pretty cool dance parties to the theme song.
7. Little Einsteins – for older kids, covering real works of art and famous composers in a mystery-themed hunt by four kids in a rocket. Sheesh.
If you want to con yourself that TV is educational, this is the show for it. It was the first “big kid” show I let Will watch, and so far there have been no signs of artistic genius or symphony composing. He also does NOT interact with it the way the people who made it try to get him to do. But he did pretend to play a violin the other day. So there.
8. Peppa Pig – a little pig and her family learning important things.
I really like this one. Its definitely for preschoolers, I think some of it goes over Will’s head, but it’s great. Its one of the ONLY kids’ shows I’ve come across where its not just about a child and his friends. So many of these shows are devoid of adults, parents or even siblings. This is a real family. Well, not actually. They’re animated pigs who both speak and snort. But you know what I mean. It’s definitely a thoughtful, helpful little show and we’ve referenced it a few times when talking about new experiences (going to the library, or the dentist, or losing something etc.) Again, its British and its lovely.
9. Andy’s Airplanes – a once-off show about F-18 Hornet fighter jets.
I know A LOT about F-18 Hornets. And carrier ships. And its all thanks to this much-watched (and only) episode of Andy’s Airplanes. Its a combination of animation and then a real section where two kids explore a carrier ship. I don’t know how we stumbled on it, but Will is nuts about this. I wish they’d made more in the series, but alas, just this one. When I need to keep Will occupied for 30 mins, I use this. It works every time and I’ve downloaded it and used it on long car trips.
10. Praise Baby – a frighteningly effective show for small babies with Christian music set to very random montages of shapes, animals and people.
After typing that description, you’re probably getting the heebie-jeebies. But this is AMAZING. The graphics they’ve put together somehow really get little babies’ attention. And I found watching it with them, saying all the words, and talking about it, SO helpful. William basically ate every meal from 9- 18 months watching this. If the Christian music puts you off, you can just mute it and it still works. But honestly, its actually quite relaxing and I love the hymns. There is only this one full episode on YouTube, but they are worth buying. Kids love Praise Baby. It’s weird. But it works.
There you have it. I have watched the entire Internet and these are the best ones. Not really. So let us know what you watch with your little ones and we can all pretend to not watch screens together!