When Watching Leads to Doing

By Stacy Bateman

After a busy week, everyone in our family is excited for the weekend. But with our crazy schedules during the week, sometimes finding fun activities for family time is a challenge. My five kids range in age from elementary to high school. Obviously, the kids’ interests and attention spans differ greatly! Some of my kids will spend hours dreaming and creating. Others are good for a much shorter time period.

When my six-year-old asked me if we could do something fun together, just the two of us, we pulled up YouTube Kids for inspiration. We watched a SciShow Kids episode, Let’s Make the Solar System, that had her engaged right from the start. 

I liked that the episode was short, fast-moving and encouraged kids to be actively engaged. When the host asked what the biggest thing in the whole solar system was, my daughter excitedly yelled, “THE SUN!”

Learning By Doing

I also loved that the video encouraged kids to create something. The directions in the video were clear and simple, so she was eager to dive in. We paused the video while we went around the house collecting items. After gathering what we needed, we finished the video. As she began to set up her supplies, she asked if we could watch it one more time. While she was drawing and cutting out her planets, she would start and stop the video as needed.

The main thing she asked me for help with was connecting the cardstock that would hold the solar system together, which I was happy to do! We didn’t have big paper or posterboard handy, so we problem-solved by taping a few pieces of black cardstock together to act as her base.

As she colored each planet, it was fun to hear her tell me about rocky planets and gas giants. While listening to her rattle off the differences in these planets, it struck me that she had actually absorbed the video content. That’s a pretty amazing result from a video less than five minutes long, if you ask me. I loved watching her talk about each planet as she glued it down. When she finished, she looked up and said, “Can we hang it up so everyone can see it?” I was thrilled. I love when kids are proud of what they’ve done!

Reflecting on Our Experience

As we were cleaning up, I reflected on this experience and realized several key things. We watched the video on my phone because that’s the device she uses most often. I appreciate when things are formatted for a mobile phone because a computer, TV or tablet are not always available. My daughter loves to watch [regular] YouTube, but I am happier to have her exploring the more contained environment of the YouTube Kids app, given her very young age. So, this was a win for both of us.

The charismatic host drew us both in and held our attention the entire time. My daughter spent almost an hour happily working on this, partly because she added personal touches to each of the planets before she glued them on the page. In reality, this activity could easily be completed in a fraction of the time she used. Depending on how long your child’s attention span is, there is flexibility in this activity and others like it.

My daughter loved this so much that she asked when we were going to do it again, which melted my mom heart and reminded me that there’s so much value in carving out a special 1:1 moment like this. (And thankfully, it seems like there are practically an unlimited number of activity-oriented YouTube Kids videos we can choose from when we do this again.) 

Parenting in the Real World

Life is so busy for everyone right now. Finding activities that parents and kids both want to participate in can be a challenge. Quality time together doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Everything we used was easily found in our home.

Teaching kids the difference between productive versus passive screen time is important, but the reality is that every family probably has a slightly different take on what constitutes productive screen time. Regardless, I would wager that most of us can’t always be at our children’s sides to preview every piece of content before our kids see it. While no platform is perfect (not even close), my feeling is that YouTube Kids takes away some of my worries because the content is vetted, and I’ve seen for myself how kid-friendly it is.

The next time you are looking for a fun bonding moment with your kiddos, I encourage you to give this a try. Sit down together, pick out a video, and see where it takes you. You might find that when the video ends, you’re just getting started.

About the Author

Stacy Bateman has been involved in education for over 20 years and was re-elected to a second term of the National PTA Board of Directors in June 2021. She also serves on the Alpine School District Board of Education. As a mom of five, improving the family/school connection is her passion. Bateman has been a teacher, coach, student advocate, substitute teacher, room mom, PTA elementary and secondary president, council president and a region director over 90 schools. Her best days are spent working with students and parents to empower them to advocate for themselves and create their own future no matter what their scripted narrative might be. Bateman believes that when a community comes together, good things happen for all children.

YouTube Kids (Google) is a Proud National PTA Sponsor. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service. No endorsement is implied. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are her own.

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