Intentional Screen-Time Recommendations – Netflix Kids, YouTube and More
There’s no denying that we live in a digital world. I mean, duh. It’s 2020 and even my kindergartener knows how to unmute herself on zoom, my 2-year-old knows how to “skip ads” on youtube videos, and my 6-year-old understands time zones and geography based on our weekly facetime chats with family on the other side of the world.
When we view technology as a tool, and as a necessary part of our modern lives, we can begin to set intentional behaviors for ourselves and our children. And we can even use our media consumption as an educational, and even therapeutic tool.
Plus, let’s not forget the great potential for auditory development that engaging, repetitive, auditory input can provide. With the correct guidance, and keeping an eye on the “dose,” videos and media can be a great therapeutic modality.
In this post, I’ll be sharing some recommendations for Netflix show we’ve been enjoying, YouTube categories, and some apps we have been loving.
Lockdown, stay-at-home, homeschooling- whatever the situation, we can support our children’s educational goals while balancing tech training and life-skills building in our day to day.
I would never advocate for tons and tons of hours in front of screens, but in the reality of life as it, and the plethora of programming and apps out there, it can be hard to choose what would work for our kids when we do want to incorporate screen time. I hope these recommendations help you and your kids bond, relax, and even learn something today.
A reading recommendation post will come soon too! Reading is forever the amazing, fundamental, foundational, bonding activity that we can all prioritize, but as you know about me, All-Or-Nothing thinking can be detrimental. So we can do reading, and baking, and screens, and walks, and music, and napping, and crafts, and down time!
Comment below about your favorite recommendations too!
Magic School Bus Rides Again– The Miss Frizzle of my childhood got a remake and the animation difference upset my nostalgia, but the action-packed science exploration remains! My daughters have learned about magnets, glaciers, deep sea diving, volcanos, and have gone inside Carlos’s nose, and into Ralphie’s belly. Btw, you can still watch the old version too!
Llama llama– We love the books about this sweet llama, his lovely mama, and his red pajamas. The episodes always feature real-life conflicts that kids have when playing together. Sharing, disappointing changes in plans, when friends fight over toys or don’t agree on which game to play. It’s a show that demonstrates the emotional development of young children, strategies for coping with frustration, and learning to be flexible when changes come up. I absolutely applaud MamaLlama for keeping her cool in charged situations. She teaches and guides llama so gently, about being impatient while she shops, or preparing anxious Llama before a doctor’s visit. The pacing of this show is also slower and less overwhelming than other shows, and a better choice for winding down/ afternoon time.
Ask The StoryBots– This is a Netflix original series that features a mix of animated computer bots that answer questions submitted by kids. They answer “How is chocolate made” by going on a visit to the tropics for cacao trees, ending up in the melted chocolate of the factory, and attempting to get a chocolate bar out of a vending machine. One day last week, I was walking with my 4-year-old and I commented about the clear blue sky, to which she responded, “It’s not really blue, Ima, it just looks blue!” and continued teaching me all the things she learned about how color and vision work from a StoryBots episode. My 6-year-old tells me about green screens and music production, outer space and how planets are made. But by far, my favorite episode is all about hearing and how our ears work!
Max and Ruby– Another adaptation of the classic books, featuring older-sister Ruby and her overeager, younger brother, Max. They go on everyday adventures, learn about spending money, getting ready for a doctor’s visit, and making grandma not one- but two- birthday cakes. (Except one is a mud cake with earthworm decorations!) My favorite part of this series is the scoring. It’s such a pleasure to overhear while I do some work…and here again the pacing is slowed down and the language is clear and enunciated.
Peppa Pig– This British family of Pigs have fun in their world of alliterative animal friends, i.e. Zoe Zebra, Danny Dog, Rebecca Rabbit! There is always a clear, interesting plot that is engaging and educational, plus jokes or puns stuck in for older kids or even adults to laugh at. I find the range of topics great for vocabulary building, such as ‘antique,’ ‘sailboats,’ and ‘foreign exchange student’ when French Delphine Donkey joins the class. Everything is narrated and explained, which can be very helpful for kids learning social cues.
When it comes to youtube, you really do have to be watching closely since autoplay and recommended videos can lead kids to all sorts of places you might prefer they didn’t see. Plus, you might not want to expose your kids to the ads that can range from capitalistic indoctrination to inappropriate for any number of reasons. But if you’re in control, there are great videos that can be used in an educational way.
NumberJacks– Learn early math skills with a British group of numbers and a collection of scary villains- a Spooky Spoon, Number Taker, Puzzler. I personally love the animation that gets integrated with real life footage, so there is that surreal quality to the adventures and it feeds this sense of adventure. Meanwhile the kids don’t realize that they’ve learned all the different ways of adding up to 8 (4+4, 3+5, 2+6, 1+7). We find this on youtube, and have even found a Hebrew-dubbed version, so that works for my bilingual, learning kids. We do a lot of meta-linguistic awareness for example by noting that Spooky Spoon’s name translates closer to “Spoonerista” in the Hebrew version. כפכפונה
SciShow Kids– I have been a big fan of John and Hank Green, and a nerdfighter since 2011- Totally ok if you don’t know what I’m talking about. What’s important is that this youtube channel, among many others like SciSchow and the CrashCourses, split big important science concepts into small, digestible videos. This kind of education excites kids about science with the energetic host, Jessi Knudsen Castaneda and the robotic mouse, Sqeaks! We especially love this video about not giving the blob fish a hard time…he’s under a lot of pressure.
Culture and Language- The great thing (and the not great thing) about YouTube is that you can pretty much find anything on there. So we like to watch Holiday songs compilations, music videos, and plays.
Finding timely, seasonal songs fits into the unofficial theme or “unit” so the kids are immersed in it. Right now, getting ready for Rosh Hashana- the Jewish New Year, and enjoying these classic songs with beautiful animation, and modern takes from musical groups, like the Maccabeats!
There are entire catalogs of all the apps out there, paid and free, those with free trials, for every skill you could imagine. Letters, numbers, early phonological awareness, auditory training. It’s great when you know what you’re looking for and find exactly the app that fits your needs. But I have to shout out 2 apps that have been getting a lot of use here. Plus, they are free.
Khan Academy Kids – I’ve been a big fan of Sal Khan since his TED talk about the flipped classroom, and what started as him tutoring his cousins by sending them videos, is now a major educational company and generous force in education access. The free app for kids is ad free, no subscription, and has games in all different age levels, in early literacy and math concepts. It’s easy to navigate and you know that kids wont’ stray to any part of the app that will either put a charge on the card, or lead them to an ad for a different app.
My biggest tip is to activate “guided access.” On ipads or iphones, you can enable the accessibility feature called guided access so that once you’re in the app, you can essentially lock your child into that app and they can’t use the homescreen button to leave the app or switch to other apps. A quick triple tap will allow you to disable it.
Paper app– There are loads of drawing and coloring apps out there too, but I have found that my kids really like the Paper app. They can mix their own colors and change the tool they are using- wide brush, thin pencil, and even more advanced features. The free features are really robust and the beautiful design of the app makes them feel like they are using “my” app, and not a kid app.
For more ideas on using technology in education, listen to this episode of the All About Audiology podcast, about teletherapy.
And for more at-home games for auditory development, read this blog post.
I’d love to hear your ideas of netflix shows, apps, and youtube videos that you use with your kids, clients, patients and students.
Audiologist and Mom of 3, Podcaster, Speaker