A Quality Alternative to 'YouTube Kids"
If you are one of the many parents disappointed by how videos are "screened" for the YouTube Kids app, I am about to make your day. I tried out YouTube Kids when looking for musical and educational videos for my young children -you know, recordings of a few popular kids songs or answers to science-themed questions in "kid friendly" form. Occasionally, YouTube Kids would deliver -but soon my children were stumbling across videos of middle-aged men playing video games and flaunting collections of over-priced action figures (followed by pitches to "like" their channel and buy the advertised toys). Not what I had in mind.
Enter technology-enhanced books!
As we moved away from YouTube, I opted to indulge my children in some new books. In recent years, our kids' books were limited to library visits and the occasional new book as a birthday or holiday gift. I ordered "The Usborne Children's Encyclopedia" pictured above, but was in no rush to to use the electronic "QR Links" feature -I was trying to get away from electronics after all. That was until this week, when spring break ended and I wanted to do something a little different to get my kids excited about resuming their homeschool work.
So what are QR links?
To put it simply, QR (Quick Response) links are barcodes you can scan with a smart phone app that instantly takes you to a specific internet link. There are a variety of apps you can choose from (some paid, some free), but my free app works perfectly. My kids went CRAZY over this feature! So far the links we have visited all took us to educational videos -and of MUCH higher quality than what we were finding on our own through internet searches or YouTube Kids.
The best of both worlds...
Here is how we use the Usborne Children's Encyclopedia: I let my kids choose a page that interests them (or I choose one relevant to our current homeschool lesson), which we read together. Once we are done reading (I do NOT let them skip right to the video), I let the kids take turns scanning the QR code and starting the video. Not only are the topics interesting and the videos well-chosen, but I have found they are PERFECT for inspiring my kids to ask more questions and instilling a desire to conduct additional research. I thought adding video links to a children't book might be a bit of a gimmick, but now that I have used it I am in love!
Yesterday we read about dolphins and then watched a video of bottlenose dolphins in action. We read about planets and then watched a video explanation of how the solar system formed, followed by clips of the Mars rover. Today the kids learned more about mountains and butterflies, and ended up watching a clip of climbers on Mount Everest. My seven year old says he wants to do at least ten topics a day. My six and four year old pay attention to the video links even when some of the information goes a little over their heads -and ask relevant questions afterwards.
Just what we needed.
I no longer have to roll the dice with YouTube when looking for a great video for my kids -we have just started using this encyclopedia, but so far I am very pleased with our ability to choose any topic of interest and find a great video link pre-selected for us (FYI if you don't have a QR reader, Usborne provides a list of links you can enter manually into your internet browser, but I highly recommend using the scanner if possible). This is a win-win for our family. My kids get to enjoy a little video time, and I love how much they are learning.
This has become a great tool in helping substitute mindless YouTube Kids videos with more educational fare. Highly recommended!
Kristina Johnson is a homeschooling mama who is passionate about childhood education and the quest for a healthy, clean lifestyle. Visit the "about" section to learn more about Kristina, her family of seven, and the mission of the "learning and laughing" website.