Youtube channels that made my child smarter

Toddler Genius | YouTube Channels That Made My Toddler Smarter

 

My toddler stood behind the black strip of tape and covered his left eye as the pediatrician directed.

“What do you see?” She asked.

“A pentagon!” He shouted.

The pediatrician chuckled with amusement. “Well, yea, I guess it IS a pentagon after all,” she said of the house pictured on the eye chart. “That’s the first time I’ve heard that. What a smart boy! Whatever you guys are doing with him, keep going!”

So, what did we do? Our approach to early learning was not that extensive. We relied on educational videos, one-on-one learning, and open-ended play to create a sturdy foundation for cognitive development. Today, I will talk about the role visual-learning played in the early education of my then toddler boys, who are now ages four and seven. Videos from awesome YouTube channels that helped my boys to recognize advanced shapes, numbers, phonics, and so much more. I like to think of these videos as “digital flashcards.” I originally wanted to list seven channels (I like that number!), but in reality, there were only six channels that made a difference in my children’s early learning.

I realize talking about toddlers and screen time is major taboo. There are strong arguments against image-focused learning. But the truth is educational videos can enhance cognitive development when consumed in moderation. I can’t deny that educational videos helped my boys to build vocabulary and recognize signs and symbols in everyday life, among other things. I mean, come on! My youngest son knew what a dodecahedron was at age two! And my first-born son would always point and shout the names of all the vegetables in the produce section of the grocery store. By age three, both of my boys were well versed in phonics, which made learning to read much easier for them. I don’t mean to boast. I just want to point out that image-focused learning can be helpful for some children, so long as you ensure that it’s balanced with language learning (language learning requires the brain to work much harder) and hands-on learning.

So, what are some of the educational videos I allowed my boys to watch during early toddlerhood? Before I tell you, I must mention a few things. First, pediatricians strongly discourage screen time before age two. Second, once your child starts screen time, I recommend ONLY allowing them to watch educational videos. You don’t want these videos competing with Bubble Guppies and other cartoons. Trust me! My husband and I didn’t have a television in our home until our eldest son was five-years-old. However, at age two, we started playing educational videos for him on our laptops. Our youngest son wasn’t as fortunate. He’s been exposed to the screen since he was one-year-old and he did have a period where all he wanted to do was watch Bubble Guppies. Hey, we’re not perfect people, here.

Lastly, I strongly recommend supplementing these videos with one-on-one lessons with your child. This is where quality time comes into play. You can get super creative or simply have a conversation with your child about what they are learning. Our favorite conversations are during car rides. My kids like to shout out the shapes, colors, words, and types of vehicles they see, among other things. I give them random pop quizzes on phonics (for my four-year-old), spelling (for my first-grader), mathematics, and fun facts we’ve learned. The pop quiz is like a game to them!

So, without further ado, here are my top picks for educational channels on YouTube for early learning. I’ve also included helpful books you can check out at the end of this post!


YouTube Channels That Made my Toddler Smarter

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  1. KidsTV123

It’s easy to see why this YouTube channel has earned over two million subscribers. KidsTV123 was the very first channel I found when looking for educational videos for my eldest child to watch. As a toddler, his favorite videos were the Phonics Song, the Number Song, the Shapes Song, the Colors Song, the Solar System Song, and the Reading Machine. That was nearly six years ago and now all these songs are among the channel’s most popular videos.

 

When my son was two-and-a-half, he pointed to all the letters on the chart in his bedroom and told me their phonemes without any prompting from me. He also knew planets, numbers, and shapes (including some advanced ones) fluently, primarily from watching these videos. I admit I was not in the “teaching mindset” during this time. I had no plans to homeschool and I just assumed my toddler would learn this stuff in preschool. However, when I realized all the knowledge and concepts my son retained at such an early age, I knew then that he was ready for formal learning. I began teaching my eldest son one-on-one, incorporating language and hands-on learning. My youngest son, however, had the pleasure of this one-on-one teaching much earlier.

 

  1. The Kids’ Picture Show

Okay, this channel is quite advanced. Not only does The Kids’ Picture Show teach advanced shapes, but also advanced colors, sorting, animal names, street signs, addition, science and nature, sight words, life instructions, and so much more! It’s no exaggeration when I say that my boys know advanced shapes and colors that I don’t even know! I found myself having to watch the videos with them the moment I recognized they were getting smarter than me (hehe)!

 

What I love the most about this channel is that it literally is like digital flashcards. I never expected my boys to like this approach, but they actually started begging me to play these videos for them—every day!  I think what they love the most is that they can identify these items and concepts in their everyday life. My children get so excited when they encounter a familiar street sign, vehicle, or advanced shape while we’re out and about—things they may not normally recognize had they not learned about it from these videos.  Not to mention, they’ve gotten very specific with their colors. No! It’s not just green. It’s emerald!

 

  1. National Geographic Kids

If you have animal lovers, or kids that have a bunch of “why” questions, this is the channel for you! National Geographic Kids is full of awesome videos of gorgeous animals as well as fun facts that young kids can digest and understand. I found these videos to be a perfect supplement when teaching my boys about animal classification. And that’s not all, this channel also comprises videos on weather, archeology, states, and how to make familiar everyday items. You’ll be surprised by the information your toddler digests. When my youngest son was two, he loved watching the Making Stuff videos with his older brother. They would watch how to make some of their favorite foods, musical instruments, and toys. Now, at age four, my son remembers how to prepare the pizza dough when making pizza from scratch—one of our favorite foods to make!

 

What’s essential to note is from preschool up until fourth grade is what is known as the “parrot years.” According to authors of The Well-Trained Mind, any information your child absorbs during the early years is stored for future use—even if they can’t yet understand it. Therefore, having a toddler watch channels such as National Geographic Kids will make learning about animals and other topics in the later years that much more meaningful to them because they have already stored information in their brains.

 

  1. Hooked on Phonics

While KidsTV123 was responsible for introducing my eldest son to phonemic awareness during toddlerhood, Hooked on Phonics was the resource responsible for introducing my youngest son to phonics. My youngest son loved watching videos on this channel so much that I decided to purchase the curriculum to begin formal learning with him. If you’re not familiar with Hooked on Phonics, it’s a 25-year-old, award-winning “Learn to Read” program. Their YouTube channel includes story-time, printing lessons, sample lessons, and catchy singalong songs (my son’s favorite!). It’s not an extensive channel, but you can find more Hooked on Phonics videos listed on other channels with a simple YouTube search.

 

I must say, my youngest son caught on to phonics rather quickly using the Hooked on Phonics program. I’m talking just two weeks. At age three, he read his first primer book from the Kindergarten level. I do want to mention that this was not primarily from watching the videos, I did work one-on-one with him often during this time using the lesson plans.  When I tell you that my son actually asks me if he can “do phonics today” it’s not an exaggeration. This program works so well with his personality and learning style. I’m so glad we found it!

 

  1. Mouk in English

Mouk is an educational preschool show about a bear who travels the world on his bike. I happen to have two boys who absolutely love geography. This show was perfect for introducing and reinforcing different continents and countries of the world, as well as their popular monuments. It supplemented our geography curriculum so well. And while I never expected my toddler to learn geography to the extent that his big brother was learning it, some of the information he retained was from watching this show.

 

The Mouk in English channel boasts of teaching toddlers to respect diversity and cultures. The characters explore countries on the continents of Africa, Asia, South America, North America, Europe, and the Oceana. Examples of some countries they visit are Senegal, Spain, Canada, Madagascar, Tokyo, Greece, the Himalayas, and much more! Because I’m half-Nigerian, and have friends from different parts of the world, culture is one of the topics we highlight in our homeschool. It’s never too early to teach your kids that diversity is cool!

 

  1. Kids Learning Tube

Let me just say that this channel is my least favorite because of the creepy graphics. However, my youngest son loved watching this channel as a toddler—and still does now that he’s four. The Kids Learning Tube channel comprises videos on basic learning songs for preschoolers, geography, the solar system, the human body, the periodic table, animals, and more. I don’t know what it is about this channel, but both my boys are quite fascinated by it. They are even watching it right now as I edit this post!

 

My boys favorite videos to watch on this channel are the ones about the solar system, the 50 U.S. states, and the countries of the world. These have also been my youngest son’s favorite videos since toddlerhood. The videos include catchy tunes and awesome fun facts. My toddler gained concepts like which planets are big, which ones are small, and which ones are closest to the sun. He could also name most planets, and even some countries and states at just two years old.


 

Curriculum Suggestions:

If image-learning isn’t your thing, I totally get you! I can’t emphasize enough that the YouTube channels I mentioned should be supplements only. One-on-one interaction and unstructured play is the best way for your child to learn during early toddlerhood. Other effective resources you can try out for your toddler are Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready by June R. Oberlander, What Your Preschooler Needs to Know by E. D. Hirsch Jr., The Instant Curriculum by Pam Schiller and Joan Rossano, and The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, and Jessie Wise.

 

These books include great information and instructions on how to engage your toddler’s motor skills, imagination, self-expression, critical thinking skills, math skills, language arts skills, and much more. I found most of these resources at my local library! Stay tuned for an in-depth look into these resources in a later post.

 

Feel free to check out my Instagram where I share more fun activities and resources we’re using for our homeschool. I also dabble in Instastories, where you can peek into our lessons and life as a homeschool family.


Let us know in the comments:  What are your favorite educational channels on YouTube?

 

 

Toddlers and Toys

Toddler Boredom | 10 Ways to Resurrect Old Toys

 

Okay, so let me get this out of the way. The average attention span for a toddler is only 3-5 minutes. By age five, this span increases to a whopping 10-15 minutes. Not very long, huh? I know! It’s no wonder kids seem to run out of things to do so quickly. Nevertheless, I incorporated the following methods to maximize the attention span of my dear children. My boys are now ages 4 and 7, but these straightforward tips have worked for me since their toddlerhood. This week for Toddler Talk Tuesday, I will share simple things you can do to help curb toddler boredom. I hope you find these tips helpful. Enjoy!


 

Toddler Boredom | 10 Ways to Resurrect Old Toys

 

1. Don’t hold onto them. 

Those toys that your children have outgrown or don’t care for? Donate them! Sometimes when the toybox or playroom is overflowing with toys it can be overwhelming for kids, especially the younger ones. Purging toys not only lessens the load and makes playtime more attractive, but helps your children discover those long-lost items they’ve forgotten how much they love. Be sure to involve your little ones in the donation process. Let them know they are making room for new toys in the future. And don’t forget to let your toddler choose a brand-new toy to purchase and include in your donation!

 

2. Keep them in rotation. 

Limiting your child’s toy options may help hold their attention for longer periods—especially when those options are in rotation. Leave your child 1-2 toys to play with and put the rest away for a while. You may find that your child can play for longer periods with just one or two toys. This is because there aren’t a dozen other toys competing for their attention, so your child isn’t rushing to move on to the next best thing. Decide how long you want your rotation to last (every week? every month?) and reintroduce your child to some of the toys you’ve been hiding away. Be sure to keep the cycle going. 

 

3. Organize them. 

Yes! Keep the blocks with the blocks, the dolls with the dolls, the play kitchenware with the play kitchenware—you get the point! Avoid dumping all your children’s toys into one giant toy bin. Instead, get some inexpensive bins (the Dollar Tree is a good place to start) and teach your children how to keep their toys organized and accessible. You’ll be amazed at what a difference this can make during playtime. I recall several meltdowns because certain parts of a playset had gotten lost in the crowded toybox. Organizing toys keeps all those “parts” together, which limits frustration and tantrums. 

 

4. Play with them. 

Sometimes you just have to get on the floor and play with your kids. Doing so is not only great for bonding and building self-esteem, but also gives your child new ideas about how to play with their toys. Show them how to build an amazing tower with their Lego set, how to create an awesome storyline for their toy soldiers or dolls, or how to play a new tune with their pretend (or real) instruments. You may find that your child takes ideas and builds upon them, sparking a new excitement for their toys. 

 

5. Change surroundings. 

Take that play kitchen or workbench station out of the playroom and put it into the family room for a few days. On a sunny day, take a large blanket and place it in the backyard with a few of your child’s beloved toys for a fun toy picnic. During the winter, bring your child’s water table into the kitchen or garage and let them enjoy playing with a “summer toy” during a different season. Sometimes, a different setting can make old toys just as exciting as brand new ones.

 

6. Wrap them!

Yes, you heard it right. Get some fun wrapping paper and wrap some of your child’s toys. Toddlers won’t care that the toy isn’t new. They just love the idea of unwrapping a present! Even better? Give them some extra wrapping paper to wrap the toys themselves. My boys loved wrapping their toys and giving them to me as “gifts.”

 

7. Become a “toy fairy.”

I still love doing this! When my oldest was a toddler, I would sneak into his bedroom while he was asleep and set up his toys in an elaborate display. Trust me, this will buy you some time in the morning! Or even post-naptime! My son would wake up and be so excited to play. These days, since I have my children’s toys on rotation, I simply switch out their toys in the middle of the night for other toys they haven’t played with in a while. It’s like Christmas morning! They never know what toys they’ll wake up to.

 

8. Wash them.

Get a large container, fill it with water and bath bubbles, give your child a toddler-friendly scrubber, and let them “wash” their toys. Make sure the toys are not plush, battery operated, or electronic. They can wash their toys while sitting on the kitchen floor as you cook dinner (place a towel underneath them). Or, like my boys do, they can wash their toys outside in the backyard while you sit on the porch with your favorite book scrolling through Instagram.

 

9. Make them educational.

Place alphabet letters or numbers onto blocks, Legos, mini figures, or dolls and have your toddler arrange them in order. You can simply print out a number or alphabet template, cut them into squares, and tape them onto the toys. If you don’t mind things being permanent, you can even write on blocks and Legos with a permanent marker. You can also have your child group the toys by color; for example, place the red blocks with other toys that are red. Or, try arranging the toys by size. There are so many possibilities and your toddler will love having a little task to do!

 

10. Take them apart.

This is a recent tip I read about in one of my Facebook STEM groups. Whether you have a curious child or a future engineer, old toys that can’t be donated can be safely taken apart for further exploring. Let your child explore what’s inside a stuffed animal, a remote-control car, or that musical toy that plays the same annoying songs over and over. I do not recommend this tip for younger toddlers who still put things in their mouths, as there may be small parts involved. Always remember to provide close supervision.


 

As a disclaimer, I am not an expert. These are just tips that have worked for me and my family. I hope you found at least one of these tips useful. Join me next week for my final post on the Toddler Talk Tuesday series!

Let us know in the comments what you do to help curb toddler boredom!

 

 

Toddler Diet

8 Tips to Get Your Toddler to Eat Veggies

Let’s face it. The best way to get your toddler to eat his vegetables is to introduce them during infancy. Some parents do this and still have trouble getting their kid to eat the green stuff. Other parents have given in to more pleasant foods at the first sign of disapproval. Whatever category you fall into, it doesn’t matter. The truth is that even with the best diet, some toddlers enter the protesting phase once they realize they have an opinion. While this phase often results in barely touched plates and frustrated parents, take heart—this too shall pass. Here are some tips that may help your toddler adopt a more balanced diet.

1. Be an example.

You can’t expect your child to eat healthy foods when you don’t even eat them yourself. Although this should go without saying, you’d be surprised how many parents actually think this is possible. Children are sponges! Their first lesson on a healthy (or unhealthy) diet will come from you. So load up your plate with the green stuff and be an example!

2. Give them variety.

Sometimes we get in a rut and offer our children the same foods day in and day out. If you find that is you, be sure to add new and exciting veggies to your shopping list. Remember that your child may have a different palate than you, so don’t be afraid to buy those vegetables that you don’t care for—your child may love them! My toddler was the only one in the house who liked raw carrots. Look below at the vegetable chart for ideas from Cooksmarts.

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3. Respect their taste buds.

I get it. You’re frustrated and you have your child’s best interest in mind, but please don’t force (or threaten) them to eat their veggies. Just like there are some vegetables that you like and some you can do without; your child also has likes and dislikes. Take into consideration that it may not be stubbornness, but your child may actually prefer the taste or texture of another veggie.

4. Retrain their palate.

Has a weekend at grandma’s got your child refusing to eat anything void of sugar? No problem. You can retrain your child’s palate by either not offering any foods containing sugar (including fruits) or offering a very tiny amount until they are back on track. Vegetables are less tasty after eating something very sweet. So be sure that your little one doesn’t have any fruit, candy, or juice right before lunch or dinner time.

5. Offer them as snacks.

It may seem weird to some of you, but calling a vegetable a snack may encourage your child to eat more of it. Instead of fruit or crackers for snack time, offer your little one some baby carrots and cucumbers (or whatever they like!). When this is practiced on the regular basis, it may not only get your child to eat more vegetables, but also teach them that a snack doesn’t always have to be sweet or come in a package.

6. Eat together.

Many families these days eat their meals on the sofa or in front of a screen. But your toddler will benefit greatly from seeing the entire family (especially their older siblings) partake in, and enjoy, eating their vegetables—which, in turn, will encourage him/her to follow the example.

7. Explain the “why.”

Some kids just want to know why they should eat something green instead of snacking on cookies all day. Take the time to explain to your child about the good foods that will help them grow to be healthier, stronger, and smarter. Explain to them about the bad foods that should be avoided or eaten in moderation. The downside to this is that they may become the food police when you are hanging out with Netflix and a bowl of ice-cream!

8. Be patient.

Yes, it’s easier said than done, but making eating a stressful time for your toddler is not good for either parties involved. Relax! Chances are it’s just a phase. And remember, if you are truly concerned about your child’s change in eating habits, schedule a visit with your pediatrician to rule out any serious conditions.


 

As a disclaimer, your pediatrician’s advice is the best advice. I am not an expert, but I do have two boys who now love eating their favorite veggies! Let us know in the comments below your tips and tricks to surviving the “veggie protesting” phase.

Toddler Tantrums | 7 Questions to Ask Yourself

Toddler Tantrums | 7 Questions to Ask Yourself

 

Not all tantrums are created equal. At least for my boys they weren’t. Thankfully, I have a seven-year-old who graduated from that stage, and a four-year-old who hasn’t publically embarrassed me in over a year. I wrote this post last year for my previous blog at a time when I’d finally emerged from the tantrum tunnel. This year, I’m bringing this post to my new blog with some updated pointers. Join me every Tuesday this month for my Toddler Talk Tuesday miniseries right here on NikeAnderson.com!

Here’s the deal; I realized that tantrums don’t always involve a snotty nosed kid who hates not getting his way. Sometimes, tantrums are a result of a child not getting what he needs. Toddlers are still developing, so they’re still learning how to best communicate their needs to us. Difficulty in identifying why they feel the way they feel can be frustrating. Mix that with difficulty in finding the right words for these feelings, and you’ve got a recipe for a tantrum.

When my boys were toddlers, I started asking myself some questions to help better manage their sporadic tantrums. When I was really desperate, I even asked them how I could help resolve their issue. It went a little something like this: “What do you want from me!?!?” What I learned were different reasons that called for different approaches. These are seven questions to ask yourself when your toddler has a tantrum.


Toddler Tantrums |7 Questions to Ask Yourself


1. Is He Hungry? 

Imagine being hungry and not quite knowing what you’re feeling or how to express it. It didn’t take long for me to realize that ninety percent of my toddler’s tantrums were hunger-related, especially when we were out ripping and running. I learned that scolding him never rectified the tantrum because the feeling of hunger wouldn’t go away until he ate something.

In fact, scolding made the tantrum worse! Instead, letting my toddler know that we’ll eat something soon helped (not always!). I’ve found the ultimate solution is to pack snacks for our little excursions so that I never have a hungry child. I stored finger foods like snap pea crisps and sliced grapes in Ziplock bags and placed them inside my purse for easy access. For drinks, I always filled my kids’ travel cups with apple juice or water. I still bring snacks with me to this day!

2. Is He Tired?

I never liked to play around with my toddler’s naps (that’s my me-time!). But on the days when skipping naptime was necessary, I could almost guarantee a meltdown. The problem with tantrums that result from fatigue is that they’re difficult to resolve. When my toddler had a tantrum during church service, nothing we did stopped him from acting out. The only solution was for me to take him outside to the car, put on some music, and let him rest.

The key here is to remember that your child is not misbehaving, they’re tired! As parents, we can definitely relate to being sleep deprived. If you keep this in mind, it will help you maintain your cool when they’re screaming bloody murder in the middle of the grocery isle. So yea, if it’s that bad, find a quiet place and let your child rest. Even just ten minutes of shut-eye can make a world of difference.

3. Does He Need Attention?

My toddler had the perfect timing of going berserk the moment I decided to slip away and get some work done. And while I teach my children that they don’t need my undivided attention every single moment, I did notice that these tantrums were usually on the days when I haven’t spent any quality time with them yet. These are what I like to call the “monster tantrums.” That’s because the goal was to get (and keep!) my attention. The more I told my toddler to simmer down, the more it fueled his tantrum to a monstrous degree.

Teaching my children to understand that there are other things that need mommy’s attention was, and still is, challenging. Of course, the simple solution is to spend quality time with them before I slip away to get things done. But I must admit, this doesn’t always work. My backup plan is to distract them! I have a stash of goodies that comprise art supplies, craft projects, and toys that my kids haven’t seen yet. I offer these goodies and then slip off to get work done. Works every time!

4. Does He Need Affection?

As if anyone feels like giving their toddler a hug when they’re screaming bloody murder in the middle of the grocery store. But sometimes that’s what I had to do. Who doesn’t like a hug when they’re upset? Hugs immediately dissolved the situation and got my toddler to a state where he could talk out his feelings.

I know, I know; It seems like you’d be rewarding the behavior if you gave your child a hug during a tantrum. I don’t think of it that way. Rather, offering a hug is an opportunity for me to display my unconditional love to my child. Sometimes we forget to let our children know that we love them even when they misbehave.

5. Does He Feel Well?

When my toddler acted out of sorts, and I’ve done everything in my power to figure out the reason for his tantrum, I could almost guarantee he wasn’t feeling well. Having a stomachache, headache, earache, or any other ache were feelings he didn’t quite know how to express during early toddlerhood. I recall a time when my toddler threw tantrums the entire day and I couldn’t understand what had gotten into him. When he vomited right before bedtime, everything made sense. He had a stomachache and couldn’t find the words to tell me.

From then on, I started making a habit of asking my toddler if anything hurts. He now knows how to communicate these feelings. If your toddler isn’t talking quite yet, you can use sign language to help your child to communicate these hurts. Encouraging your child to pat their belly, head, or ear are great movements to teach him how to communicate that he isn’t feeling well.

6. Is He Confused?

Whenever I switched up the schedule on my toddler, he was not feeling it at all! A random trip to the store during the time he’s supposed to have outdoor playtime would result in a fit of tears. Toddler’s love their schedules because they can predict what’s about to happen, know what’s expected of them, and feel like they have some control. When that’s taken away from them, tantrums may result. This is because they are confused and don’t know what to expect next.

Letting my toddler in on the plans reduced these kinds of tantrums. It’s always a good idea to prep your toddler with a friendly talk before you do anything out of the ordinary (like a trip to the pediatrician, for example). Even better? Let them know you have something special planned for after the impromptu errand or appointment, like ice cream or a trip to the playground to reward their patience.

7. Is He Frustrated?

Things that I take for granted, like the ability to dress myself, put on my shoes, or freely express myself, were all things my toddler had to work hard at to master. Frustration and tantrums were, and still are, a part of this mastery process. Even now, certain tasks like cutting out shapes and coloring within the lines are things that frustrate my four-year-old when he can’t get it just right.

Words of affirmation help during these moments. Let your child know that you were his age once, and you know how frustrating it can be to put on your own shoes or zip your own jacketbut you eventually learned! Teach your toddler how to take nice deep breaths to help them calm down so that they’re more likely to succeed at what they’re trying to do.


Once I cracked the tantrum code, I found it helpful to explain to my children how they’re feeling so that they’re able to communicate it later. The moment they were able to put a name to their feelings, the tantrums decreased. These are not foolproof methods, as children are oftentimes unpredictable. But they were effective methods for my children. I hope some of these methods work for yours!

What methods have worked for you? Let us know in the comments below!