Oliver’s first YouTube experience (see the end of this post for my ever-evolving take on screen time) probably involved a compilation of cats doing funny things. My child is obsessed with cats. His viewing preferences have thankfully expanded some since then, but the problem we recently faced was this: I would hop in the shower while he was watching a totally child-appropriate video on the iPad and emerge to find him watching some death metal punk video. Okay, maybe not literally. But you get my point. Those “related” videos can quickly take your child down an unknown path.
One solution to the problem: ThingLink. I originally stumbled across this gem in my world as a teacher. The basic premise: Link multiple photos, comments, or videos to a single image. I quickly realized how perfect this would be for organizing Oliver’s favorite YouTube videos – with the bonus of keeping him from aimlessly navigating the rest of YouTube!
I designed Oliver’s YouTube ThingLink as a single image with multiple “media tags” (ie: embedded YouTube videos). I used the user-friendly app to create the basic image and selected “unlisted” for my privacy setting. Then I logged in to the web-based platform to specify that those with the link would not be able to edit our image. The website also has options to create slideshows and to link videos to actual pictures instead of to the default icon, a “play” symbol. See tutorial here.
ThingLink stories are shareable and others touch an image to show interest. (Similar to a like on Facebook) Unfortunately, this means we were once again faced with the problem of “related” posts. However, this is easily avoided. By creating your own channel, you can go to your ThingLink via your channel (click “me,” then “channels”) and View as Slideshow. In this mode, no related posts are advertised anywhere. And once you have that link, it’s simple to copy/paste it into your browser whenever your little one is ready for some YouTube time! Anytime you update the ThingLink, it automatically updates the original URL, so no need to keep track of new links. Here’s how Oliver’s turned out (in slideshow mode): Oliver’s YouTube ThingLink.
He spent a considerable amount of time exploring. (It was decorate-for-fall day; what perfect timing!) He very quickly learned to navigate from video to video, even making use of the maximize arrows to watch his videos full screen. The only issue we ran across is that if he clicks the YouTube icon, it leaves ThingLink and pulls up a new window with the video playing directly in YouTube. However, this only happened once or twice by accident, and he wanted to go back to the ThingLink because he agrees with me: Seeing all his videos linked to one image is pretty stinkin’ cool!
Note: You can upgrade to a pay option, which allows you to view your own images full screen, as well as many other nifty features, but everything I did in preparing Oliver’s YouTube video ThingLink was done with the free version.
So, what’s on Oliver’s ThingLink at the moment?
Language & Letters:
- Little Pim Mandarin – Playtime (LittlePimCo) We like exposing Oliver to other languages, and since his newest playmate speaks only Chinese, we’ll support their communication however we can. Little Pim is our favorite language learning program.
- Learn Letters with Max the Train (coilbook, Learning for Children) These videos are colorful and focus on a variety of preschool skills; I like the Monster Truck Numbers one, too. Bonus: They have Spanish versions of many of their videos.
Science & Math:
- Mythbusters: Diet Coke & Mentos (Discovery) Our household can’t get enough of Jamie and Adam.
- PEG + CAT Sort, Sort, Sort (PBS KIDS) Who doesn’t love PBS? This series showcases a cat AND math skills. Winner!
- Monster Firetrucks Teaching Numbers (OrganicLearning) Oliver loves trucks, and the focus on number recognition is very straightforward.
Colors & Shapes:
- Garbage Trucks Teaching Colors (OrganicLearning) Also very straightforward.
- Shapes Chant (Busy Beaver) Tons to choose from on the Busy Beaver channel! This one in particular encourages interaction.
- Matthew West “Royals” (duanekaeb) This song has been a staple in our house since the World Series last year. BLUE OCTOBER!!
- Itsy Bitsy Spider (Mother Goose Club) Real people dressed as colorful characters who teach and perform all our favorite nursery rhymes. (I switch the rhyme out every once in a while.)
- CATS Animals for Children (All Things Animal TV) I love these informational videos created in the UK. Of course, we’re currently viewing the one on cats. (Surprise!)
- Baby Clouded Leopards (Houston Zoo) If you have an animal lover, the Houston Zoo has clips of animals playing, as well as educational, behind-the-scenes footage.
Other channels to find great preschool YouTube videos:
*My Take on Screen Time
You’ve now read the screen time recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. As a new mom, I swore I’d follow them verbatim. NO screen time for Oliver until he was THREE. I even tried to keep other adults from turning on the TV in my infant’s presence. But, as most first time moms do, I finally found my real life balance, and this NPR article helped assuage my self-induced guilt. My favorite quote comes from researcher Patricia Greenfield: “It’s all about how things are used. And how much they’re used. And what they’re used for.” Jamie, from Hands on as we Grow, has some great guidelines for setting screen time rules. For those who are thinking of including YouTube & ThingLink in their child’s allotted screen time, there are two things I like about it: First, I am able to preview everything he sees. And second, by choosing 1-2 minute clips each showcasing different skills, I ensure he’s getting a well-balanced review in his 15-20 minutes of viewing time.