Here is a list of fantastic learning resources for kids and adults of all ages. Much of this list has been compiled by my 8-year old, Srikanth. So this makes it his first guest post. While he was growing up, I was hoping that he would have a real talent for fine arts like singing, dancing, painting or be an athlete or at the very least like sports. Instead, he turned out to super nerdy who cannot catch a ball, but can explain in detail the intricacies of plant reproduction. No, we did not show him that. He browsed around Youtube and found it himself in his daily 2-hour internet window. The list below is suitable for all ages – infants to toddlers – kids – teens – young adults and older adults.
Before we begin,
(1): How expensive are our schools? Please participate in this survey and share it
(2) I would like to clarify that we never forced him to watch anything. We started off with baby einstein videos (they were then on Youtube in full!), but always offline. We never gave him control of the internet until recently. He still believes that his desktop cannot have an internet connection. This is where he watches videos offline.
Although we showed a variety of videos (only a few minutes a day after he turned one) he naturally chose his comfort zone. He would watch an aunty on youtube explain ‘how to make a cup of tea’ over and over again. He is a bit of a documentary kid. He likes to listen to people describe things slowly and clearly and hates flashy videos. My point is, that we need to expose children to a variety of resources (offline, online, books, games etc) and see where they are headed. Like any other normal kid, he also entertains himself with cartoons and comics and toys. No mobile, no iPad, no videos games though (one exception listed below)
There will be some uncomfortable situations though. A few days ago, he asked us: Appa, how does the male get his sperm into the female? Well, we panicked and said, “it is a bit too early for you know. You will learn about it later”. He did not ask that question because he watched some nonsense on TV (kept by adults) or picked up something from an older kid. He knows how plants reproduce and sort of connected the dots. Yeah, intelligent kids are often born to mediocre fathers.
Parenting is a journey into the unknown where we sort of learn on the fly. If we have some clear ground rules on what is ‘okay’ and what is ‘not okay’ for the child as early as possible, we will be fine. The intention of this post is to only share some resources which I believe are fantastic for kids. I do not want to sound holier than thou when I write this. Each child is unique and it is our job as parents to figure out how.
Before you introduce any of these to your children, please take some time to evaluate with your spouse if it is acceptable to you. Our cultural values may be different.
Our ground rules for Srikanth
1: No television. There is some good stuff here, but it is too fast paced and you have distracting commercials. In his 8Y, he must have watched about 15 hours of TV and all of it when he visits my in-laws at Bangalore. Cannot control everything!
2: Instead of a TV, we chose to give him a desktop and give a limited supply fo videos to watch. So he would watch this over and over again (over days and weeks). When something slow and pleasant to watch is repeated over and over again, it creates an impression on the child. These first impressions are beyond crucial.
3: No mobile phones, i-pads or gaming devices
4: plenty of books (I have a huge stack of comics that I cannot wait for him to read) – most visual dictionaries.
5: Plenty of building sets. He works on these for hours. Sadly he is a nerdy loner and cannot make friends (like yours truly). But this gives him time to think and put his thoughts into action. A strong individuality often comes tagged with social awkwardness. (and no stage fright!) Well, frankly I don’t mind. Why fit in, when you were born to stand out – Dr. Seuss.
Fuelling a child’s individuality will make him confidently listen to his calling and hopefully make him creative
Well, that is the plan anyway. Let us see how it goes.
Parenting is both a fulltime job and a career rolled into one. These resources are meant for parent willing to put in effort
Learning resources for kids and adults
About 60-70% of the channels mentioned here were discovered by Srikanth.
1: Common Sense Media: We check if a movie or cartoon or book is age appropriate for him. This offers a good review of the pros and cons of a childing watching or learning from a resource. In India, we do not make this distinction. We must!!
2: Baby Einstein If you have an infant or toddler, this is an absolute must. I cannot explain how big a developmental role these videos played. They are slow-paced videos on movement, rhythm, patterns and simple word with some awesome smoothing music. The full videos were available on Youtube then (now taken down due to copyright). See if you can get some of them from Amazon.in or .com if you have someone coming from US/Europe get the full set.
3: Curious George: Animated series based on the books by Margret and H.A. Rey. They make children think and learn and be plain curious about everything that happens around them. The series is produced by Ron Howard and Brian Glazed (Apollo 13, Beautiful mind etc) and is of exceptional quality.
4: Mathantics: Do your kids have trouble learning math? Do you have trouble teaching them? Try this channel and possibly save some tuition fees. If possible, introduce these early – even one year before they teach it in school.
6: Teach them about how the body works playlist from Kidshealth.org
7: Watch the Dambusters 1955 movie with older kids (say 12+, but watch alone to check first). This will teach them to respect engineers. The story how a special kind of bomb was designed to blow up a German dam during WWII. Every semester, I ask my class to watch this. If you have younger children, this is a great movie for you to watch. This is the history behind the movie: Operation Chastise
8: Apollo 13 – Srikanth must have seen this movie dozens of times.
9: Plant reproduction (a sample)
10: Donald Duck Donald In Mathmagic Land (must watch, all ages above 2)
11: How Its Made (discovery channel). If something can be manufactured, rest assured they will have a video about it here.
12: The royal institution. Simple science experiments for kids and full-fledged lecture demonstrations
13: Interactive biology. Another great channel to learn about body functions. This is meant for slightly older audience but Srikanth likes it a lot.
14: Hubble Space Telescope. Srikanth loves astronomy and is captivated by what this channel offers.
15: Red Orbit. A “what is?” series of videos. What is bacteria? What is lightning? Etc.
16: Peep and the big wide world Exploring nature for Toddlers
17: Tell me why Simple how and why animation series about the world around us.
18: Makemegenius NIce set of science videos for kids
19: Smart learning for all. Here is a sample:
Srikanth the velociraptor
Since he likes to explain stuff our loud, we started a youtube channel for him. Nothing professional, just for fun and exploration. This is him explaining the scale of the universe.
Beware: Be careful about letting children use the internet on their own! It is only when we became confident about Srikanths “browsing patterns” did we let him search on youtube on his own.
What are your favourite online learning resources? Share in the comment box below. Please avoid hyperlinks as they will be moderated.