The path of raising bilingual children in Japan was never going to be an easy ride. However, the bumps along the way have allowed me to develop skills in areas that have always been of interest to me, namely education, digital media and publishing and has also introduced me to the world of bilingual (English and Japanese) education. Up to now, we have chosen to educate the children in the Japanese schooling system which they joined from a young age. We continue with English as our home language (Minority Language At Home) and I have supported their English development with a home education system.
A Multi-pronged Bilingual Approach
As English home-educators can attest to, the ability to source creative, challenging material that does more than just educate the bilingual learner in the principles of the English language, but stimulates them, is key. My approach to a bilingual education in Japan is by no means the only approach, but has worked well for our family, as my Japanese husband and I both communicate in English both to the children and with each other. A multi-pronged approach to bilingualism has been necessary in order to grow the children’s interest in English, improve their speaking ability and in turn grow their desire to read and write. I hoped to link all these aspects of language learning, by finding online YouTube videos to support the English material I was using with them at home.
10 YouTube Channels for Preschool Learners
I have followed a lot of online educational forums since the birth of my first son. There, I found numerous recommendations for YouTube channels for young learners. While we have tried many of the different channels and have watched hours of shows, there has been a lot of sifting done to find the ones that they really liked and that I thought had educational value. This being said, I will focus on the channels that despite the age difference (4 years and 7 years) they can watch together and we ourselves subscribe to in our home.
The YouTube channels below that I have recommended for bilingual kids may be a good place to start, but are by no means exhaustive. I have found my favourite shows through YouTube’s recommendations based on my subscriptions to these children’s shows. Starting with shows my youngest prefers to those my oldest requests, here they are.
1. Pancake Manor
An American show with retro-themed songs for young children covering a variety of topics with British English and American English variations. Popular with our family due to the tolerable tunes for adult listeners. Really! Check out the link here.
2. HiHo Kids
A well-executed series covering multicultural topics and biases using American children to showcase the channel’s material. Children from varying racial backgrounds try foods from around the world on Kids Try and their natural, unrestrained reactions were really popular with my kids. The show has been expanded to cover current topics in Kids Meet and I often hear my children laughing at the silly and sometimes ridiculous comebacks. Check out the link here.
A CBeebies TV program using 26 living letters to connect the children’s interest in the characters, to the phonetic sounds that they make when joined together in a word. The show is based on a foundation of key phonetic skills and helps with letter recognition. It is a hit with my 4-year-old beginner reader. If you like this you may find Numberblocks interesting too! Check out the link here.
4. Cosmic Kids Yoga
A favourite channel of mine this winter to get the children to expend their extra energy or to relax after a tiring day at school. They focus their minds on the story while being encouraged to keep up with the yoga moves. The yoga teacher is excellent and has the ability to keep the kids engaged by introducing familiar themes like Pokemon or by using classic storybook adventures like The Wizard of Oz. Check out the link here.
5. Mr. Tumble & Friends
A British kids show introducing Mr. Tumble and friends which has the presenter visiting a number of everyday locations, like the post office or zoo, which are easily identifiable to the young learner. His use of Makaton sign language widens his audience-base to include special needs learners. Check out the link here.
The Storybots channel helps your children to practice literacy and maths skills with topics ranging from history to science and how to manage their emotions. Storybots Super Songs is a complimentary channel and has been used in many a classroom around the world. Check out the link here.
7. Babble Dabble Do
A science-based channel with a lot of simple experiments to do together with the children. The bright high-quality images are crisp and clear, as are the DIY instructions, which make it popular with my 7-year-old son. Check out the link here.
A maths channel using catchy songs, attractive animations and age-appropriate dance sequences for children who like to be both numerically and physically challenged. My kids love the break-dance routines for the times tables songs! Check out the link here.
9. Scishow Kids
An American science show targeted at children who ask a lot of ’why?’ questions. The presenter, Jessi speaks fast but keeps the children engaged due to the use of fun animations, by conducting experiments and with a selection of popular subject matter. Check out the link here.
10. Crash Course Kids
An informative show to keep older kids stimulated with an in-depth discussion of scientific topics in an entertaining and demonstrative way. The presenter poses questions to encourage critical-thinking in young learners. Check out the link here.
Although the interactive digital age my children are a part of is somewhat different to my own childhood spent reading without a kindle and navigating materials without a browser, I am grateful for this hub of online information. From the growth of their intellectual development, as well as my own, it it a fantastic resource to enhance their language development when books or access to offline English material may be more limited.