Using YouTube to Get Kids Moving - Small Legacies

Using YouTube to Get Kids Moving

By Kendra Johnson

I’ve made a decision. This year… I‘m hibernating. 3 years ago I made a new years’ resolution to spend 1000 hours outside and we spent hours and hours out in the snow. That’s not happening this year. 

I absolutely LOVE the 1000 hours outside challenge and someday I WILL succeed at it. But this is not that year. This year I just need to adjust my goals. 

I have 3 sons ages 4, 3 and 9 months and this winter the four of us are going to spend a bit more time indoors.  And that's ok. However, my three boys have a LOT of energy and so I’ve already had to get creative on getting them active. 

Every week in January I'm going to share with you some of my favorite indoor activities that get kids moving. First up: YouTube!

YouTube: The Good and the Bad

I honestly avoided YouTube for years with my kids. As a former educational technology director, I spent years studying the risks and negative influence of too much screen time* (especially unmonitored tablet screen time). But lately, I just can’t resist the many wonderful programs that are available for free for kids on YouTube.

Tip #1: Put it on the Big Screen

Instead of having my kid sit with a small tablet, I put the videos on the larger tv screen in our living room. 

Children are going to be able to move around more and get more active if they aren’t straining to view the video on a small screen. Put the videos on a large screen in the largest room in your home so there is plenty of room to run around. 

Tip #2: Be Their Coach

By default, my kids are going to stand or sit still and just watch the video. It’s up to me to get my boys moving. 

During this activity:

  • I tell my boys in advance what song we are going to listen to (and ask them to help pick)
  • I describe the rules of the game: "When the music is playing follow the instructions they give us!"
  • I stay with them and be their cheerleader (seriously continually cheering them on: "go go go! woo hoo!")

Tip #3: When They Seem Uninterested, Switch to a New One 

There will be some songs that they just lose interest in. Sometimes we repeat the same song literally ten times. And that's ok. I let their interests guide us. I just make it clear that it's "movement time" so we need to pick a song that will get us moving. 

Tip #4: Have Water Nearby

If the activity is effective, they will be winded and need some water throughout the activity. 


Tip #5: Go Barefoot to Avoid Falling

If you have hard floors be sure to go barefoot or wear shoes. We've learned the hard way that socks and running games don't mix. Inevitably someone gets hurt. 


Here are my all-time favorite YouTube videos!

I hope you love these movement based videos as much as we do!


Marching: We are the Dinosaurs 

Running: I’m Gonna Catch You

By Laurie Berkner

This is our favorite! The video isn't embedded so just click the image or title above to access the video. 

Jumping: Hop Little Bunnies

By Ms. Rachel on Songs for Littles

Arm Movement: The Goldfish Song

By Laurie Berkner

Again, the video isn't embedded so just click the image or title above to access the video. 

Whole Body: Shake Your Sillies Out


*A Note on Screen Time

Screen time is a struggle for me sometimes. At my previous job, I ran the 1-to-1 iPad program for a K-8 school. As I built this program from the ground up, I did extensive research on tablet use as well as general screen time and how it influences child development. 

The truth is that too much screen time leads to speech delays, sensory sensitivities, and obesity. In order for this to be a healthy activity, it’s important that you stay with your kids and cheer them on as they participate. 

There are always times that I just NEED to get things done so I put on Ms. Rachel as a distraction to keep the kids safe and busy. If my goal is to get gets moving though, I know I need to be right there with them cheering them on. (Now I really just need to work on moving with them, haha). 


Kendra Johnson is a certified elementary educator based in rural Wisconsin. As a parent and teacher, Kendra has a passion for teaching through engaging and varied techniques. Her background in theatre, educational technology and curriculum development have fueled her passion for teaching life skills to youth creatively.

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