It would take an estimated 60,000 years to watch every video on YouTube. If you’re a busy working parent with a toddler, that’s about 59,999 years of time you don’t have to waste trying to find videos that your kids will enjoy. It’s easy to fall into the same routines (whatever works). But as the parent of a 21-month-old boy who’s an expert at sharing his preferences for just about everything, I’m doing my best to use YouTube-watching as an opportunity to expand his universe, one video at a time. I love seeing my son’s understanding of the world develop and the oddly specific details his mind latches onto. Here’s a list of the seven most-requested YouTube videos in our house at the moment, with some ideas of why my toddler asks for these in particular. Maybe yours will enjoy them, too.
7. The Beatles – Don’t Let Me Down
Beatles videos are a big hit in our house. Known simply as “Down,” the appeal of this one, in particular, is a mystery. It might be that he takes great joy in telling our cat to get down off of things. Spoiler alert: Ringo has a “red coat” and there’s “dancing.”
6. Anything Elmo
Elmo was a favorite a few months ago. These days we’ll get Elmo requests when he’s bored with something else. This video, or any hundreds of Elmo videos like it, serve the purpose of reminding him that he’s now more interested in other things like firetrucks.
Firetrucks are probably the most exciting vehicle we’ve seen in real life. So naturally watching a firetruck compilation is a big hit because he can see a firetruck anytime he wants and can practice enunciating “siii-ren.” This is one of the first results for “firetruck” on YouTube and it’s a long (boring) compilation of fire trucks going places shot by someone (or multiple people??) who wait around outside fire stations until the trucks roll out. There’s no narration, but the night shots, firetrucks in rain and snow and the rare yellow vehicle thrown in are huge crowd-pleasers with the under-2 demographic. If you think there’d be some shots of fire or firefighters in a video compilation of firetrucks, you’d be wrong. This video has one job and it does it adequately.
4. Wheels on the Bus | Part 8
There are a disturbing number of episodes in all of the Nursery Rhyme Friends series. The pink bus and the bus getting dirty are the big wins in this horrifically annoying take on a nursery rhyme that is by definition annoying on its own. I need to find a better go-to “bus” video. I blame this one in particular for setting the expectation with my 21-month-old that he can specify the color of a vehicle and see it manifest on command.
3. Anything from Moana
Good thing Moana is such a great movie because we’ve seen it literally a billion times.
2. California Trains! 1 Hour, 150+ Trains!
TRAINS! This is currently the top result on YouTube for “trains” and true-to-the-title it has a lot of trains and it is super long. The compilation is noteworthy because whoever edited it together is inconsistent with the pacing: sometimes we see a train fully exit the frame. Other times, there’s a jump cut with a few cars left in frame to the next train already on the screen. This makes me irrationally angry but I put on a good show while I’m live-narrating the action. Sometimes we cut to empty tracks and then, yep you guessed it, TRAIN! We haven’t gotten all the way through this one yet but if you ever need to put a toddler in a trance for more than 20 minutes straight, I’d try putting this on.
1. The Beatles — Hello, Goodbye
His favorite (most requested) Beatles Song: “Hello?” “Hello?” The perfect combination of strange shot choices, colorful costumes, and a simply accessible song. Pro tip: be prepared to watch this at least 10x in a row.