Sure, you could feed your child a steady diet of Sid the Science Kid and Bill Nye the Science Guy to get them up to STEM speed, but there’s a whole other world of education content (not run by science persons) you might not be exposing them to. For instance, did you know that YouTube wasn’t just about Russian cartoons about firetrucks or some weirdo named Blippi singing about … well, firetrucks? Here are those channels where they learn less about unboxing toys and sorting M&Ms, and more about physics, chemistry, biology, and blowing stuff up using the scientific method. “Skip Ad” in 3 seconds to check out this list of YouTube’s top mad scientists.
Veritasium tackles science questions big and small, from “Is glass a liquid?” and “What is a candle flame made out of?” to “Can we go the speed of light?” and “What exactly is the present?” (You know, things you used to wonder about in your dorm room.) Along the way they’ll be introduced to experts, watch up-close demos of experiments, and go on the occasional radioactive site tour. Oh, and like any good science show, the host blows some shit up from time to time.
SciShow is actually a whole collective series of YouTube shows, ranging from topical science news breakdowns to expert interviews and quiz battles that pit science nerd against science nerd. For kids, the “Quick Questions” videos are a good place to start. It’s like if a group of 5-year-old kids grew up and never stopped asking, “but why?” Expect answers to questions like why do cats love catnip, how do penguins’ feet not freeze walking on ice all day, and why do infants have that amazing new-baby smell. (And it’s not because you hung that pine tree air freshener around them.)
The Backyard Scientist
This channel tackles the greatest scientific question of all: Can anything good come out of Florida? And the answer is yes, but with a gigantic “don’t try this at home, kids” caveat. The Backyard Scientist conducts insane, pyro-heavy chemistry experiments right in—you guessed it—his backyard. Do his neighbors mind? Irrelevant! It’s Florida! Don’t be surprised when your kid wants to move the patio furniture so he can try out blowing his own cornstarch fireballs and setting the pool on fire with liquid nitrogen.
It doesn’t get science-ier than this. Just look at the host’s hair. Periodic Videos offers detailed explanations of every element in the Periodic Table and reports on Nobel Prize-winning experiments. But c’mon, how can you expect your kid to care about that stuff when they also have slow-motion chemistry reaction videos of exploding hydrogen bubbles filmed with high-speed cameras at close range? (As you may have realized, explosions are basically science’s money shot.)
No relation to the guys behind the DNC email leak. This crazy Russian is all about scientific life hacks, food hacks, and gadget tests — like making potato chips in a microwave, DIY glow-in-the-dark duct tape, and exploding a watermelon using nothing but rubber bands. He also has a whole series on practical zombie apocalypse survival tips, because holing up in a shopping mall is just Hollywood nonsense.
Mark Rober IS science, bro. (Sorry for calling you bro, dude.) Consider this channel just like the Discovery Channel, but with a heavy dose of MTV attitude, minus any sign of Dan Cortese. These videos focus on too-cool-for-school subjects like cheat codes, for the best egg drop projects (hello, instant A+), testing the world’s biggest Nerf blaster, and making your own snowball machine gun. Keep those last 2 projects out of the classroom.
As Gob Bluth would say: “It’s not a trick, Michael. It’s an illusion.” (And then something about how a trick is a thing a whore does for money.) Brusspup videos showcase amazing large-scale scientific optical illusions, like a ramp that makes marbles appear to roll upwards, and a candle display that looks like a 3-D box on fire. The only downside: the Coldplay-esque soundtrack. Making their music listenable would be a pretty great trick, though. Sorry — illusion.
There’s lots of cool “what happens when we put this thing in acid/nitrogen/fire?” stuff on NurdRage, but there are also some practical applications for this stuff. Who needs a nightlight when you can let them have their own luminescent 2-liter Coke bottle? Of course, keep reminding your kids that you’re not trained chemist, and that if anything happens they should have their mother on speed dial.
Smarter Every Day
Smarter Every Day is like a word-a-day calendar, but it’s not on paper, it won’t give you today’s date, and has nothing to do with words. What it will do is provide your kid with videos that explain the physics of cats always landing on their feet, the process of milking the world’s most venomous fish, and the “what the F?” of how Houdini died. He might be onto something special here: President Obama won’t make a guest appearance on just anyone’s science YouTube channel.
The Slo Mo Guys
The Slo Mo Guys are more science-ish than scientist, but sometimes you need to put some entertainment back into edutainment? It’s incredible what look interesting when it’s slowed down to a crawl. Take a detailed look at glass and paint explosions, popping bubbles, shooting a watermelon, and a bunch of crazy Jackass stuff like getting your tongue caught in a mouse trap and doing backflips with flamethrowers (complete with Steve-O cameo). Fair warning: Your kid will want to try some of what they see in these videos. It’s on you to figure out the flame-throwing gymnastic logistics.