YouTube is a whole wide world of children’s entertainment. Watching videos en français with your child makes screen time also learning time! The best part: you’re probably already using YouTube. According to the Pew Research Center, over 81% of American parents use YouTube to find content for their children. It’s projected that by the end of 2020, 25.7 million kids under 11 will actively consume digital videos on YouTube and other streaming platforms like Netflix. Outlets like The Guardian are calling YouTube “the new children’s TV.”

All of this just goes to show that, regardless of age, users are spoiled for choice when it comes to engaging beginner’s French videos. Our previous forays into YouTube’s catalog included TV episodes and TED Talks. While these categories include a wealth of videos for adult learners of French, they likely aren’t age appropriate for younger learners. Enter: programming for children and teens.

Many of our favorite characters here at the Center also live online with their own YouTube channels. Some of these well-loved picture book heroes include:

Petit Ours Brun and T'choupi are two of our most popular characters for young children. These series follow the family and friends of “little brown bear” and a small penguin. They teach everything from emotions to getting dressed in the morning!

If your child is a bigger fan of zebras or wolves, look into Trotro or Mini-Loup, respectively.

Looking for more humanoid characters? Canadian (and bilingual) favorite Caillou can be found on YouTube, along with some of his friends. Leo et Popi follows a young boy with his stuffed monkey, while oui oui officiel is a sort of Toy Story or Island of Misfit Toys in French. Or maybe robots are more their speed? They’ll love the inventive world of Rolie Polie Olie.

Les Pyjamasques features three 6-year-old friends. Sacha, Amaya, and Greg live normal lives during the day, but transform in their pajamas with the help of animal amulets to become super heroes at night! If your child enjoys superhero tales, be sure to also click through to SamSam’s channel! This character originated as part of the ensemble cast of the magazine Les Belles histoires de Pomme D'api (which we receive at the Center). He now has his own planet (SamPlanète) from which he goes on intergalactic adventures with his animated teddy bear sidekick (SamNounours).

Two must-see classics include Babar and Les Malheurs de Sophie! Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff’s beloved elephant first appeared in 1931 and has been teaching and entertaining ever since. First published in 1858, the Countess of Ségur’s plucky main character has been getting into (mis)adventures on the page and screen for quite a while!
Other channels to check out for this level of French include ZouZous and Monsieur Bonhomme, both of which feature a mix of characters and stories that will appeal to young learners.

Videos based on popular bande dessinées will be popular with older kids. A big favorite at the moment is the series Les Légendaires. These BDs are set in a mythical world called Alysia. The five legendary heroes of this world failed in one of their missions, causing everyone, including themselves, to revert to childhood. Can they undo their mistake and regain the trust of the people they protect over the course of their adventures?
While episodes are currently unavailable on their channel, you can check these heroes out at the library!

Some old favorites include Les Schtroumpfs and Lucky Luke, both of which have their own unique settings. The Smurfs, as the little blue population is known in English, have their own village, adventures, and way of life. Lucky Luke makes his way through the Old West with the reputation of being able to outshoot his shadow. If you like Westerns, try the adventures of Yakari, his pony Petit Tonnerre, and their friends Arc-en-Ciel and Graine de Bison.

Some more modern-day BD heroes that you can find on our library shelves include Cédric and Spirou et Fantasio. Cédric is the 8-year-old hero of the show that bears his name. He lives with his parents and grandfather, putting three generations of shenanigans under the same roof! Spirou and Fantasio, who can also be found on the chanel Spirou, travel the world, having high-speed adventures and solving mysteries. They have some scientific help from two humans, and emotional support from their very smart pet squirrel!

In addition to beloved characters of French origins, popular English-based programming is available with French dubbing. For example, search "5 rue Sesame" on YouTube to find clips from the French version of Sesame Street. You can even find channels for Peppa Pig and the teletubbies en français !

The opportunities to use YouTube to supplement your child’s (and your own!) language learning are endless. We hope that this list has given you a place to start and some new characters to adore. Be sure to come into the library to discover even more about these characters, whether you are just now discovering them or they have held your affection for years!

Ingrid began her passion for French through the immersion program in Milton, MA, and has followed it around France and the world. She took a break from this first love to pursue a B.A. in English with a minor in Irish Studies at Boston College and a Masters of Library and Information Sciences at Simmons College. She is thrilled to meld her excitement for libraries and French language and culture in her position at the Center!

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