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Explain like I'm five: child-friendly videos for junior petrolheads

Published: 09 April 2020

 School’s out and it’s not even summer yet
► Parents across the country are now teachers
► Essential car-based education content 

How long did the home-schooling schedule last in your house? Our carefully constructed timetable with its hourly breakdown of learning became barbecue kindling within days. Only PE with Joe remains.

Still, you can’t give up, otherwise your child’s daily to-do list will involve rinsing Disney+ for all the animated musicals it can serve and trying to guess the password you’ve set up on your PS4 to stop them from downloading hundreds of pounds’ worth of Minecraft DLC.

Further lockdown activities

Thankfully as well as beaming a Spiderman-clad fitness expert doing burpees into your lounge, the internet (and specifically YouTube) is jammed pack with free educational content for those of us suddenly tasked with having to understand and teach phonics.

Of course there’s also the need to engage younger viewers with the STEM subjects we keep being told will be vital to this country’s future, so here’s a list of the best videos for petrol headed toddlers and teenagers.

How do cars work and move?

How do cars work and move?

Kicking things off with hefty dose of brick-based visual learning, this video from Danish tyre-company and maker of colourful joy blocks explains complicated engineering including the basics of internal combustion by rendering it in Lego.

It’s comprehensive, entertainingly presented and provides an inspirational gateway to producing your own stop motion video masterpieces, should a rainy day activity be required. The Lego Discover channel itself is also brilliant, incidentally.

Build an air Powered Car (and Tom Stanton in general)

Build an air powered car

Aerospace engineer and 1% Lewis (formely of this parish) Kingston lookalike Tom Stanton uses shed-based tech like CNC machining and additive manufacture to make all sorts of cool things kids love – drones, catapults to fire things at your sister and devices that make your pushbike do a wheelie.

We particularly like the air powered car series as it works on a similar (although greatly simplified) concept to an internal combustion engine. Well, on the basis it has a piston and four wheels, at least.

This is a great way to indulge a child with a burgeoning passion for engineering, but binge watching will result in you spending serious cash on a 3D printer. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

WRC greatest drivers - Colin McRae

WRC greatest drivers - Colin McRae

The word educational means different things to different people and while you won’t find a video of Colin McRae sending an Impreza over a huge Finnish jump on the national curriculum there’s so much to be learned from the great Scot’s driving style that can only be taught through the medium of motorsport.

Unless you want to become one of those ultra-competitive parents berating a child for a poor ice skating performance on a Louis Theroux documentary, it’s important to introduce your kids to the idea that trying your hardest is what counts. Consider this a life lesson.

Few things demonstrate this as brilliantly as flat-out McRae on a full win-it-or-bin-it charge – a driver denied a second and third WRC championship by a handful of points, who remains hugely successful and admired with a level of greatness that is easily surpassed by his number of stage wins.

Focus, commitment and risk vs reward are the takeaway lessons here – this video is also a gateway to the brilliant WRC Greatest Drivers series plus a whole host of Colin content just waiting to be enjoyed.

How does forced induction work?

How does forced induction work?

Engineering Explained is our go-to source when it comes to, well, explaining engineering. That Ronseal name suits the no-frills production concept behind this channel’s output. Man sits in front of white board and explains things, just like school.

It’s worth noting that while covering all of the bases in a very detailed way, Jason Fenske’s older videos aren’t quite as engaging as what the channel currently puts out. Still, if you can concentrate for the length of each video then there isn’t a subject he hasn’t covered, such is the comprehensive back catalogue of content.

If you have older kids who are already enthralled in the subject, or one of your minors has asked you a complicated question you don’t know the answer to, look no further.

How steering and differentials works

How steering and differentials works

This black and white infographic might be from 1937 but there has yet to be a better video explanation of how a differential works (and why you might eventually consider welding yours up) thanks to its clear imagery and explain it like I’m five-years-old narration.

It also gives you an introduction into how gears work, and brilliantly simplifies a difficult concept, plus it’ll also show your toddler why they keep lighting up the inside tyre of their fixed axle ride-a-long car in tight turns.

Bonus: How a Transmission Works, shot in the same style.

Best rotary engined cars drifting

Best rotary engined cars drifting

Not really educational at all but as we’re halfway through this list you can maybe consider this something of a noisy lunchbreak.

Plus, there’s more to teaching than simply answering the learner’s questions – it’s just as important to inspire their own thirst for knowledge, and this video will prompt questions like ‘what is a reverse entry drift?’, ‘why is the back of that car on fire?’ and ‘when can we drop a three-rotor into Mum’s Fabia?’.

VTEC: How it works

VTEC: How it works

Almost at the opposite end of the scale to Engineering Explained is this channel and its brash presentation and fancy graphics. It’s no less detailed than Fenske’s stuff but definitely appeals to a more casual audience, plus takes on broader educational concepts such as ‘The Toyota Supra’ if you feel like your child has a petrol head blindspot.

We’ve picked this excellent VTEC explainer because A) VTEC is cool and B) because it pulls in various other engineering elements like camshafts, valves and the challenge of economy vs performance, which you can then explore at leisure. Another channel more suited to an older audience, though.

CAR's Sports Car Giant Test 2019

CAR's Sports Car Giant Test 2019

CLANG! It didn’t take long, did it, before we referenced some of our own YouTube content. The thing is, you can’t with a clear conscience send your child back to school unless they’ve got a definitive answer to the question what is the best sports car currently on sale in order to successfully argue with their mates.

So sit down for half an hour and allow James Dennison and Chris Chilton to whittle down the runners and riders. While you’re there, why not give us a thumbs up and down forget to smash that like button. Cheers!

Climb Dance - 1988 Pikes Peak Hill Climb, Ari Vatanen

Climb Dance - 1988 Pikes Peak Hill Climb, Ari Vatanen

Alright, not strictly educational in the traditional sense, but there are some very valuable lessons to be taken from the greatest piece of motorsport on-board footage ever recorded.

Firstly, that it is important to use all of the track even when it means hanging a wheel over the edge of a cliff and secondly, how to maintain oversteer with one hand so you can block out the sun with the other, while sliding a 600bhp prototype rally car up the most challenging hill climb in the world.

The best thing is your kids won’t even realise they’re learning, so captivated will they be by the size of the Peugeot’s wing and the jaunty piano music that accompanies its sideways journey to the finish line.

By Adam Binnie

Bauer Automotive's new cars editor; likes bikes and burgers, often over-tyred

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