The family pet video blog [Youth Activities that Rock]

In this post we walk parents through setting up and executing on a a great indoor / outdoor activity for kids that teaches them the basics of filming, editing, and how to act in front of a camera. Specifically this activity centers around filming a family pet or pets over time and turning that video into a video blog or video podcast. Kids love this project because they get to run around with a video camera and film their pets, talk in front of the camera, and create charts that measures the progress of the pet over time. Read on past the break for more details of this great activity for youth that involves technology, film making, and learning!

The Description

So, in this kids activity you’ll be sending your kids (this is described as a youth activity because this project works great for everyone from toddlers through tweens) out in the field to film your pets, film themselves talking about what the observed, film the charting of any data they collected, edit their video, and finally upload to YouTube.

For the purposes of this post I’m going to use the example of a toddler and some dogs because that’s what we have here at the house (3 dogs actually… 2 Feisty Boxer Puppies and one old, semi-lethargic, boxer mix…. along with a 3 year old boy). Even though I’m using a dog as the example you’ll be able to apply this idea to any family pet… be it a cat, snake, horse (is a horse really a pet?) etc….

What you will need for the family pet vlog kids project

Required Equipment

  • You’ll be needing the following “equipment” to make this activity successful:
  • Some sort of video camera: We’ve got a couple of video device recommendations for you, but depening on the age of the children you’ll either want a flip video camera or an iPhone/iPod.
  • Some Poster Board & Markers.
  • A Stopwatch (you can also use an iPhone for this… as long as it’s not your video camera).
  • A measuring tape like this one.
  • Index Cards
  • Dog Treats (our favorite are the freeze dried liver treats).

Optional Equipment

  • A body weight scale (if you have little dogs or a cat this will work well).
  • An external microphone (or a second iPhone or iPod touch works great for this) – This really only works well with the older kids.

Other Required Stuff

  • Video editing software
    • iMovie: Comes free on a Mac and is some of the best software out there for the non-pros like you and I working on video.
    • Windows Live Movie Maker is free if you’ve got a PC and will get the job done.
  • A Account
  • A high speed internet connection
  • An email client like Gmail or Outlook

Prep Work

You’ll want to have a list of tasks handy to assign to your kids. These tasks should clearly call out if your kids should be doing the filming, acting in front of the camera, or be filmed doing some measurement. The following table contains sample tasks:

Once you have the prep work done things will fall into place pretty quickly.  You need only to follow through with the story board you created in the prepwork template above.

Some things you’ll want to think about having in your prepwork:

  1. Opening Scenes: What will the introduction look like?  Is the toddler filming or are we filming the toddler?  What prep questions will we ask the toddler or have him cover in the video? What is this particular episode about?
  2. Main Scenes: How many scenes will you need to film in the body of the work.  As an example if in this episode we are teaching one of the dogs how to sit will we film once a day over 5 days until he has it down and then cut them all together?  We we film once with 30 second takes cut out of the film until the dog gets the trick?
  3. Closing Scene: How do we want to close out the video?  In the example above would I end the scene with the dog finally getting the trick nailed down? Do I want to follow up with a quick inerview of the boy on what he learned?  Other questions I’d want to ask him in this scene?
  4. Artifacts: Are there any charts or poster boards needed in this scene?  For instance in the example above about teaching the dog how to sit could I have a poster-board or white-board tracking the time spent teaching or the number of tries it took to get it right?  I could have the boy explain later  in the video what he was tracking.  I could also show that as a backdrop in the closing scene.

Executing on the idea

Once you have your prep-work done this should be pretty easy.  What I would recommend is setting up a schedule to execute.  If this is a summer project for instance I would try to film one video each week with the boy.  Depending on the age you can have them watch you edit, help you edit, or they can edit themselves.  The schedule we used was each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday we would film, Thursday we would edit, and Friday we would upload and email a link out to family and friends.  Saturday & Sunday were reserved for coming up with new ideas and prepwork.  If you get the kids into a schedule they will keep up with it and have lots of fun and will know what to expect each day.

Once you’ve got your movie filmed and uploaded to YouTube you just need to send the YouTube link to your Posterous account via email.  Posterous will pick up the link to YouTube and embed the video right on the site along with any text you type in the email.  The subject line of the email will become the title of the post.  That’s all there is to it!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get my content to YouTube?

The easiest way is to upload it from iMovie if you own a mac and are doing your video editing on the mac.  We cover that in this post on uploading video from iMovie.  If you’ve got a PC we recommend using Windows Live Movie Maker which supports one click upload to YouTube just like iMovie on a mac.

How do I edit my videos?

The easiest way to edit your videos is to use iMovie on a mac.  If you don’t have a mac you can edit your videos using Windows Live Movie Maker.

How do I set up a Posterous account?

Just head on over to and fill out their quick 3 field form (they only ask for email address, username, and a password).


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