6 Impressive TED Talks for Brainy Kids

TED, a non-profit organization, was founded back in 1984 with the idea of spreading ideas through powerful, short talks (videos of 18 mins or less). These videos are delivered by knowledgeable people who share their stories and talk about things that matter.

These stories usually can’t be found in daily classroom books.

In the past 35+ years, thousands of TED and TEDx talks have been delivered by well-known geniuses like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and other pioneers in every field imaginable. In this article, I bring to you 6 impressive TED talks that you can get your kids to watch to spark inspiration within them and nurture their curiosity for their long years ahead.

A 12-Year-Old App Developer by Thomas Suarez

Thomas Suarez delivered this talk at the age of 12, when he started his own company CarrotCorp. He is now a 21-year-old software & electronics engineer, passionate about the democratization of open platforms and radical technology. He also co-founded Teleportal, a company building spatial technologies and creator tools.

In spite of the advances in technology and availability of gadgets and computers in most parts of the world, there is still a scarcity of good resources for kids to learn coding. In this TED talk, Thomas Suarez demonstrates this with a relatable example – if someone wants to learn how to play the violin, they can always go to a violin class but what if a kid wants to create a program? How do you make sure coding techniques meant for adults can easily be understood by kids? Watch the video to find out.

A notable quote from the talk – “A lot of kids these days like to play games, but now they want to make them, and it’s difficult, because not many kids know where to go to find out how to make a program.”

Science is for Everyone, Kids Included by Beau Lotto + Amy O’Toole

Beau Lotto is a neuroscientist, professor at the University of London, and CEO at The Lab of Misfits. One of his famous proclamations is, “I have pretty much two aims: to create doubt through the awareness of perception, and to create space for holding that uncertainty. At its core, that’s what science is!”

Amy O’Toole is a 12-year old student who, at the age of 10, became the youngest person to publish a peer-reviewed science paper. She was a member of “iScientist” – a science program led by Beau Lotto.

In his quest for a definitive answer to the question, “Can anyone become a scientist?” Beau Lotto conducted an experiment with 25-odd kids in the 8 to 10-year age group. And the results were amazing. You should see the video to know how these kids became the youngest published scientists in the world. In this talk, he correlates science and play based on the ideas that ‘Science is an act of being’ and ‘Experiments are play.’

A notable quote from the talk – “Changing the way a person thinks about something can be easy or hard. It all depends on the way the person feels about change. But changing the way I thought about science was surprisingly easy.”

The Magic Ingredient that Brings Pixar Movies to Life by Danielle Feinberg

Danielle Feinberg’s love for combining art and computer programming began when she was 8 years old. She eventually ended up heading Visual Effects at Pixar. 

Feinberg talks about the magic that is created when science and art come together to inform, entertain and change the very way we think about life. Watch this video to get a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes of Pixar movies that we all love.

A noteworthy quote from the talk – “We use math, science and code to create these amazing worlds. We use storytelling and art to bring them to life. It’s this interweaving of art and science that elevates the world to a place of wonder, a place with soul, a place we can believe in…”

The Simple Power of Hand-Washing by Myriam Sidibe

Dr. Myriam Sidibe is a public health expert and the only person with a doctorate in public health with a focus on handwashing with soap. With an aim to change hand-washing behaviors among people, she leads Social Mission activity in 55+ countries.

This talk reveals some heart-breaking statistics about the mortality rate among newly born babies due to pneumonia and diarrhea. Dr. Myriam Sidibe explains how a change in our hand-washing habits can reverse these stats in our favor. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Sidibe’s simple methods and instructions advocating hygiene and handwashing become all the more pertinent.

A notable quote from the talk – “So, what if I told you that the person whose hands you just shook actually didn’t wash their hands when they were coming out of the toilet? They don’t look so pretty anymore, right?”

Your Brain on Video Games by Daphne Bavelier

Daphne Bavelier is a Cognitive Researcher. She studies the impact of different experiences caused by training on the human brain.

Parents today can’t seem to stop complaining about their children’s fascination with video games (remember PUBG?) and smartphone apps. Bavelier points out how these very same games (that parents have learnt to hate) and other STEM toys can actually improve brain plasticity and foster learning.

A noteworthy quote from the talk – “I’m going to argue that in reasonable doses, actually the very game I showed you at the beginning, those action-packed shooter games have quite powerful effects and positive effects on many different aspects of our behavior.”

How I Built a Windmill by William Kamkwamba

At the age of 14, William Kamkwamba built a windmill using scrap metal and spare parts to generate electricity to power his family home. His journey is documented in a book titled The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which was later made into a movie.

This talk is in a different format than the ones I’ve covered so far. It is structured as an interview where the speaker – William – talks about how he created an electricity-producing windmill with almost zero access to any resources in a remote village in the small African country of Malawi.

A noteworthy quote from the talk – “I tried. And I made it.”

Over to You!

TED talks are a powerhouse of inspiration and knowledge. It is a great idea to instill the habit of watching TED talks (and innumerable other videos on YouTube as well as STEM resources available online) in your kids during their formative years. This way, not only do they enjoy the learning process, but also get to learn from pioneers, thought-leaders, industry experts, and geniuses from all around the globe.

So, which was your favourite TED Talk from our list? Let us know in the comments if you have any other interesting resources to share!

About author: Shreiya Aggarwal-Gupta is the owner of the early education startup Kidpillar, which aims to provide developmental opportunities and resources for young children in the field of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) via kid-friendly journals, practical DIY kits, and simple project-based learnings and workshops. Shreiya is also a passionate blogger, computer science engineer, finance whiz, and “perfect mommy” to her son.

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