So Your Kids Want to Be YouTube Stars: How One Family Made It Happen

Today’s kid celebrities aren’t just found acting on TV or movies anymore—they’re being themselves on YouTube. You might not know who EvanTubeHDkittiesmama, or Kid President are, but chances are your kids do, thanks to how easy the YouTube Kids app has made it to find kid-friendly content with the tap of a finger.

Do your kids dream of being the next big YouTube sensation? There’s no one right way to do it, but Jillian and Addie of the channel babyteeth4 have made it happen with the hard work and support of their parents Bob and Tommie. Bob turned his family’s home movie hobby into his profession, and his unique story might even inspire you and your kids to do the same.

130 Million Views and Counting

Bob and the kids’ adventures in YouTube began in 2006. “My wife Tommie suggested I make a video birthday invitation which we could burn on DVDs and mail out to our family and friends, so I ran with that idea,” says Bob. “I’ve been a huge fan of movies all my life, so I jumped right in with big cinematic ideas.”

Those ideas changed home videos of first birthdays and family picnics into entertaining mini-movies that his friends and family wanted to watch again and again, so Bob uploaded his first videos to his wife’s YouTube channel: babyteeth4. “So for our next big project, I envisioned making a video specifically with a YouTube audience in mind,” he says.

© babyteeth4
© babyteeth4

Bob wrote and filmed “Fast Cars, Bad Kids” and uploaded the video to YouTube in 2010. “‘Fast Cars, Bad Kids’ never went viral in the traditional sense,” he says. “It didn’t become an overnight sensation. But it kept getting views, and more views every day, and still does.

“People respond strongly to it–they either love it or hate it, but they always talk about it in the comments, so it has great engagement. It is still our most viewed video with over 130 million views, one of the most viewed non-music videos on YouTube, and it gets about 200,000 more views every day.”

More Than a Hobby

The success of “Fast Cars, Bad Kids” showed Bob the potential of babyteeth4, but revenue from the videos wasn’t a real possibility until YouTube changed their monetization policies. “When YouTube Analytics came out, I started calculating how much money I could have made on my popular videos,” says Bob. Removing any copyrighted film snippets or music to meet the policy terms was simple enough, but he also needed to be able to upload videos quickly—and that meant no labor-intensive editing and special effects.

Bob brainstormed ideas for easy-to-film content. Toy reviews were an obvious choice for kids’ videos, but YouTube had plenty of those. “Tommie came to the rescue,” Bob says. “She said we could have the girls review ‘anything, even candy.’ That made me jump and say, ‘That’s it!'”

© babyteeth4
© babyteeth4

“I wrote a catchy theme song using an online music program, and made an energetic video montage intro to let viewers know what they could expect,” says Bob. “After an awkward practice shoot, I realized we needed more structure, so I came up with the idea of having the girls introduce the show … [then] display, unwrap, eat, and rate the candy by ‘fun factor’ and flavor.”

© babyteeth4
© babyteeth4

Kid Candy Review made its YouTube debut in 2014. “Our second video featuring the bait-and-switch flavored jellybeans, ‘Beanboozled,’ quickly became a hit,” Bob says. “We kept doing one new video every other week, eventually moving to one per week. Within 6 months, the channel was making far more than my salary. We signed with Maker Studios in September of 2014, and by mid-October I quit my day job to concentrate on YouTube full time.”

Find Your Niche

To get started creating videos and getting your kids on YouTube, Bob has some simple advice: Be yourself—and let your kids be themselves, too. “It may sound like a cliché, but it’s true: Do what you enjoy most,” says Bob. “Just find something you feel strongly about, or that is most fun for you, and do that. Even if no one watches your videos, you’ll still be having fun, and that’s what matters the most.

Courtesy © babyteeth4
© babyteeth4, photo by Christina Montemurro

“Another thing, use your kids’ unique strengths. Don’t try to make them do something that they can’t do. All kids have their own aptitudes. Use those rather than trying to make them conform into what you think needs to happen.”

Even their bloopers can make for engaging videos. “Kids love seeing other kids making mistakes. It makes them more relatable,” says Bob.

And finally, don’t forget that you don’t have to have a closet full of filming equipment to make interesting content for kids. “So many people who want to start a channel think they have to buy all this expensive and complicated equipment and editing software, then quickly feel overwhelmed and lose their original vision. My philosophy is you should only buy a new tool if you need it to get the job done,” advises Bob. “Our first few candy reviews were made using a mobile phone camera. I still use a consumer grade editing program (PowerDirector) that gives me everything I need.

“Keep it simple so you can concentrate on making your videos fun and spontaneous.”

More Than Subs and Likes

As much as YouTube is a part of his family’s life, Bob values his time with his kids much more than subscription numbers and views. “[Jillian and Addie] are kids, so they don’t always feel like sitting still behind a desk with a camera pointed at them, even if they are eating candy or opening toys. But for the most part they love doing this, and realize that it has made a better life for all of us, given us more time as a family together.”

Top image © babyteeth4, photo by Christina Montemurro

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Kelly Knox is a freelance writer in Seattle, WA, where she contributes to local parenting magazines. She also writes for StarWars.com, Geek & Sundry, Forever Young Adult, and more. You can find crafts and art projects for geeky families at her blog The St{art} Button.