Our worlds have all shrunk considerably in the last few weeks, with most of us now confined to our homes, walks around the neighborhood, and trips to the grocery store. This can be a particularly hard time if you have children at home you need to keep engaged and challenged during the day – especially if you’re trying to get some work done yourself.
So what’s a great creative outlet for kids of all ages? Making videos.
Whether your kid is a budding filmmaker or merely curious, making videos can:
- Teach them a new way of looking at the world and organizing the information around them
- Offer a creative way to explore areas of interest
- Provide an opportunity to gain technical skills
And for kids who love their screen time, it’s a way to do what they enjoy and be cognitively engaged.
We’ve compiled our top picks of free video editing tools for kids from elementary to high school. No need for fancy camera equipment. All they’ll need is a smart phone, tablet, or computer.
If you have a child who is in the K-12 age range, you’re sure to find something useful in our list!
Our top picks for elementary and middle schoolers
Toontastic 3d (Easy)
Owned by Google, Toontastic 3D is created for “future authors, directors, musicians, inventors, and anyone else who wants to turn their brilliant ideas into 3D cartoons.” It offers an intuitive, fun interface that allows kids to bring their creative vision to life through animated characters, exotic background sets, voiceover, and music.
It also teaches the basics elements of a story. Each “movie” you create is divided up into scenes that correspond to different parts of the dramatic story arc, which are explained with a clever cartoon before you start creating that scene. We think kids could easily pass hours upon hours happily creating their own cartoons using Toontastic!
Shadow Puppet EDU (Easy)
Shadow Puppet EDU (only available for iPhones and iPads) lets you select from photos and videos within the Photos app on your phone, or search within educational databases like the Library of Congress (with safe filters in place) to find material for your video. You can then select a music track from your phone or from a variety of songs available within the app, and add voiceover as well as drawing and other effects.
This app is really designed with educators in mind, and there’s even a section with different project ideas to get you and your kids get started.
Download Shadow Puppet EDU: App Store
Our top picks for middle and high schoolers
For editing on a phone/tablet:
Although not targeted toward kids, this app (owned by Vimeo, a popular video platform) is very easy to use. Similar to Shadow Puppet EDU, you select videos or images from your phone, but you can also choose an editing style, which suggests music tracks and adds in fun effects and filters to your video.
Once you’ve made all of your selections, the video is automatically created, so you don’t have a lot of control over the final product. This is a great tool for creating video memories or picture slideshows, but less suited for creating plot or story-based videos.
BeeCut gives the user a lot more control than Magisto, which means it is more appropriate for older kids who have a good grasp of technology and the basics of video editing. There’s a lot you can do with it, and the interface is very intuitive. You can reorder clips, trim videos, and add filters, text, transitions, and music. Unlike a lot of other free video-editing apps out there, BeeCut does not add a watermark to your final video.
Stop Motion Studio (Intermediate)
This app is extremely powerful – but it takes less than a minute to get started with its most basic features. Your kids can bring to life scenes of their favorite toys or other household objects using the stop animation technique. Just take a series of pictures (we’d recommend using a tripod or something else to stabilize your phone) and the app stitches them together for you. The results are quite impressive and fun to watch.
For editing on a computer:
iMovie (for Macs) or VideoPad (for PCs) (Intermediate)
These are both great options for getting your kids started with computer-based video editing. These editors will give you full control over the editing process, but they have uncomplicated user-interfaces that make it easy to dive right into editing without watching a lot of tutorials.
iMovie is also available for iOS phones and tablets, and is another great intermediate option for editing videos on an iPhone or iPad.
Hitfilm Express (Advanced)
One of the best free editors out there, Hitfilm Express is packed with professional-level features. Although there’s a bit of a learning curve, it offers a huge library of helpful video tutorials to get you up and running with the software. They also offer free Masterclasses that walk you through editing and applying special effects to cinematic footage (that they provide) in the style of movies like Star Wars or Mission Impossible.
We’d recommend Hitfilm Express for young aspiring filmmakers who have had some prior editing experience and want to learn the basics of Hollywood-style video editing.
Download Hitfilm Express
Go forth and edit
We hope that this list helps you find a few minutes (or hours!) of free time while your kids are engrossed in dreaming up and editing their own films.
All illustrations by Liza Hoos. All rights reserved.