TV presenter, ‘edu-tuber’ and author, Maddie Moate is a dab hand at feeding curious minds. Absolutely Education finds out more about her work and her new book giving a factual and scientific take on Christmas

Curiosity is Maddie Moate’s speciality. With awards and plaudits under her belt for – among others – CBeebies’ Maddie’s Do You Know and CBBC’s Show Me The Honey, she is also known to children via her own YouTube channel. This has racked up more than 50 million views and has a very large subscriber base. Kids love her programmes and, for parents, they hit that sweetspot of being entertaining, but also brilliantly educational.

Being an ‘edu-tuber’ was not something Maddie Moate set out to be. She fell into it thanks to a harmonious alignment of her skills and interests with a shift in the way we digest media. “At school I absolutely enjoyed science, but I also enjoyed drama clubs and theatre and dance. So, at university I ended up doing the media and theatre side of things. It was only after university that I realised how much I missed science,” she says.

Maddie Moate on curiosity & Christmas
Maddie Moate engages children by participating in discovery herself – it’s what she sees as a process of learning together

Knowing that an acting career wasn’t for her, she thought about all the areas of her degree that had grabbed her. She’d loved web design and suddenly there was this emerging thing called YouTube. It started small when she was picked up by a company to front short technology videos for a female audience. “Other companies were marketing tech at women atrociously, and they were trying to change that – as in, it’s not all about having a small pink phone,” she says. Her tone was light, comic but informative, and suddenly it clicked. “I felt like I was back in my natural habitat because I was talking about tech.”

She was picked up by other media companies (including the BBC), so things snowballed. Ten years on, working across multiple channels including her own, she’s a familiar and trusted face, delivering fun and factual content on wildlife, science, technology and the rest.

And now Christmas, for A very Curious Christmas, is Maddie Moate’s take on something that just about every child is keen on. The good news is there’s more than a stocking filler’s worth of edutainment here. From what Brussels sprouts do to digestive tracts to how snowflakes are formed to why, indeed, we have Christmas at all – it’s all here. It’s an approach that her YouTube audience will recognise. Snappy delivery, fascinating information and even carefully chosen cracker jokes to add fun asides to more weighty stuff.

Maddie Moate came at Christmas from an open-minded perspective. She didn’t want this to feel limited – so there’s plenty of seasonal science and nature content and a far broader set of traditions are explained. “I was really fortunate to be able to find kids who celebrate Chinese New Year, Hanukkah and Diwali and I asked them to explain to me what their traditions were and what their festival was. It felt great to have the voices of some young people in the book – a golden opportunity to show me learning through the voice of others.”

“What I’ve discovered through my YouTube work is that you can teach a whole spectrum of different subjects if you find a theme that’s going to engage children”

For children, the is surely part of the appeal of Maddie Moate’s work – learning together. She comes at subjects not as if she’s imparting knowledge but finding out with you. “I come at topics with genuine curiosity and an eagerness to learn,” she says. “Because my background really is in storytelling, it’s about entertaining people and finding the hook – especially finding that hook that is going to resonate with younger people and children.”

Shortlisting was, says Maddie Moate, a fine balance, but it was also fun to delve into a subject that already feel like familiar territory. “Kids like to know about themselves and they like to know about things they know about,” she says. With this book children have the opportunity to enjoy Christmas not just for the presents, but for their new-found wisdom about the holiday season.

Christmas is obviously a winner for this age group – but great also to have a defined theme. “I love teaching and educating around a theme. What I’ve discovered through my YouTube work is that you can teach a whole spectrum of different subjects if you find a theme that’s going to engage children.” She’s done this with many other topics before (from Egypt to spies), but with this season of the year there’s so much going on – the science of crackers, the crafts of Yuletide, the reason we eat turkey. There are quizzes to challenge and 12 fun and seasonal activities to enliven the winter holiday – all are linked to short YouTube videos that will be arriving just before Christmas.

A Very Curious Bookjacket
Maddie Moate explores a treasure trove of festive themes in her new book

* A Very Curious Christmas is published by Puffin (£12.99). Maddie Moate is appearing as Tinkerbell in The All New Adventures of Peter Pan at The St Albans Arena until 31st December.

Further reading: Treasure trail – Robin Scott-Elliott’s gripping new adventure