All the Daniel Tiger, Curious George, and Wild Kratts a kid could dream of watching. All at the press of a button on a colorful kid-friendly remote control that restricts access to anything but Public Broadcasting Service’s best. That’s the premise behind PBS Kids’ new Plug & Play, a Roku-like streaming stick loaded with more than 100 hours of on-demand shows and games.
Similar to Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon’s Fire Stick, the “kid-safe” Plug & Play differentiates itself in a few ways: First, it can only access PBS’s educational programming and can be totally walled off from the internet ⏤ so there’s no chance of the kids stumbling upon questionable online content, watching crappy mindless cartoons, and/or screwing up your Netflix queue. Second, the interface is designed for kids 2 to 8-years-old, as in the Bluetooth remote is easy enough for them to use without asking for mom or dad’s help. And third, it looks like a toy race car. Which is cool, although it probably won’t fit in the HDMI port (in which case there’s an extension cord) or the kids yank it out of the TV to drive it around the living room (in which case its rubberized).
In addition to offering access to countless episodes of shows, Plug & Play live-streams the new PBS Kids’ 24-7 television channel that launched in January. Plus, there are apps, sing-alongs, and learning games that star all the kids’ favorite characters like WordGirl and the Odd Squad, including a word a week vocabulary game. Because it’s never too early to get that toddler ready for the SAT.
The stick features an integrated microSD card slot so parents can queue up their own videos. It works offline in any TV with an HDMI port, so you can bring it on vacation. And best of all, there’s no monthly subscription fee. Ever. So while, sure, you can access a lot of the same content on Apple TV or Amazon Prime, you’re only paying for the $50 device. Also, PBS will continue to update the content free of charge, presumably for as long as it keeps getting funding. Plug & Play retails online or exclusively at Walmart, but will soon find its way into other stores this fall.