As the world’s greatest dad (with the T-shirt to prove it), you would never use your phone as a way to distract your kid. Television and technology are not replacements for parenting.
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Just kidding, you’re only human. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and that includes offering a little TV time on-the-go in exchange for an agreement to stop screaming in the restaurant and bothering the nice people. Here are some of the best streaming apps for kids that let your little ones watch their favorite shows and characters, plus learn a thing or two.
With YouTube Kids they can watch all the old Miley Cyrus they want, and you never have to worry about the new Miley Cyrus showing up. If you’re a YouTube Red subscriber, you can even avoid ads. Neither you nor your kid has the patience to wait 5 seconds to click “skip.”
Clips of your kid’s favorite PBS shows like Odd Squad and Arthur are only about 1-5 minutes, but that’s about all the attention span your kid has some days anyway. If they’re clamoring for more, you can buy full episodes right in the app. Hey, paid content means fewer pledge drives.
The greatest thing about the Kabillion app: It has some of the strongest parental controls on the market. If you restrict a show, it won’t even appear as an option to watch, so your kid can’t constantly beg you to unlock it. The second greatest thing about this app: In addition to original animated shows, it also includes classic cartoons you loved as a kid — assuming you consider 90s joints like Bobby’s World “classic.”
Ages: 3+ Free (iOS)
NetKids is the gold standard of kids’ streaming apps. It lets you search content by character for videos, books, and games and includes favs like Madeline, Shrek, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Sid The Science Kid. The downside is that it requires a lot of storage space. You might have to delete some other stuff on your device, but how many fantasy football apps do you really need, anyway?
Ages: 5+ Free (iOS)
BabyFirst focuses on infant and toddler learning basics: Colors, songs, numbers, and letters. It’s all a kid could ever want before they become fully verbal (you know, other than stuff like food, shelter, and unconditional love). But be advised that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids really shouldn’t watch videos earlier than age 2 — so this might be a moot point for you.
Ages: 2+ Free (iOS)
Nickelodeon’s old preschool channel Noggin is no longer a thing, but luckily shows like Blues Clues have been preserved forever in app form. (Unlike Steve. He’ll never be the same.) Kids will have an easy time picking out their own shows with the tiny-hands-friendly navigation menu, a spinning wheel with big buttons. Keep in mind that there’s no way for you to limit what or how long they can watch. So, there will be yoinking.
PlayKids has its pros and cons. The games are educational and focus on building memory and motor skills, but like Noggin, you can’t limit the time they spend gaming and watching videos. Also, anything they watch has to be downloaded (which means more storage) and only select games are free without a subscription. More like “Don’t PlayKids.”
If you’re still pissed about Big Bird moving to HBO, this Sesame Go could be the alternative you’re looking for. Their app offers new and classic Sesame Street clips, games and educational content. And, also unlike their new premium cable home, totally free.
Ages: 2+. Free (iOS) (Android)
This isn’t a kids streaming app per se, but Common Sense Media recommends it as a reliable portal for documentaries and teaching clips on everything from Alexander the Great to quantum physics. There are no ads and the content is all kid-appropriate, so no worries about them learning anatomy from a porn star. And if you get them hooked on this kind of stuff early, they’ll have a much greater appreciation for Documentary Now! when they’re old enough to watch that with you.
Ages: 5+Curiosity Stream