As a parent, deciding what to watch with your kids can be tricky, as there are tons of options and plenty of kids have fickle tastes. But even harder than that is figuring out how to watch. There are no longer just a few streaming services. These days, every studio and company on the planet is launching its own, in an effort to make you a monthly subscriber. But which are the best streaming services for parents? Disney+? Netflix? Do you need to get another aimed exclusively at kids? How much do they cost, and are they worth the money? What about for yourself?
Now that parents are staring down the prospect of being home with their kids way more than ever before, its time to reevaluate your streaming options. In the age of quarantine, which streaming services give you the most bang for your buck? Which ones won’t bore you? Which ones are good for your kids?
Here are all the biggest streaming services and apps right now, complete with a breakdown of cost, what you get and why we think each one is or isn’t worth your time and money.
- How much does it cost: It shouldn’t cost anything if you are using the Roku app, or the Apple app.
- What you get: The PBS kids app won’t give you unlimited streaming episodes of their big shows, like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, but it will give you a few free full episodes to watch every month. And because this app gives you a ton of clips from all the shows, it’s pretty much the same thing.
- Should you pay for it? You won’t have to! The PBS app is free.
- How much does it cost: $4.99 a month.
- What you get: A lot of new Apple TV shows including a weird Sesame Street spinoff, a show about a newsroom, a Jason Momoa story about how he can see and everyone is blind and a reboot of Ghost Writer for the kids. Plus, an alternate universe story where it the 60s and this time, the Russians landed on the moon, first.
- Should you pay for it? Maybe? Back when Apple TV+ launched, we were kind of harsh on it. But now that everyone has a little more time at home, perhaps sleeping on Apple TV was some kind of weird fate. Look, it has a lot of high-quality shows, with huge actors, and most of us haven’t watched any of it. For variety alone, it might be worth it for a little while.
- How much does it cost: The basic cost is only $6.99 a month or $69.99 per year. But, there’s also a $12.99 package that includes Hulu and ESPN+. (Though it seems like nobody signs up for it.)
- What you get: Well, the big news is that you’ll get every animated Disney movie ever, on tap, all the time. So, if you’re a parent, that alone sort of means the $6.99 is worth your time. But, you’re also going to get all the new Marvel shows and Star Wars TV shows like The Mandalorian.
- Should you pay for it? Big yes. The convenience of having all the Disney classics at your fingertips is great, plus, nearly all the Marvel movies are on there now (with a few exceptions). And, of course, The Mandalorian is great, and all those new Marvel shows, like WandaVision, are coming real soon.
- How much does it cost: $14.99 a month. Though, right now, there is a 7-day-free-trial period.
- What you get: Basically the same thing you would get with HBO Go or an HBO Subscription, PLUS a lot more back catalog movies and TV shows. This is where Friends lives, for example. There are also some shows exclusive to Max, including a late-night Elmo show and new versions of Looney Tunes.
- Should you get it? Do you mind watching stuff on your laptop? If not, then get it. The back catalog is massive. But, there’ one huge catch. At the moment, HBO Max is not available to watch with Roku or Amazon Fire, meaning, for most families, you can’t watch it on a regular TV. For many of us, that’s a deal-breaker. Until the cost comes down or this feature is fixed, we’re gonna say pass. You kids can live without more Elmo, and the new Looney Tunes.
- How much does it cost: $4.99 a month, though an ad-free version of the service will cost $7.99. That said because Quibi launched during the pandemic, there was at least one 90-day free trial deal.
- What you get: Quibi is strange insofar as all the content on it is tailor-made for the format. The episodes of the shows are specifically short and designed for you to watch on your phone. But, here’s the catch: you can only watch these on your phone.
- Should you pay for it? Probably not. Although the new version of Punk’d with Chance the Rapper taking the place of Ashton Kutcher is fun, it feels like you’re watching weird YouTube videos, rather than an actual show. Plus, the fact that you can’t watch these shows anywhere outside of our phone actually makes the whole thing pretty limiting for families or couples. Quibi doesn’t seem to be something you bond over.
- How much does it cost: Only $2.99 a month!
- What you get: A huge library of educational documentaries. This includes a bunch of amazing David Attenborough nature documentaries, documentaries about dinosaurs, space documentaries from Stephen Hawking, etc. You get it.
- Should I pay for it? Absolutely! If you’ve got school-aged kids who are suddenly about to have a lot more screentime, it makes all the sense in the world to have you and your family watching stuff that will make you smarter.
- How much does it cost: $6.99 a month
- What you get: Basically, this is the entire library of Looney Tunes and Hannah Barbera cartoons. That means everything from Bugs Bunny to Scooby-Doo to Josie and the Pussycats. New versions of these various characters pop-up on this service very often, too.
- Should you pay for it? Maybe? The amount that you get with this app is sort of amazing, and the depth of the Looney Tunes libraries alone makes it worth it if you want to make sure your kid has a well-rounded introduction to classic cartoons.
- How much does it cost: It’s hard to get just Nick Jr. as a stand-alone app. For the most part, if you don’t want a part of a cable TV package, the cheapest way to get it as a streaming app is via Sling TV. A basic month Sling account will cost you $19.99.
- What you get: Nick Jr is your source for all the big kids shows that aren’t Disney or PBS. So that means Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig.
- Should you pay for it? Probably not. The sheer ubiquity of both Peppa and Paw Patrol mean that there’s not a big reason to pay for it. You can get the same effect with YouTube clips. That being said, if you already have cable, you might as well give it a shot.
- How much does it cost: Okay, so this one is a little under-the-radar, but IMDb TV is for-real, free. They don’t have a comprehensive library, but it’s a great source to catch some old and oldish movies you might want to watch on date night.
- What you get: A rotating lineup of titles that at the moment includes Kingpin, Memento, and Lawrence of Arabia., but Gravity is on there in November! And for the kids, Muppets from Space!
- Should you pay for it? You can’t pay for something that’s free!
- How much does it cost: A basic membership costs $12.99 a month.
- What you get: Well, you get the faster shipping for all products you buy on Amazon, plus a revolving library of a ton of different streaming video, consisting of both original shows and films, plus old classics, too. In terms of kids content, this includes a huge library of original shows like Pete the Cat, Kung-Fu Panda and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, all of which are more interesting than Paw Patrol.
- Should you pay for it? Chances are, you probably already do. Of all the streaming services, Amazon Prime is the one most families will probably never get rid of, because it comes with so many other benefits unconnected to streaming TV. In other words, it’s not like your Netflix subscription can let you get books and clothes delivered to your house faster.
- How much does it cost: There are three streaming-only plans at $8.99, $12.99, and $15.99 per month, and they all come with one month free.
- What you get: Access to a bunch of Netflix originals, but also all the rotating titles of blockbuster movies and old school shows you love. Recently, Netflix has snagged Seinfeld for seemingly like, the rest of time. In terms of kids’ stuff, Netflix Kid’s page is actually amazing. Right now, Netflix is in sort of renaissance of great original programming for kids. Ask the Storybots is an amazingly educational show that won’t make you want to die. Last Kids On Earth is great for tweens.
- Should you pay for it? This is the hardest question. On the one hand, there’s a chance that Netflix might be irrelevant for families in the next few years. But then again, it’s still great. And Lost in Space season 2 is great for families with older kids. Trust us!