For parents, figuring out what to watch with your kids is hard, but figuring out how to watch it is the real challenge. These days, every studio and company on the planet is trying to get your hard-earned dollars out of your pocket on a monthly basis with a streaming subscription. But which are the best streaming services for parents? Disney+? What about Netflix next year? Which child-centric streaming apps have what you want? Are they worth the money?
Here are seven of the best streaming services and apps — two of which will launch later in 2019 — 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 at a time, which, tend to change on monthly basis. But, 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 shouldn’t have to! The PBS app is free on most devices.
- 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 Game of Thrones rip-off, and a reboot of Ghost Writer for the kids.
- Should you pay for it? Because the quality of this new programming is totally unknown, this feels like the only one that demands a wait-and-see strategy. If you’re like me, you already pay Apple $9.99 a month for a music subscription, so another 5 bucks on top of that for weird TV shows I don’t really know about yet feels like a gamble.
- How much does it cost: The basic cost is only $6.99 a month. But, there’s also a $12.99 package that includes Hulu and ESPN. However, to date, no one actually knows how you sign-up for that package. Yet.
- 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, too. Starting on November 12, the first of those shows, The Mandalorian, will start streaming when Disney+ launches.
- Should you pay for it? Probably! It sort of depends on how all the original programming shakes-out, but the Disney vault alone for 7 bucks feels worth it. If you’ve got kids, the fact you’ll be able to fire-up everything from Peter Pan to Moana without thinking about it is huge.
- How much does it cost: $6.99 a month
- What you get: Basically, this is the entire library of Looney Tunes and Hannah Barbara 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 sort of makes it worth it. Got a kid who suddenly wants to “watch a Tweety cartoon.” You’re all set.
- 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.
- 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 movies you might want to watch on date night. For example, I just watched Last Action Hero on my phone, for free. It rocked.
- What you get: A bunch of “old” movies. They rotate these out, but Gravity is on there in November! And for the kids, Muppets In 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 stuff, this includes a huge library of original shows. Recently, that means Pete the Cat, Kung-Fu Panda and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. In terms of original shows, Amazon has a ton of value for kid’s entertainment, and much of it is better and more interesting than a random episode of 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: Usually about 13 bucks a month.
- What you get: It depends on your package. If you’re a weirdo like me, you’re still on a plan that lets you rent DVDs if you want, which can drive up your costs. But, with Netflix, you kind of know what you get. Not only do you get 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. And, now there is a Green Eggs and Ham show coming, too.
- 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, that depends on one big factor: How good will Disney+ really be?