The way we shop for things changes once kids come into the picture—it’s no longer just about what we need or want, but what’s best for them too. TV is not exception, as they need age-appropriate content, too. Here’s our top picks for kid-friendly TV streaming services.
If you’re living your best cord-cutting life (or plan on giving it a shot), then streaming TV is something you either currently have or are looking into. But not all streaming packages are created equally—far from it, in fact. There’s probably a bigger gap between channels and prices on streaming services that traditional cable.
That can make finding the best one a real challenge, especially if you’re looking for not only the content you want, but educational (or at least entertaining) programming for your little one. We’ve looked at each of the five biggest streaming TV providers—Sling, PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV, DirecTV Now, and YouTube TV—and compared them against each other, focusing just on content for kids.
Before we get into that, however, we need to first define what “children’s content” is in this context. We’re focusing on elementary age and below, so we looked for the big names here: Disney (including XD and Junior), Nickelodeon (including Nick Jr., Nicktoons, and Teen Nick), Cartoon Network, and Boomerang. We also took into consideration any additional channels that were specific to each streaming platform. We focused on the most affordable package that offered every channel for that particular provider.
There’s also the question of content for older kids. Once a kid reaches a certain age, it’s the parents’ discretion what’s appropriate and what isn’t for their family. As a result, the channels and content under consideration start to vary wildly since it’s so subjective—but for the little ones, it’s a bit easier to define “age appropriate”.
Finally, we want to make it clear that we’re talking about TV streaming services—not individual apps. These are just internet-based television packages, so it’s live TV with commercials—exactly like what you’d get from your cable provider, just delivered by a streaming platform. Further, the prices below aren’t just for the kids content but for the base content (regular stations you’d expect like ESPN and Comedy Central) plus the kids content.
The Best Overall: Sling Orange with Kids Extra ($30/mo.)
When it comes to the most bang for your buck, Sling Orange takes the win by a long shot. The Orange base package is $25 a month, and it includes Disney and Cartoon Network by default. But for an extra $5 a month, you can add the Kids Extra package, which adds a ton of additional children’s programming: Disney Junior, Disney XD, Nick Jr., Nicktoons, TeenNick, Boomerang, Baby TV, and Duck TV.
So, for $30 a month, you get ten total channels just for kids. While that’s not the most offered by any streaming service, it is the most for the money—you’d have to pay more than double to even begin to compare to Sling’s list.
The Most Quality Content: DirecTV Now Gotta Have It ($70)
If money doesn’t matter, DirecTV Now’s Gotta Have It package will get you all the biggest channels: BabyFirst, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, Disney, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Nicktoons, and TeenNick.
The tradeoff here comes down to two channels compared to Sling Orange: Nickelodeon and BabyFirst are swapped in for Baby TV and Duck TV, two far smaller channels. But at more than double the cost, it’s a hard sell if you ask us—but hey, if Nickelodeon is really that important to you, then go for it.
You can save yourself $10 a month by going with DirecTV Now’s Go Big package, but you’ll lose Boomerang in doing so. Choices, choices.
Otherwise, Just Use Apps
While getting the most content from your streaming package is something that everyone should want, don’t forget about how much a couple of good apps can add to your child’s viewing selection. Whether you’re using them in place of a streaming package or as a supplement, there are some really great options out there.
PBS Kids is a great example of a standalone app that provides great content for little ones. If you already use Netflix, then Netflix Kids is a great option. If you have Amazon Prime, then for a few bucks a month you can get Freetime Unlimited for your kids which gives them access to thousand upon thousands of free books, games, and TV show episodes. There’s a YouTube Kid’s app, but we’re not huge fans of it. The automated moderation algorithms are lackluster, to say the least. With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at some good alternatives to YouTube Kids if you find the content there to be questionable.
Depending on the streaming platform you use, there are potentially lots of others out there that offer free content just for little ones—you’ll just need to dig around a little bit and find the stuff you think your little guy or gal will like.