If your kids have a favorite cable channel or two, it can make you think twice before cutting the cord. With so many paid streaming services available, it’s tough to make the best call in choosing one that will still let them tune in to their favorite movies and TV shows.
We’ve put together a list of our top best picks of streaming services for children. While each child’s interests may be different, our selected services feature enough content that you’re sure to find a winner. You may also want to churn through services to find the right one for your family.
While live streaming services like YouTube TV or Sling TV may offer some kids’ streaming options, you’re going to want the on demand availability of these services. Each of our recommendations works with Roku, Fire TV, or Apple TV.
Best for Kids
The Streamable’s Choice
The king of creating kid-friendly content, it’s no surprise that Disney’s streaming service more than meets the bar. While the other options on this list are good in their own respects, Disney+ is hands-down the winner. The simple reason? Their catalog.
For the youngest kids, Disney and Pixar classics like “Ratatouille,” “Toy Story”, or “Aladdin” are sure-fire winners. The Disney+ offline mode means you can load up an iPad for a long trip and your kids will stay entertained.
The service also offers Jim Henson’s brilliance by way of “The Muppet Show” and various Muppet movies.
If you’d like something more subdued, even the youngest kids can enjoy the great nature documentaries available on the service. Disney Nature offers several relaxing films like “Monkey Kingdom,” “Oceans,” “Dolphin Reef,” and “Penguins.” Under the National Geographic section, you’ll find “Giants of the Deep Blue,” “700 Sharks,” “What Sam Sees” and “Wild Cats of India.”
As your children grow up, they might want something a little more sophisticated. Thankfully, Disney+ brings Star Wars and the Marvel Universe to the table. In addition to the blockbuster films, new, high-quality content is being uploaded to the service regularly. “The Mandalorian,” “WandaVision,” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” are three prominent sci-fi/action series that have gained critical and popular praise.
- Multiple profiles
- Offline downloads
- Family-friendly content
- Nexus for Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic
- No live TV unless bundled with Hulu Live
- Less overall content than Netflix
- Content may grow stale unless you like watching the same movies and shows over and over
Best for Toddlers
Disney is the name for universally fun and exciting Hollywood-style content, but if you’re looking more for wholesome enrichment, PBS is more in line with what you’re after. Committed to making a positive impact on children through entertainment, PBS Kids encourages respectful interaction in diverse society, involving parents, teachers, and caregivers to have a say in the kind of programming shown on TV.
The main goal of PBS Kids is to contribute to the mental welfare of its young audience, and the shows available on the service endeavor to reflect this in a way both entertaining and - wait for it - completely free of charge.
That’s right; you can subscribe to PBS Kids without spending a penny, so there’s no reason not to give it a shot. Here you can watch “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Arthur,” “Molly of Denali,” and more.
You will have access to limited episodes of “Sesame Street,” but if you’re looking for a more robust catalog of Big Bird, Elmo, and Oscar the Grouch, check out HBO Max.
With the mobile app, you can download various shows for offline entertainment on-the-go.
We recommend giving the free version a try, but be aware that the app will swap out episodes periodically. If you’d like the full library of each show available, simply add PBS Kids as a channel through Amazon Prime Video.
The free PBS Kids Games app provides educational games based on the PBS Kids shows, and that’s also worth a download.
- Offline downloads
- Great for young kids’ mental health and development
- Not much for older kids
- Episode availability changes unless you pay for the Prime Video channel
- Broad selection means not all programming will be enjoyed
Because of HBO Max’s vast library, it’s great for kids of all ages and adults as well. It’s our pick as the Best Streaming Service for Families.
- Good for the whole family
- Parental controls
- Not as many animated movies and shows as Disney+
- Weaker selection of family films
If you’re a Prime member you’re already getting this service for free. Much like the above PBS Kids, that makes Amazon Prime another easy winner for a good budget option.
Even if you’re not a Prime member, the video service is only USD 8.99 / mes (about the same as either Netflix or Disney+).
The standard Amazon Prime Video service is a hodgepodge of children’s programming, offering many popular kids’ shows, but you’re consigned to a handful of seasons unless you’re willing to pay more. The regular subscription offers episodes of shows like “Sesame Street,” Nickelodeon’s “Spongebob Squarepants,” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”. If your child really needs “Paw Patrol,” you can add a Paramount+ subscription through Prime Video as well.
A good option is to pair your Prime Video subscription with inexpensive channel add-ons, so you can get the full PBS Kids library or all the shows on Noggin, Boomerang, Ameba, or Kidstream. Without the add-ons, you could say Prime Video’s kids’ selection is a mile wide and an inch deep.
- Wide variety of content for kids
- Free if a Prime member
- Optional free trials for Prime and channel add-ons
- Clunky UI
- Virtually no original content for kids
- Options limited without channel add-ons
- Limited content for teens
Normally one of our top choices, when it comes to the countdown for best children’s streaming services, Netflix is firmly adequate. There are still some Disney or Pixar stragglers at the time of writing this article, such as “The Princess and the Frog” or the 2011 “Muppets” movie, but they’re likely to migrate Disney+ when their licensing deal expires. However, it does seem Netflix is investing heavily to shore up their kid-friendly library. “Cocomelon” is a bona fide toddler favorite, while family movies like “Over the Moon” and “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” provide a bit of prestige. The Michelle Obama nutrition show “Waffles + Mochi” also provides valuable lessons.
One downside to Netflix’s kids section is that it looks like an endless scroll of cheaply animated cash grabs, so it’s hard to separate the worthwhile titles from the discount-bin video dandruff.
Netflix does have arguaby better content for tweens and teens, however. Shows like “Stranger Things” or “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” are both Netflix originals. If you’ve got two kids, one older than the other, and are concerned about protecting the younger, you can always set up a Netflix Kids account.
- Wide variety
- Original programming
- No commercials
- Offline mode allows on-the-go viewing
- Losing content to other services
- No live streaming
A new player to the game as of summer 2021, Sensical brings some great features that will appeal to parents. The service is separated with specific content for preschoolers (ages 2-4), little kids (ages 5-7) and big kids (8-10). Every video is viewed, vetted, and rated by dozens of individuals trained in child development.
While you won’t find as much content as some other services, Sensical combines TV shows and short videos to create a compelling mix. Children can also watch virtual live streaming channels focused on specific topics like games and puzzles, history, sports, science, music, and more.
Parents also have some excellent tools, including a dashboard to get reports on what your child has been learning and how long he or she has been watching. If your child exceeds the time limit you set, you can simply offer a temporary override with a PIN code.
The service is ad-supported, but The Streamable didn’t see any commercials when we tested it at launch.
We only found one feature-length movie on the service. This is primarily a service for short videos and TV shows.
- Great parental controls
- Different content curated by age
- Virtual live streaming channels by topic
- Slim library may get stale
- No offline viewing
There are many smaller players that might appeal to your children, so it might be worth experimenting with those month-to-month. Many can be added as Amazon Prime Video channels, so that’s worth a consideration.
- Noggin - $7.99 / month
- Hopster - $7.99 / month
- Toon Goggles - $1.99 / month
- HooplaKidz Plus - $2.99 / month
- Kidstream - $4.99 / month
- Ameba - $3.99 / month
- Kidoodle.TV - $4.99 / month
- Yippee (Christian content) - $7.99 / month
More Free Options:
Assuming you’ve already enjoyed the free content from PBS Kids and Sensical, you should also consider the options available through your local library. Many offer free DVD rentals, and most provide free access to a service like Kanopy or Hoopla. Those streaming services usually have incredibly thin catalogs, but you may find a diamond in the rough.