The Best Services For Streaming Video for Maximum Family Fun
The decades-old corpses of cable TV and rental stores have lost all relevance, and streaming services have passed being fun new options for watching TV and movies to become ubiquitous. There’s so many of them it’s hard to know what’s best for you alone! When you have kids to think of, you have a whole new dynamic to consider. What sort of parental controls are there? How safe is it? Can you watch anything? Or are you stuck paying for an entire streaming service that’s only for your kid and no one else?
Well, worry no more! We’ve done the research for you. From the well-known juggernauts to smaller, more specialized services, we bring you all you need to know to choose the right streaming video service for your family.
Streaming Video From YouTube Kids
Free with ads, or included with YouTube Premium for 11.99/month. Free Trial available.
It’s quick and easy to sign up for. It’s available on any device with the YouTube app as well as Roku. It immediately lets you choose an age range for your kid that limits content to the age you pick and below. There isn’t an option for teenagers, so your rising middle school seniors might quickly find themselves too cool for this service. It does have autoplay and a timer you can activate. You don’t have to come in and pick videos and you don’t have to hound your kids to get their face out of the phone and head outside. Cultivate that independence! Right when signing up it tells you how you can access watch history and block channels you know you don’t like. You can pick videos or let the algorithm pick them, with the slight risk that entails.
There’s plenty of short-form videos, music videos, and craft videos that you might expect from YouTube, but it also offers public access television channels like PBS kids and other TV shows like the Land Before Time and Spongebob. Plus, it has a whole subsection of educational shows to help teach your kid even while they’re relaxing. It’s a streaming service that’s good if you want to hand your kid a phone. Maybe you can watch over their shoulder if it happens to be a really funny show.
With ads $8/month, ad-free $11/month. Disney+ is supported by most devices; it would be quicker to say what it can’t support. If you’re unsure, here’s a comprehensive list.
You can enable parental controls on all profiles to keep out any mature rated options. If you set up a Kid’s Profile it curates content to include only child-friendly fare, which can be pin and password locked to keep kids from accidentally accessing Mommy and Daddy’s account.
There’s a large supply of Disney/Pixar movies plus the cultural institutions of Star Wars and Marvel movies. Many of their shows are derivatives of these existing IPs, plus Disney Channel offerings starting from two decades or so ago. A lot of them are already helpfully bundled in collections like the Disney Junior collection. You or your older kid can pick from age appropriate bundles of media. If you want your kids to catch up on the things you grew up on or that you wished you did, this is a great nostalgia pick.
You can toggle autoplay on and off. Let episodes autoplay from the same show, and at the end it will stop. No need to worry about hearing a loud “MOOOOOOOM” from the next room every few minutes to click the next episode.
Basic with ads $6.99/month. Basic Ad-free $9.99/month. Available on most devices. Netflix streaming video offers kids profiles that are locked to age ranges which correspond to the official movie and TV ratings. You can also block individual movies and shows so that they never show up on your kids’ Netflix. Bye-bye to the perfectly unobjectionable movie you hate with a fiery passion.
Netflix has plenty of interesting kids programming to choose from. There are classics like The Magic School Bus, rebooted versions of old favourites like those in She-Ra:Princesses of Power, the entrancing Cocomelon. Netflix is the old standby of streaming services, having pioneered much of the formula for making good family streaming content. Netflix takes content away fairly regularly. That might mean today your kid is deep into a show and tomorrow is crying because they can’t find it anymore.
Amazon Prime Streaming Video
$14.99 per month. Free Trial Available. You can check to see if it supports your device here.
Amazon has a lot of variety with a robust offering of originals. Other streaming services can also make their shows available through Amazon. If you have an Amazon Prime account, then you get Prime Video at a discount of 8.99/month. The kids programming on Prime range from shows for very young kids to near adults, so there’s good variety even if your child is precocious.
Amazon seems to have done its level best to reinvent both cable and Blockbuster. You can purchase channels or rent shows and movies if the particular media that went off Netflix isn’t included with the default Prime. The downside is that there are extra costs. The parental controls are effective, since you can hide individual options as you see them come up as you browse or search, in addition to locking away options that are above a certain age range. The User Interface is clunky and the autoplay function can be finicky, but overall there are enough options to make this a good choice.
Here’s a link to a 30 day free trial of Amazon Family. With Amazon Family, you’ll get unlimited instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows, ad-free streaming of over a million songs. You also get and more Prime benefits like 20% off diapers subscriptions, coupons and deals from Amazon Family, exclusive baby registry benefits and FREE two-day shipping on millions of items.
Rating: 9/10Join Amazon Family 30-Day Free Trial
$6.99/month. Free Trial Available. It respects the parental controls already on iPads, iPhones, and Macs associated with Apple IDs, so everyone comes with their own profile already set up. It has a long list of supported devices here.
Apple TV has a somewhat small selection, since the vast majority of what it offers is original content. It does have some licensed content too. For those looking for something to watch with your kids, there are classic collections like Snoopy and Peanuts, which includes classic Charlie Brown specials and new rebooted versions of the beloved characters. Apple TV mostly offers interesting shows you can’t find elsewhere. You can find all sorts of niche nonsense on there plus the more mainstream tastes, and that can be either a pro or a con.
HBO Max Video Streaming
A whopping $14.99/month. Free trial only available through Amazon Prime or Hulu. Devices: Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, PlayStation, Roku, Samsung TV, Xbox.
HBO is often talked about as the home of adult content, but there’s plenty of programming available for your kids. HBO has comic content to rival Disney’s Marvel with the DCEU. It also has the Criterion Collection, so you can get a head-start on raising your kid as a movie buff. And speaking of nostalgia, HBO Max also has Looney Tunes and Studio Ghibli if you want two extremely different types of animated kids fun. And if you want a blend between live action and not, Sesame Street is now on the HBO block. There’s a good selection of a lot of family oriented television and movies, and most are fun to watch for the whole family.
Free! Devices: Roku Players and TV, Apple iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Amazon Fire Stick,Android mobile, tablet, and Android TV, Google Chromecast, Samsung Smart TV (2017 models and later), VIZIO SmartCast TV
Instead of buying the PBS channel on Amazon Prime, access it for free through its own app, through the browser, or on Roku. PBS Kids has exclusively kid-friendly content, so there’s no need to worry about kid’s profiles and content moderation. The selection is pretty small, but it’s also full of creative, educational content. If you remember loving Cyberchase orArthur or Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, you can find all those and all those types on here. PBS wants to help kids practice the skills they’re learning in life and in school.
$7.99/month. Free trial available. Devices: iOS, Android, Amazon Kindle as well as supported Roku, Android, Fire, and Apple TV devices.
Noggin is a streaming service for preschoolers. It’s loaded with shows like Dora the Explorer, Backyardigans, Paw Patrol, and other shows of that genre. What you see is what you get with Noggin. You can subscribe through the site itself, and it’s also a channel offered through other video streaming services, including those we’ve mentioned like Amazon and Roku. Though there isn’t much in the way of fun for the whole family, it is designed for preschoolers and so there’s no age-inappropriate programming offered by the service.
Streaming Video With Hopster TV
$7.99/month. Free trial available. Devices: iOS 9.0 or later, iPhone 5 and above, iPad Air and above, iPod touch 5th gen and above, Apple TV (3rd and 4th gen), Amazon FireTV, EE TV, Roku TV, Sofi Entertainment.
(can’t access it myself to verify. Last FAQ article 2 years old)
Another streaming service for preschoolers. Hopster’s goal is getting your kid ready for school! With a lot of educational programming, Hopster is following in the footsteps of PBS, but it goes a few steps further, including interactivity, like access to books, music, and games. Hopster has a built in reminder to kids to go and choose a new activity after 3 uninterrupted episodes of TV, which can help keep them conscious of TV time or might lead to you having to interrupt yourself every 45 minutes or so to restart the fun. It’s pretty expensive for what it does, and it’s limited in the way of family oriented content.
Good luck on your video streaming journey! May you be blessed with good role models and no annoying theme songs.
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