There are plenty of videos on the internet, with tons just for kids. But instead of handing your kid a phone with YouTube and letting them go crazy, an app with content just for them is the way to go.
Fortunately, there are plenty to choose from—which is both good and bad, because finding the best app for your little one can be a challenge. And if we’re being honest here, it’s probably a challenge you don’t really want to spend time on. We don’t blame you there, so we’ve combed through a bunch of the options to pick the best ones for both iOS and Android.
YouTube Kids: YouTube, but for Kids (Free, iOS/Android)
Look, it’s no secret that there’s a lot of garbage that isn’t meant for kids on YouTube. But YouTube Kids—despite a very rough start—is shaping up to be a pretty solid platform. The YouTube Kids staff has really stepped up its game, even adding a setting that will only display videos that have been reviewed by actual people. With past issues in mind, however, we strongly recommend turning on the human-moderation filter.
YouTube Kids is tied to the parent’s Google account and most of the settings are hidden behind some sort of code—a little math problem that young children won’t understand (or similar). If you have YouTube Premium (previously called YouTube Red) you can even enable it on YouTube Kids so your little guy or gal won’t have to deal with ads. Because c’mon, if there’s one thing a kid doesn’t want, it’s to wait 15 seconds to watch Peppa Pig.
PBS Kids: Public Broadcasting Service, Streamed (Free, iOS/Android)
PBS has long been an excellent resource for kids, with great shows like Arthur, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Super Why, Curious George, and a lot more all being found on the network. The PBS Kids app is the home for all these shows and more, all in an intuitive, kid-friendly interface.
The PBS Kids app features live access to the PBS Kids channel, full episodes of popular kids programming, and important information for parents about shows—things like intended ages and goals for each program. There’s a lot of great content in the PBS Kids app, most of which is completely free. Really, there’s no reason not to have this one installed.
Sesame Go: Sesame on the Street (Free, iOS/Android)
Sesame Street is classic kids programming, and if you like the idea of your kids growing up with one of the same shows you likely grew up with, Sesame Go is the answer. This is a modern take on a program that has been around for ages.
Sesame Go is completely ad-free and loaded with full episodes of Sesame Street, with the option to sort by characters, find videos with specific learning goals, save shows for later viewing, and more. There are also educational games.
BabyFirst: Educational Streaming for Toddlers ($5.99 monthly, iOS/Android)
BabyFirst is specifically designed for younger kids—toddlers and preschooled aged to be exact—and has content suited for that range of growing minds. The shows and videos found in BabyFirst were developed by child psychologists and educated experts, so you can trust that your little one is in good hands.
BabyFirst is free to download and try with a seven day trial, but you’ll have to shell out $6 a month once your little one gets hooked. If you’re cool with that, you can hit the links below to download it on whichever platform you use. Or both. Whatever.
Other Options: Netflix, Hulu, and Channel-Based Apps
You don’t have to limit your child’s viewing to just kid-specific apps, of course—there are tons of streaming apps out there, some of which you may already have.
For example, both Netflix and Hulu offer kids profiles, which will block certain content from showing up or being streamed. This is a great way to let your kids get their daily dose of Secret Life of Pets, especially if you’re already subscribed to either service (or both!).
If you have a cable subscription, you can also take advantage of dedicated apps from specific channels—like Disney or Nickelodeon. These apps generally require you to log in with your TV provider, which makes them kind of useless without some sort of cable package. Fortunately, most streaming TV packages work now, so you shouldn’t have to deal with the local cable provider just to let your kids kill some time with a show.