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How do I choose the best streaming service for my family?

Whether you're ready to cut the cord or just expand your entertainment options, our guide to the best streaming services for kids and families will help you make the best choice.

If the thought of signing up for yet another TV-streaming service is giving you hives, stock up on Benadryl—because this trend is showing no signs of slowing down. Just this month, two new major services, Disney+ and Apple TV+, have launched, and 2020 will bring HBO Max, Quibi, Peacock, and more (we'll share details on those when they launch!). It's a tad confusing—and if you're adding new subscriptions on top of your cable bill, it can get pricey. We'll help you figure out who's got what, how much it will cost, and which service has some of our most highly rated shows for your family.

Amazon Prime Video

Best for: Families with preschoolers.

Price: $12.99 per month/$119 per year/$8.99 for video only.

Premium options: Subscribers can add on most cable TV networks, such as ESPN and HBO, for additional fees.

Amazon Prime Video is on the pricier end of streaming services, but your subscription fee also gets you free Amazon shipping, so that's a pretty good deal. Like Netflix, Prime offers a large, rotating list of TV and movie titles, including grown-up shows like the action-packed Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan (starring Jim from The Office) and beloved Brit import Fleabag. While Amazon is no longer creating kids' originals, the service offers a solid catalog of kids' content, especially for the preschool crowd.

Our faves:

The Stinky and Dirty Show, a great preschool buddy comedy about a backhoe and a garbage truck.

Pete the Cat, a warm, books-based preschool series featuring cool music by Elvis Costello and others.

Just Add Magic, a magical cookbook that stirs up mystery and fun in a super-sweet drama for elementary school-age kids.

Apple TV+

Best for: Families with kids of any age.

Price: $4.99 per month.

Premium options: None.

This brand-new, ad-free subscription service offers only original movies and TV series—and so far, it's a small library. But things will pick up as some of the big names behind the productions, including J.J. Abrams and M. Night Shyamalan, premiere more shows throughout the rest of the year and into 2020. Some parents will get hooked on the star-studded, ripped-from-the-headlines drama The Morning Show, while others will love the sci-fi dystopia of See, starring Khal Drogo/Aquaman himself, Jason Momoa.

Our faves:

Helpsters, a pro-social, problem-solving preschool show created by Sesame Workshop.

Snoopy in Space, a charming preschool STEM series with iconic characters.

Ghostwriter, a cool reboot that encourages literature literacy for tweens.

Dickinson, a dramedy starring Hailee Steinfeld as a rebellious teenage Emily Dickinson.


Best for: Families with kids of all ages.

Price: $6.99 per month/$69.99 per year.

Premium options: Subscribers can add Hulu and ESPN for a package deal of $12.99 per month.

This long-awaited service launched Nov. 11 with a hearty slate of new original content, as well as access to Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars content, plus hundreds of classic Disney movies and shows. Hot properties include the new Star Wars series The Mandalorian, while younger kids can learn along with Forky Asks a Question. Parents can revisit their youth with their fave DCOMs, aka Disney Channel Original Movies (such as 1986's Mr. Boogedy, which still haunts anyone who's seen it), or catch up on the Thor movies before Natalie Portman takes over the role in 2022.

Our faves:

High School Musical: The Musical, a meta mockumentary about the now-classic show.

The World According to Jeff Goldblum, with the quirky actor exploring the world his own way.

Marvel's Hero Project, a documentary that follows real-life kid heroes.


Best for: Families with tweens and teens.

Price: $5.99 per month/$11.99 without commercials.

Premium options: Ad-free subscription, live TV including sports, add-ons of cable networks such as HBO and Starz.

Hulu is the home of lots of traditional network shows. (Miss an episode of NBC's The Good Place or This Is Us? You can find it on Hulu the day after it premieres.) It also has a small but quality slate of original shows, especially for teens. Add in some of the premium offerings, and you have a budget-friendly substitute for cable.

Our faves:

The Bravest Knight, an animated preschool show with lovely lessons and LGBTQ characters.

Pen15, an edgy, retro teen comedy.

Looking for Alaska, the adaptation of John Green's popular YA novel.


Best for: Families with kids of all ages.

Price: $8.99 per month for one screen in SD quality/$12.99 for two screens at a time in HD/$15.99 for four screens at a time in HD.

Premium options: None.

Netflix wins the quantity game, with hundreds of original shows to date and a well-rounded section of kids' content, including the upcoming preschool show Green Eggs and Ham. Tweens and teens are also well-served on Netflix, with originals like Riverdale and popular series such as The Office and Friends (though both are leaving for other streaming services in the years to come), and parents can enjoy long-running hits like Grace and Frankie or newer shows like Russian Doll and Unbelievable.

Our faves:

Ask the Storybots, an animated preschool series that celebrates curiosity.

She-ra, a fun, female-superhero series for tweens.

Raising Dion, a live-action show about a second grade superhero geared for tweens.

Are these my only options?

Not at all. You can find lots more streaming services with rotating libraries of movies and TV shows. The family-friendly stuff varies on these platforms, and some include ads, but in return you get free or low-cost entertainment. Check out Vudu, Tubi, Pluto TV, and YouTube Premium. And if your kid has a specific interest—for example, comics, Star Trek, anime, or British costume dramas—check out specialized services like DC Universe, CBS All Access, Crunchyroll, and Acorn. And don't forget your local library: Services like Kanopy and Hoopla offer free access to lots of cool streaming content.

How do I watch all these great shows?

All these services are easily available to stream onto your desktop, laptop, or smartphone with no additional hardware. To watch on a non-smart TV, you may need a device like an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, Apple TV, or Google Chromecast. Many of these products are small and attach directly to your TV, allowing you to access your streaming services as well as your standard cable and network TV packages. Though streaming allows everyone in the family to enjoy their own show whenever they want, we also highly recommend watching with your kids when you can. It's good for bonding, and, hey, you never know—you might learn something.

Polly Conway
As Common Sense Media's Senior TV Editor, Polly is responsible for championing the latest and greatest in TV for kids and families. She's an expert in the realm of shows that are created for (and/or appeal to -- not always the same thing!) kids, tweens, and teens, with a particular focus on educational television for young kids. An enthusiastic advocate for positive representation of girls and women in media, she also has her finger on the pulse of pop culture and speaks to the press regularly about the good and bad of kids' TV (highlights include a chat with the legendary Weird Al!). Before coming to Common Sense, Polly spent time developing her own writing career and served as an educator in Oakland's diverse schools. Both helped her discover a deep desire to give kids the best possible media experiences. Additionally, her BA in Acting from San Francisco State and MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts have given her a unique understanding of how great media is created, and she's always happy to discuss any episode of her #1 whole-family TV pick, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Email Polly at [email protected] or find her on Twitter.