News Flash (ok, if you’re here, it’s probably not news to you): adults aren’t the only ones who use screens and mobile devices these days — kids do too, and it’s okay!
And to that, I say… 👇
My kids use screens for schoolwork and when I need a minute (or 1,549). On weekends, they tip toe to the living room to sneak in some video games before my husband and I wake up. In other words, screens are part of my children’s day-to-day, and I’m okay with it?
To be frank, I’ve always felt a little guilty about how lax I’ve been with screen time (especially since COVID started). That is, until our very own Senior Editor, Brittany Clair, wrote all about screens’ effects on children (hint: nope, you are NOT screwing up your kids if you regularly “hire” the whole Sesame Street crew as a babysitter). “Screens,” she reminds us, isn’t just one thing, but a bajillion things — one of them being a great tool for learning and connecting.
It’s all about the type of media you choose for your little ones to consume. In other words, sure, you can let your kiddos watch TV, but be picky about what they watch, play, do on a screen… Cue the roundup of our favorite kids media — from digital libraries, TV shows, music apps and more! Below, you will find all sorts of screen resources (and some podcasts) that will keep your children not only entertained, but engaged as well.
Audiobooks & Digital Libraries
This audiobook subscription includes numerous fun titles for children, ranging from classic picture books like The Snowy Day to classics such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and everything in between, like Frog and Toad.
My son’s teacher introduced us to this subscription-based library, and it’s been a game changer. Epic! caters to kids aged two to 12 years old and carries anything from digital books, audiobooks and videos. Its media selection is diverse and even includes bilingual reads.
Ok, you got us — audio Players aren’t screens per se, but they’ve been hit tech devices aimed at keeping kids engaged and their imagination flowing. Plus, they technically keep your kiddos away from actually watching screens. We love the Yoto, the Tonies and Lunii, all of which offer audiobook stories, music, podcasts and so much more.
Check to see what audio/digital platform your local library uses — many offer services like OverDrive, Libby, or CloudLibrary for free with your card, and they often have a wonderful selection of children’s books for all ages.
Apps & Websites
Outschool got many of us through distance learning and much of the pandemic. From dance lessons to drawing classes to math introduction, kiddos can learn all sorts of things while having fun… all from the comfort of their own home. Yesterday we had a snow day, and my kids took an Outschool Encanto hip-hop class — so fun!
Are your kids wondering why the ocean is blue or if unicorns are real? They can send Doug all the pressing questions that pop in their heads, and Mystery Doug picks one every few weeks to answer on his website. His scientific insight is always age appropriate and interesting, and with each video, you learn something new. You can subsribe to his newsletter to get a notification each time he posts a new video.
Between Super Nintendo World opening at Universal Studios Hollywood and the Super Mario Bros. Movie coming out in April, Mario and his whole crew are having a very good year, in 2023. If you or your children are Mario fans, check out Play Nintendo, an ad-free, child-friendly destination where both kids and parents can interact with and learn about their fave characters — from Mario, to Princess Peach, to Bowser. The website is overflowing with games and activities (like mazes and crossword puzzles), Mario-themed crafting ideas, and even tips and tricks on how to balance screen time with outdoor play, keeping your kiddos engaged for hours on end! And oh hey, Mario Day is approaching (March 10th) — perfect excuse to explore. Let’s-a go!
This streaming app, which is own by Common Sense Media, is as safe as it gets. Catered for kids 2 to 10, Sensical boasts thousands of hand-selected educational and engaging videos featuring some of their favorite characters and positive role models. Plus, it is free of inappropriate advertisement, so you can rest assure they won’t see anything they shouldn’t.
Khan Academy is a free learning services with courses that cover math, science, history and more. The lessons include videos, readings and many interactive components to make sure that kiddos stay engaged.
Games, puzzles, letter and number practices… with ABCmouse (another pandemic lifesaver), kids have fun learning all sorts of things. You can keep track of your child’s progress, including a real-time assessment of their skills and suggestions to keep building on those skills. Warning: no offline mode.
Exercise Apps & Websites
Perfect for rainy, wintery days when, Go Noodle gets kids moving through bursts of super fun and silly physical challenges. From easy-to-follow dance routines to games that require you to get up and move your body to yoga and breathing exercises, Go Noodle has something for every kid (and to be honest, I love these videos too!).
The latter four video picks on this round-up are like “traditional yoga” for kids — there’s no crazy pop-ups, fast glitzy cartoon characters, or otherwise overstimulating material. I love that they include children, too.
This is the only Cosmic Kids video we do in my house anymore, because this one is actually a live class Jamie leads with a group of littles. It’s got all the classic fun and silly antics of Cosmic Kids without the “other stuff,” and it’s so great! I wish they would do more like this.
Music Apps & Websites
This piano-learning app is a great way for kids to learn piano — it’s intuitive, progressive, and adjust to your pace. You can use it with any piano or keyboard. FYI — the only bummer with this program is that the one-week free trial doesn’t give you much access. You can opt for a 3-, 6- or 12-month premium subscription, and the price tag is worth the splurge.
Spotify has a bunch of great story options for little children! My kids love the Disney songs and stories, and there are also several podcasts/playlists that simply read picture books. These can keep my kiddos entertained for a surprisingly long time…
Loopimal is a fun app that allows kids to explore sequences, loops, and music as they try to animate a bunch of cute animals. There’s endless opportunities to create unique music. It’s interactive and easy to use. The only downside is that you cannot save your work. The company also have Bandimal and a bunch of other related apps.
Art & Drawing Apps
This art app is such a boon for creative expression. And it’s capital F-U-N fun. You can do some truly awesome things on ProCreate — we love it for children and adults alike.
Kids draw pictures on the pad to help Mo solve story problems. In the process, their creations come to life on the screen, in Mo’s animated world. This is a great app to build your children’s creativity. Osmo also has kits that focus on STEM, math and so much more.
Got a fan of Mo Willems in the house? The children’s book author and illustrator is inviting one and all into his studio to doodle together. So grab some paper, pencils and crayons, and get ready to create. Your kids will have a blast.
Bring Broadway home to your littles. New Victory Theater provides its live show on-demand on line for anyone who can’t make it in person. So cool!
3, 2, 1… action! Toontastic 3D allows you to draw, animate and narrate your own cartoon. Perfect for all budding storytellers — we’re looking at the next generation of documentary makers and Disney/Pixar artists. Get your creativity shining.
Created for pre-school aged children (and based on Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood of Make Believe), each episode focuses on teaching children emotional intelligence, kindness, and human respect. The show also utilizes what they call “strategy songs,” which reinforces each episode’s theme. My family’s favorite? “When you feel so bad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to 4… 1, 2, 3, 4.”
This British cartoon series was developed specifically for pre-school kids — it follows 4-year-old Peppa and her family through numerous light-hearted, teachable moments of fun and adventure. It’s a super mellow show with simple animation.
This Australian animated television series is by far the sweetest, cutest, funniest and most lovable kids show on TV right now (find it on Disney+). Bonus: it’s hilarious and fun for parents to watch, too! The program follows Bluey, her little sister, Bingo, and her mom and dad, Chilli and Bandit Heeler. Viewers love it also because it showcases a modern-day family with very involved parents (especially the dad, Bandit, which is lovely to see).
The show that needs no introduction… Sesame Street is the one children’s programming series that has the most research behind its development. If you have access to HBO and can watch older episodes (pre-2019), we think those ones move at a slower pace. If not, PBS carries free episodes for streaming on the web.
Join the Kratts brothers on their wild adventures. Part cartoon, part live action — each episode takes us to different parts of the world to meet amazing animals and learn about them and their environments. This is an entertaining way to introduce kiddos to discovery and nature shows.
If someone had told me that one of my kids’ favorite shows were some type of math series, I wouldn’t have believed it. And yet, here I am vouching for Numberblocks because I can literally say that my son LOVES counting and is curious about math thanks to that show. He’s in second grade, and already tapping into divisions… what? Lots of singalongs and absolutely no fuss — kids get to learn basic numeracy skills without even realizing they’re actually “working/studying.”
“What happens when you flush the toilet?” “Where do planets come from?” “Why do we have to recycle?” Ask the Storybots answers all our kiddos’ big questions regarding many different topics — from health to human anatomy to astronomy and more. The knowledge that my kids get from this show really sticks, and it helps that they belly laugh along the way.
This show, which focuses on building preschoolers’ early literacy skills, follows 4 characters (modernized versions of fairytale protagonists) use their literary superpower to overcome obstacles and solve story problems. The show is energetic and gives room for kids to participate in their missions, oftentimes addressing kids directly and moving slowly enough to let them think and interact with the text. A++ for Super Why!
From NPR, this weekly podcast explores STEM stories just for kids. Each episode is 30 minutes, bursting with curiosity and energy, and actually fun for adults to listen to as well!
Starring a dad and his two children, this podcast features genuine conversations on things like courage, how to be show respect and love, being present, and how to change the world (no biggy). We love that a dad is at the one leading these convos.
A podcast for curious kids and their curious adults… Brains On! explores various scientific concepts like why do we like sugar so much, what happens if you drop a feather in space (I 💯 need to know now!), how breathing works and so much more. We also love that each podcast is co-hosted by a different child.
What media do your kiddos (and you) love? Share in the comments below.