We are living through truly testing times. Nothing is normal. Nothing is routine. No one has ever been through something like this. A mother’s life is stressful enough without a pandemic or quarantines to worry about. With a work from home husband and distance learning kids to the mix and there is no balance whatsoever. Oh and add the inability to order food from outside because there is a risk of contamination and things turn into a full-blown circus pretty soon. And you know what is cherry on top?? A mama working full time from home *sigh*. Wait we are not done yet! There are kids who are “BORED” and “CRANKY” because they are cooped up inside all day!!
A solution to the last one is put on Youtube and let mama have a cup of coffee in peace. Beep beep there’s a problem here too!! Those pesky ads targeting kids and luring them into nagging parents to buy that one of a kind toy. Or the fact that you step into the shower and it switches to a video of someone opening kinder eggs or a show that you don’t approve of and now the kids only want to watch that show. Forever.
Now mama, don’t pull your hair out and BREATHE. This shall pass too before we know it and the kids are not going to become dumb because we let them watch brainless TV for a few weeks. Secondly, if there is no way you can let this go and it is something important to you, quarantine or not, I have some good news!
I have shared some of my concerns and reservations about kids watching youtube videos on social media before. Even if there is no global pandemic, I do not want to subject my kids to being mesmerized by some adult opening surprise eggs or playing with play-doh, or worse, wearing character costumes and acting stupid. This does not mean that I have never let my kids watch youtube. I sure do. There are so many valuable resources on it and completely free which we always utilize, but I always make it a point to make a playlist so that any unwanted videos don’t pop up. Also, youtube kids is a much better and ad-free option if you can get it. That being said I “try” to avoid Youtube altogether most of the time.
I know that being free and easily accessible on smart TVs, youtube is every parent’s go-to to keep their kids entertained while they get important things done. But there has to be a better option right? With the kids held up at home nowadays this is more important than ever. So I set out to find other apps, websites or services that are FREE and give our kids access to safe and educational digital content. If your kids have tablets or a pc/laptop they can use, these are all great options. I got you, Mama!
- Sesame street – There’s an app and a website. The website definitely has more options, but both have games, activities, and videos. You can subscribe for free and get to watch more free videos.
- Nick Jr – Both a website and an app. There’s a huge variety of free full episodes of your favorite cartoons.
- PBS kids video – I just love this one! When you go to the website it asks you to choose your local channel and then you get an option to watch PBS kids live tv. There’s a live tv option on the app too. I love all the PBS kids cartoons and often catch myself watching them more than my kids. If there’s one channel kids should be allowed to binge-watch, it should be PBS kids. p.s – no one is paying me for saying this.
- Kidloland kids nursery rhymes – This is an app that I have been using for the past 6 years. It used to be completely free but now it is subscription-based. Don’t worry, I have promised free stuff after all. The app has a completely FREE section which includes interactive nursery rhymes, books, etc. My kids always liked the interactive nursery rhymes and it kept them busy for a while!
- Go noodle – This is my main app/website option nowadays to get the kids to do some exercise indoors. We are not going out at all and the kids need to get the energy out, so these fun videos get them dancing, meditating and moving to get the blood flow going!
- Khan academy kids – Not exactly cartoons but the kids’ app has it’s own kid-friendly characters in videos that teach them phonics, math, songs, etc.
If you own a smart TV, then you can open any of the above mentioned websites in the TV’s internet browser (book mark it to access it easily everytime). Other than that there are a few other apps that are available on almost every smart TV. You can infact check all the apps I mentioned above in your TV’s appstore. You never know what you might find!
- Disney now – The free version allows a variety of full episodes but of course not all. It is a good app if you don’t have Disney junior in your TV subscription.
- Netflix/Hulu/Prime Video/Disney plus etc – If you have a Netflix ( or any other video service), you don’t really need youtube, trust me. There are so many options and most of them are good quality, educational content.
- Youtube kids – My Samsung smart TV has the youtube kids app, it won’t hurt to check the AppStore of your smart TV. Youtube kids have streamlined all kids’ videos and it doesn’t have any ads (until now). You still have to monitor content and I highly advise making a playlist of your favorite videos.
If you already own a firestick, you probably already know what I am going to talk about. If you don’t have it, I highly recommend it. You can get it for upto half off during major sales and it turns a regular TV into a smart TV. It also has a wide selection of apps on it. Here are some that I use:
- PBS kids video
- Nick Jr.
- Disney Now
Digital voice assistants (Siri, Echo, Google home, etc)
These are not really related to videos and visual content, but I added them as another idea to keep kids busy. The audio nature of these devices takes away screentime restrictions but not the fun. There’s so much that can be done with these devices apart from assisting you. I usually just ask them to play nursery rhymes, Disney songs, ballet music etc and it keeps the kids busy for hours on end. They dance or sing along. You can also ask them to play audiobooks or some amazing games. Even if you don’t own a stand-alone device, every smartphone has a voice assistant which does pretty much the same jobs.
Audible (and amazon books) are offering free unlimited access until schools are closed in the US. These are invaluable resources because they offer so many varities of books for all ages. So your digital voice asisstant can read a book on audible to the kids while you get a conference call done!
Google home has a Disney read along feature which is built in. All you need is a Little golden book in select titles (you can find a list of compatible books on the google home website). When you ask Google home to “Read along with Disney”, it asks you the title of the book and then adds magic to your story telling with the help of background music and special effects. It makes bedtime so much more fun and takes the edge off of everyone during these stressful times. Almost all the books are available on Amazon.
I will keep updating this list as I keep finding more resources and I will also write a post listing educational apps that my kids use and love.
Remember Mama, these are truly testing times and we all need a break sometimes (now more than ever!). Don’t beat yourself up, and don’t fixate on this issue too much. Let the kids watch another episode of a toy review if they want to because they are as stressed as us. They have never been through something like this before too
Maybe watching that is their way of coping with the stress or holding on to something normal. But if you think it is getting out of hand (or if they are misusing this new found freedom), you have the tools to let both parties win this battle.
Is there something that you use and it isn’t on my list? I would love to know about it so that my kids can watch it too. Please tell me about it in the comments below.
Hang in there Mamas. We got this!Stay home. Stay safe!