What are the best children's TV channels?
There are plenty of ways to keep your family entertained - arts and crafts, board games, a Frisbee tournament - but one of the most popular by far is TV. And for that, you’ll need some good telly for the kids.
What children’s channels do I want?
The best channels will vary depending on how old your kids are, and what kind of programmes they like to watch - though bear in mind that they will grow out of certain TV shows quite quickly.
Sky (www.sky.com) and Virgin Media (www.virginmedia.com), give you different children’s channels depending on which package you have. On the other hand, BT (www.bt.com) and TalkTalk (www.talktalk.co.uk) include a just few with their basic packages, then allow you get more with add-ons or boosts.
So what kids channels can you watch?
- Cartoons - For cartoons, you can’t get much better than the Cartoon Network. The flagship channel has loads of animated favourites for kids of all ages, including Over the Garden Wall, Adventure Time, Ben 10, and Steven Universe. Boomerang, meanwhile, is the host of classic toons like Looney Tunes, Powerpuff Girls, and Scooby Doo, and Cartoonito has shows for pre-school kids. Other cartoon channels include Disney XD (Gravity Falls, Phineas and Ferb), Pop (My Little Pony, Totally Spies), Tiny Pop (Caillou, Little Explorers), and Kix.
- Pre-school - There are plenty of channels for pre-school age kids in particular, too. Nick Jr is a must if you want Peppa Pig and Dora the Explorer, though there’s also CBeebies (Bing, Peter Rabbit, Katie Morag), Disney Junior (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Curious George), and of course Cartoonito and Tiny Pop.
- Teens - Older kids and young teens will likely prefer channels like Nickelodeon, where they can watch Make it Pop, iCarly, and The Legend of Korra, or the regular Disney Channel, for shows such as Descendants, Teen Beach, and Dog With a Blog.
- All ages - Other channels have programming that spans across all age ranges. Good old CBBC has Blue Peter, Horrible Histories, Friday Download, and So Awkward for the whole family to enjoy - and CITV shows classics like Pokemon and Sooty.
Kids TV on Sky
Sky TV’s Original Bundle has a good selection of kids’ channels - CBBC, CBeebies, CITV, Kix, POP, Pop Girl, Tiny Pop - but if you want the Cartoon Network, Disney, and Nickelodeon suites, you’ll need to upgrade to the Variety Bundle. The top-tier TV package from Sky, the Family Bundle, includes all of those along with five HD kids’ channels.
And, of course, you can add Sky Movies to any of its packages - which will give you Sky Movies Family and Sky Movies Disney for family-friendly films all day.
Most programmes are also available on demand or with catch up, and you can watch them from anywhere with the help of Sky Go, so it’s easy to keep the little tykes entertained whenever you want.
Kids TV on Virgin Media
TV packages from Virgin Media add more kids’ channels as they grow in size (the packages, that is, not the kids). With the basic Player TV, you’ll get CBBC, CBeebies, CITV, and Pop. Mix TV adds Boomerand, Cartoon Network, Tiddlers TV, and Tiny Pop; Fun TV adds the Nickelodeon suite; and, finally, Full House TV adds all the Disney channels along with a bunch of kids' channels in HD.
It may be difficult to decide which package to go for, since the channels aren’t sorted in a simple way - but if you’ve got growing kids, they’ll love the nice range of telly that comes with Fun or Full House.
There’s also the option to add the premium channel BabyTV to any package.
And remember that whatever channels you get, they’ll likely also be available to watch at any time with Virgin TV On Demand, and from any device with Virgin TV Anywhere.
Kids TV on BT
Two BT TV packages, Starter and Entertainment Plus, offer the same range of channels. For kids, that means CBBC, CBeebies, CITV, Pop, Tiny Pop, CBBC HD, and CBeebies HD.
However, if you want more - namely, the Cartoon Network, Disney, and Nickelodeon ones - you can do so with the Entertainment Ultra HD package, or by adding the BT Kids Bolt-on. You’ll get nine extra channels, along with kids TV on demand and catch up, and the Bolt-on is on a rolling monthly subscription so you can cancel it if your youngsters suddenly grow up.
Kids TV on TalkTalk
With a basic TV package from TalkTalk - either Essentials TV or Plus TV - you’ll get CBBC, CBeebies, CITV, Pop, Tiny Pop, CBBC HD, and CBeebies HD.
But, similar to BT TV, you can add even more with a TalkTalk ‘Boost.’ The Kids Boost will give you the Cartoon Network, Disney, and Nickelodeon suites, along with Scamp, TalkTalk’s own kids TV channel. You’ll get all of those on demand as well. And again, Boosts work on rolling monthly subscriptions that you can cancel whenever you want.
To keep the whole family entertained, you can always go for the Entertainment Extra Boost instead. This lovely bundle combines the channels in the Kids Boost, Music Boost, and Entertainment Boost - which is where you’ll find Sky 1, Comedy Central, Discovery, and so on.
A number of the world Boosts also include international kids’ TV - the Arabic TV Boost, for instance, includes cartoon channel Baraem.
Kids TV on Freeview and Freesat
If you’re just sticking with standard Freeview, your choices of kids’ channels are a little more scant, unfortunately - CBBC, CBeebies, CITV, Pop, Tiny Pop, CBBC HD, and CBeebies HD. Freesat will get you the same, along with Pop Girl and Kix.
How do Freeview and Freesat compare to YouView? Find out in our head to head.