The best Chromecast apps and games for kids

Google's cheap streamer can help keep your darling children from driving you nuts.

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Casts for kids

Smartphones and tablets have become invaluable modern parenting tools, letting us easily educate, inform, connect, and… well, amuse and entertain, mostly. And thanks to Google’s cheap Chromecast dongle, now you can cast that entertainment onto your TV with ease, allowing for experiences that aren’t confined to a handheld display.

While the Chromecast app selection is still relatively thin, you’ll find a nice handful of apps and games that are perfect for keeping your kids’ anxious boredom at bay for at least a little while. Whether it’s mimicking moves with Just Dance Now, flinging living projectiles in Angry Birds Friends, or tapping into the streaming offerings of YouTube Kids and other services, these TV-enabled apps can help you in a pinch.

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Angry Birds Friends

Angry Birds Friends is Rovio’s socially-connected, free-to-play spin on the mobile hit, and it’s the one entry in the pull-and-fling series that is playable on your TV via Chromecast. Just tap the icon and the familiar cartoonish stage is blown up on your big screen, while your phone becomes a vessel for dragging and launching birds at the soon-to-topple structures.

What’s unique about Angry Birds Friends is that it’s not a huge adventure with hundreds of levels. Rather, you’re given six new stages each week to topple, so your kids can consider it appointment gaming: give them the phone and they can spend time here and there maxing out their scores. Just don’t let them near the paid power-ups. 

Angry Birds Friends (Free)

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PBS Kids Video

For parents with young tykes, the PBS Kids Video app is an absolute godsend. Not only is it loaded with full episodes from a wide array of familiar (and less familiar) kids’ TV series, but since it’s PBS, everything is totally free too. Simply load up a video of interest, hit the Chromecast logo, and it’ll run on your TV without annoying toy commercials or subscription prompts.

PBS Kids is the home of enduring franchises like Curious George, Thomas & Friends, and Sesame Street, but also more recent offerings like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Odd Squad, and Peg + Cat. Each show tends to have four full episodes available, along with a bevy of clips, and the selection is refreshed weekly.

PBS Kids Video (Free)

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Just Dance Now

Ubisoft's ultra-accessible dance sensation is now available on Chromecast thanks to Just Dance Now, which uses your Android phone as a controller as you match moves to hundreds of high-energy tracks. Now matches you up with worldwide players as you vie to have the most precise routine, and your phone's motion controls are used to judge your accuracy.

It's bright and energetic, but can quickly turn repetitive unless you're willing to spend. You get free access to a couple of songs/routines, otherwise you can buy individual songs or a large pack of tracks, or just pay for timed access to the entire library. Dropping $5 for 30 days of unlimited play isn't bad if your kids play a ton—just make sure they grip your phone tight!

Just Dance Now (Free)

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YouTube Kids

Look, you probably don’t want to hand off a phone with full YouTube access to your kindergartner… there are things that they’re just not ready to see. But YouTube Kids is a totally different story, as the app is refined and confined in a way that makes sense for even young kids to navigate themselves.

They can browse through shows like Peppa Pig, Thomas & Friends, Teletubbies, and much more, along with music and educational channels—and while YouTube Kids has ads, they’re kept kid-friendly. You also have control over how much kids can watch and whether or not they can use search, so you can box them in as much as you please. And casting to a Chromecast is as simple as tapping the button, of course.

YouTube Kids (Free)

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Monopoly Here & Now: Big Screen Edition

Traditionalists might grumble at the idea of remixing a board game classic, but Monopoly Here & Now: Big Screen Edition does a solid job of delivering a streamlined, TV-based take on the original. Rather than spend hours slowly working your way around the board and amassing wealth, Here & Now zips you from space to space as you cover your passport with property stamps.

It still has the familiar tokens and varying locales, but now you can use special cards to stymie your opponents’ moves, plus there are other little twists that keep things lively and fun. Up to four local devices can connect to play via Chromecast, and you can add A.I. foes; the free download limits the amount you can play, but it’s just $2 within to fully unlock the game. 

Monopoly Here & Now: Big Screen Edition (Free)

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Driver Speedboat Paradise

Ubisoft’s Driver Speedboat Paradise has little to do with the Driver console series, which spotlighted getaway chases and not boats, but your kids won’t care: they’ll see a flashy racing game and want to snatch your phone away. No doubt, Speedboat Paradise is the most technically ambitious game on Chromecast, and while the performance can be choppy, the actual racing makes for a solid diversion.

You’ll tap the on-screen buttons to steer, slow, or boost your TV boat, and the game offers a wide campaign of events to clear. It’s free-to-play, however, so an energy meter can limit the action and there are prompts to spend money. Also, the between-race storyline has mild language, vague drug references, and bikini-clad women, so maybe save it for older kids—or just flip through the menu stuff for them on your phone. 

Driver Speedboat Paradise (Free)

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Sesame Street Go

Until recently, Sesame Street Go was a premium service that let you pay a few bucks a month for access to a load of back episodes. But now with Sesame Street going to HBO, the app is totally free, albeit at the expense of losing full episodes. That’s a bummer, but now it means that anyone can grab the app, fire it up, and let their kids dig into all the free content.

You’ll still find clips and compilation shows, just not proper episodes, and all of the video content can be easily cast to your TV with the tap of a button. Sesame Street Go also has simple learning games, which sadly can’t be cast, but at least the bulk of the content is TV-compatible. And you won’t find any ads amidst the fun.

Sesame Street Go (Free)

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Motion Tennis Cast

Have you ever played tennis in Wii Sports or one of the many knock-offs that followed? If so, then you know exactly what to expect from Motion Tennis Cast: it’s an easy-to-play game in which you swing your Android phone to swat a virtual racquet on the court. How you move the phone determines what kind of shot you take, although they’re not hugely differentiated.

Even with the simplicity of the approach, Motion Tennis Cast is fun because it gets you moving, plus it even offers a burnt calories estimate once your session is through. You can even tweak the court type and take on time attack challenges. As with Just Dance Now, this game is ripe for accidentally tossing a phone into your TV, so consider using a wrist strap or some other homemade contraption.

Motion Tennis Cast (Free)

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Memory Cast

Memory is a low-key classic of a game, and Memory Cast brings it to life on your TV with ease. It’s the same game you’ll remember from being a tyke: tap two upside-down photo cards from a grid and try to make a pair, and you can scale the experience from as few as six cards to as many as 56 total. 

The free Memory Cast comes with a handful of free categories designed to help kids learn ideas and concepts, such as animals and numbers, plus there are premium sets sold within for anyone seeking extra variety. Up to six local devices can connect, too, or you can set up a pass-and-play game if you only have one phone or tablet handy.

Memory Cast (Free)

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Netflix

It’s so obvious, yet so easy to overlook: of course Netflix is a tremendous asset for kids, and you can cast anything on the streaming service to your TV with a tap. Netflix has an almost overwhelming amount of kids’ TV content, including Handy Manny, Curious George, Octonauts, Sofia the First, and much more. It also has a lot of kid-friendly films, with Disney flicks like Fantasia and Tarzan leading the pack.

More recently, Netflix has funded its own original series, as well, including Dinotrux and Turbo FAST, with much more on the horizon. Unlike the other video apps here, Netflix has a monthly fee: it’s $10 a month for new subscribers. But if you use it regularly—and let’s not forget the voluminous content for older viewers—that can be a steal.

Netflix (Free; subscription required)