By Jeana Lee Tahnk, Parents Magazine
Take a break from screens and perk up your kids’ ears with these entertaining (and shhhh….educational!) podcasts for young listeners.Podcasts are all the rage these days (Serial and S-Town, anyone?) and cover every topic imaginable pregnancy – cooking, fitness, pop culture… You name it, there’s a podcast for it. But why should adults get to have all the fun? Lucky for kids, there has been a rise in the number of high-quality podcasts for young listeners. Harkening back to the days of yore when family entertainment meant sitting around the radio, podcasts for kids are a great way to engage the other senses (no screens!) and experience entertainment and education in a new way.
Kids are responding well to this form of entertainment, too. A recent survey by Kids Listen found that 80 percent of kids listen to a podcast more than once, and after they’re done listening, 75 percent start discussions based on what they’ve learned. On top of that, kids learn better when they listen. According to the Audio Publishing Association, comprehension, vocabulary, reading speed, even motivation are all positively impacted by auditory learning.
So, where to begin? We’ve done the research to find 11 awesomely entertaining podcasts that your kids (and you) will enjoy. You can test out any of the free episodes via their websites, iTunes, or Google Play and then subscribe to the ones your kids love. Just be prepared to listen to them repeatedly!
Created by 4 Emmy winning journalists, KidNuz is a daily 5-minute news podcast made with kids in mind. The podcast provides briefings on the day’s top stories that are appropriate for kids ages 8-14—which means no talk of murder, terrorism, assault, or anything else too gruesome for children. The reporting is unbiased and nonpartisan, too. This podcast is an amazing way to teach your kids the importance of caring about what goes on in the world around them, while still trusting they aren’t taking in any information that is inappropriate for them. (Free, iTunes, Google Play)
Story Pirates is a captivating audio show by real actors, comedians, and entertainers who tell stories that have been written by kids. With episodes like “Eat a Spider Day” and “Princess Lifeguard Camp,” the silliness and imaginative tales will keep kids entranced. (iTunes)
Little Stories for Tiny People
This series is a great way to test out your kids’ interest in podcasts, since most of the stories hover around the 10-minute mark. Some are shorter, some are longer, but all are original stories that primarily feature whimsical tales about animals. There are also a few bedtime tales in the mix that are more low-key to help kids wind down for the night. (Free, iTunes)
Speaking of bedtime, there’s no magic formula for getting kids to calm down in the evening, but the series of podcasts from Peace Out comes close. These calming stories teach mindfulness and meditation, and are a perfect introduction to cultivating this life-long skill. (iTunes, Google Play)
This clever podcast is designed to ease the burden for parents who get asked hard-hitting questions like, “What if cars could talk?”, “What if it rained candy?” and “What if elephants were alive?” For a moment in time, What If World makes these questions reality, and describes what these worlds would be like in vivid, imaginative detail. (iTunes, Google Play)
But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids
For the ever-curious kids who ponder our existence, this podcast answers questions that are based in reality. Topics like how butterflies fly, why the sea is salty, and the universal question on why the sky is blue are all featured. There’s even an episode with the Kratt brothers of the eponymous Wild Kratts show on PBS. (iTunes, Google Play)
Spare the Rock Spoil the Child
For a fresh and upbeat compilation of songs that will appeal to young and old(er), this podcast/audio stream is a great way to introduce music from your generation. There are familiar kids’ tunes, mixed in with favorites from groups like They Might Be Giants, for a continuous playlist that everyone will bee bop to. (iTunes)
Of course, there’s a Sesame Street podcast! And it features the adorable characters your kids know and love, including Elmo, Abby, Cookie Monster, and the newest character, Julia. Fun stories, songs, and ABC activities with their familiar friends will keep the love for the Sesame crew going when the TV is off. (iTunes)
Families can explore scientific concepts together like the recent slime craze, how elevators work, and life on other planets. What’s cool is that each episode is co-hosted by a different kid, who gives a unique perspective on these topics and makes it fun for fellow kids to listen to. (iTunes)
This sweet podcast series stars a dad and his two young kids, and features genuine conversations between the three of them about everyday things like courage, kindness, how to show love, and being a good sport. This authentic podcast lets its audience listen in to teachable moments and how a caring dad interacts with his kids. (iTunes, Google Play)
NPR’s first entry in the podcasts for kids department is its brand-new series called Wow in the World. This series will help kids discover worldly things, how things work, why things are the way they are, and so much more. One of the first questions explored in the series, “How do astronauts poop in space?” is sure to be a hit with your kids. Anything poop-related, right?
A podcast idea that masks entertaining content with underlying ethical questions is a brilliant way to engage in discussions with your kids. From serious questions like “Is it ever OK to lie?” to sillier ones like “Should you move to Mars?”, Short and Curly makes kids think about decisions based on what they know (and are learning) to be wrong and right. (iTunes)
By Jeana Lee Tahnk, Parents Magazine