We just got back from a long road trip – ten hours each way with a 20-month-old and a four-year-old. I love a good game of “I Spy” as much as the next person, but… Audio books and kids podcasts were life saving for this trip. Plus, they’ve become a staple in our house for carpool and quiet times. While there are many podcasts out there, there are some that make me a little (read: a lot) crazy (particularly when listened to over and over again, which is how my kids roll). Here’s a list of 5 podcasts that we’ve settled on as favorites because my kids love them and I do too!
An important caveat about this list: all of these have episodes that are at least 15 minutes long. There are some great podcasts out there ranging from 8-15 minutes per episode, but those drive me crazy because of the frequency of intervention (8-minute episodes make long road trips seem interminable, plus I need episodes that will at least cover one leg of daily carpool.)
1. Story Pirates
I love Story Pirates. It is hilarious, catchy, and engaging all while inspiring its listeners to be more creative. Story Pirates takes stories submitted by kids and then turns them into sketch comedy and songs. Episodes are released every Thursday and are around 20 minutes each. The actors are amazing, the writing is phenomenal, and the songs are forever in my head (in the good way – they just released an album, see link at bottom of post!). Besides being good entertainment, Story Pirates consistently encourages its listeners to submit stories. My daughter regularly is writing stories to submit or thinking through/telling stories to submit. All of us are more creative for listening to this. And, it’s SO funny.
2. Sparkle Stories
Sparkle Stories writes and produces original stories for kids. The stories are told by David Sewell McCann, a storyteller and teacher. I usually try to avoid podcasts with only one voice, as it’s harder for my kids to stay committed; however, David is such a masterful storyteller that he enthralls even the squirmiest of listeners. I like Sparkle Stories because of its simplicity – there’s nothing fancy about it, but it’s a perfect example of how powerful good writing and storytelling can be.
In its “about” section, Sparkle Stories says it strives to “enrich the story life in your home, bring delight to holidays and seasons, and offer a quality experience during everyday quiet times.” This is a spot on description of what they are doing for us. There are over 1000 stories available for listening, and each story lasts about 15-25 minutes. Grab a cup of tea (or milk), snuggle under a blanket, and enjoy!
3. Reading Bug Adventures
Reading Bug Adventure is produced by The Reading Bug, an independent, family owned bookstore. This is a relatively new podcast – only in its second season – and it gets better and better every episode. In each episode, the Reading Bug goes on an adventure, inspired by the topics of the books in her book bag. The episodes are around 30 minutes each, but each adventure takes two weeks to complete (i.e., my kids are anxiously waiting for the second part to be released so that they can see how the adventure ends). Also, after both parts are released, there is a bonus release where you can play parts 1 and 2 together (thank you, Reading Bug, this is very helpful on road trips!!!).
My kids love this podcast because the stories, which include songs, are really entertaining. I like it because it introduces kids to new topics, tells them about new books (which they often want to read after listening), encourages kids to really think about the story and draw what they’re seeing, and even tells kids when to take a break in the episode to color. It’s a great podcast to foster curiosity and a love of books. (Our favorite right now is the Dinosaur Adventure!)
*Reading Bug also offers a box subscription, where personalized books will be sent to your child once a month. It’s really cool!
4. Pants on Fire
Pants on Fire is a podcast that was inspired by our “era of fake news” and seeks to help kids understand the importance of listening, asking good questions, and even trusting their instincts when being presented with new information. With that goal in mind, each week they bring a kid on the show along with two “experts” on a particular topic. One of the adults is actually an expert, the other is lying. It’s the child guest’s job to ask each expert questions and then figure out who is telling the truth. The episodes – released weekly and all around 20 minutes – are entertaining and informative, so my kids are fully engaged. I like it because of the critical thinking it inspires in kids and the new topics we learn about each week (at the end they correct any incorrect information that the “liar” gave) – from horses, to illustration, to cryptocurrency. Also, the theme song is really catchy (my only critique here is that my youngest likes to listen to the one minute intro over and over and over…).
5. But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids
But Why is a Vermont Public Radio podcast that encourages kids to be curious and helps to quench some of that constant question asking (I love how curious kids are, but some days I’m at top end of explaining a long string of “whys”). This podcast is focused on questions asked by kids – every week they start with a kid-submitted question and try to find the answer to the question. Because it’s centered on topics actually asked by kids, it’s really engaging for young listeners – they can relate to the topics and like hearing kids’ voices in the episodes.
While the topics and explanations are kid friendly, they are also interesting for adults. I, for one, don’t know why tape is sticky, why we laugh, how fish sleep or see, or why flamingos stand on one leg. But, I look forward to becoming more informed! The episodes are hosted by Jane Lindholm, are each about 20-35 minutes, and are released every two weeks. (Note: the most recent episodes are about cancer, how people get it and some experiences of people with cancer. They’re really well done and a helpful introduction to a heavy topic. However, depending on your child’s experiences/age, might be worth either a pre-listen or starting with a lighter topic).