Favorite Podcasts for Kids (aka Road Trip Survival Tools)

Photo by Thomas Creed

Photo by Thomas Creed

Our family recently took a road trip from Austin to Marfa, TX (427 miles door-to-door). My husband and I used to go to Marfa (a small and beautiful town of less than 2,000 in West Texas that is a modern art center and generally interesting place) once a year starting in 2001 when we first moved to Austin, but life took over and we sadly had not been back since we became parents eight years ago. We decided to change this and in the last week of 2017, we packed up the girls and our car and headed west. Marfa or bust! The six-and-a-half-hour car ride according to Google Maps took us closer to eight hours with the girls' need for car breaks, even with speed limits of 80 mph for some of the drive and folks who understand that the left lane is for passing (Austinites could learn a few driving lessons from their West Texas compatriots). 

Having two daughters so close in age (8 and 6 years old) is wonderful in so many ways, but there are also times that the girls get on each others' (and our) last nerves, especially in the car. There’s just something about the close proximity of being in a car, not to mention the loss of autonomy that comes from literally being strapped in, that can lead to not-the-best behavior from the kids, and us adults. I find that when tired or bored in the car, the girls either start becoming manic, cackling and screaming banshees, or the worst bickerstons, complaining about each other breathing or daring to look at one another. Both of these scenarious make me batty.

Enter my abiding love for podcasts. I use them in the car all. the. time. The girls love them and I love their rapt silence as they listen to their favorites. On a long road trip, podcasts are our family's sanity-saving survival tools. I recommend playing the podcasts with the volume set to fade to the rear speakers so the kids can hear well and the adults can happily converse without interruption in the front seats. As we have tried out quite a few podcasts for kids, I thought I would share our favorites. These are all great and I suspect the adults in your family will enjoy them as well. All of the podcasts listed below are free, but some do have a few commercials (we just fast forward through them). You can subscribe and listen to these podcasts on your computer using iTunes or at the website links below, or subscribe and download them to your mobile phone (iPhone or Android). If you are new to podcasts, this quick HubSpot article provides simple podcast subscription instructions.   

1.     Wow in the World (NPR podcast) 

This is the girls' favorite podcast. Hosts, Guy and Mindy, take listeners on a discovery-filled exploration of the many wows in the world. The podcast, for children ages 5-12, focuses on science, technology, discovery, and inventions. Most episodes are between 10 and 25 minutes long. 

2.     Eleanor Amplified (WHYY podcast)

Eleanor Amplified vies closely with Wow in the World for the #1 one spot on this list. The serial radio adventure, about an intrepid, investigative radio reporter, Eleanor Amplified, is recommended for kids 8-12, but appropriate for kids of all ages. Episodes are usually 15 minutes or less. 

3.     Stories Podcast

While Eleanor Amplified is great for a quick errand or drop-off trips in the car, these stories are perfect for longer road trips as they tend to be a bit longer (the longest episodes are around 45 minutes long). There are a lot of episodes available, going back to 2014, and quite a few stories have multiple parts. A full two hours of our Marfa trip were occupied with the multi-part story, "The Brilliant Firefly." My girls loved it and barely spoke except to ask us to play the next episode. G rated for all ages. 

4.     Story Time (Bedtime FM) 

Another great option for stories for the car, as well as at home. For kids 2-13. Episodes are usually under 20 minutes long. 

5.     Peace Out (Bedtime FM) 

This is a great podcast for bedtime. I have found that my kids can't really handle regular podcast stories at night as they tend to get revved up, which is the last thing we want at bedtime. I recently found this podcast and now use it nightly with the girls. Each individual story lists a different recommended age range, but most stories are for kids between 5-12. These short "mindfulness stories" guide children through visualization and breathing exercises. Most of these meditative stories are less than 10-15 minutes long. Parents, you are forewarned, you may fall asleep too. 

6.     Short & Curly

An ethics podcast for kids exploring interesting and thought-provoking ideas and questions. A great way to get your kids thinking and talking about thorny topics. Best for kids ages 7-12. Most episodes are less than 20-30 minutes long. 

7.     What if World

This storytelling podcast for kids imagines a "what if" world. Super silly stories for kids (no specific age range specified) inspired by listeners' what if questions and ideas. A sample story title: "What if unicorns and narwhals had jedi sabers for their horns?" Most stories are under 20-25 minutes long. 

Happy listening!

Esha/Enriched Family