It's summer! Are you planning to travel? Road trip? Fly?
Even just driving around for summer activities can mean more time in the car when the kids need entertainment. My oldest can't do screens and we don't even own a tablet, so what can you do to prevent whining, fighting, and screaming?
Enter the podcast.
We also love audiobooks on CD, or downloading digital ones to our phones from the library system, too. But for shorter trips, the 20-30 minute length of podcasts can be just enough to get you through that sticky traffic.
I subscribe to these so the last 2-4 episodes are downloaded onto my phone when I'm connected to WiFi at home, then I don't have to stream anything using data while we're in the car. I also have an auxiliary cable to plug my phone into my car speakers, or your car may have bluetooth capability if it's newer than mine.
My kids are currently 2 and 5, so while some of the content may go slightly over the toddler's head, he still tolerates or enjoys all of these. Most of them should appeal to slightly older kids, too, but your kids may have different tastes!
Great Podcasts for Young Kids
>> Circle Round from WBUR <<
Circle Round takes folk tales from around the world, adapts them for a narrator and several voice actors (usually one being from a TV show that adults will recognize, or from NPR News), and creates original music for each story. A few recent episodes feature stories from Kazakstan, Portugal, and Ghana, and generally have some sort of moral or lesson.
If you visit their website you can listen directly from the site, read a transcript of the episode, download coloring pages, and see featured instruments from the episode's music. New episodes come out each week.
>> Brains On! from American Public Media <<
Brains On! describes itself as "an award-winning science podcast for kids and curious adults." Each week, a child is the guest co-host as they explore various topics in science. Episodes range widely from animals to electrons to space to weather. They dig in to how and why things happen.
It may be a little complex for the toddler set, but my little one will sit through most of an episode.
>>Wow in the World from National Public Radio and Tinkercast <<
Wow in the World is one of MY favorites. Co-hosts Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas are silly and entertaining enough to keep the kids engaged, but throw in smart humor for everyone. This science-y show reminds me a bit of the Magic School Bus - they use their shrink ray to make themselves miniature so they can learn about plankton, for example.
My oldest will ask to sit in the car until the episode is over.
>> Story Pirates from Gimlet Media <<
Story Pirates also has live performances and tours across the country, but we've only heard them in the car. (Ok, and sometimes I'll put on an episode so I can take a shower without the boys fighting.) The premise is simple: listeners submit their stories, and the Story Pirates flesh it out and adapt it into a fancier version.
There's a running framework of them being pirates on a ship, and there is some cheeky humor to keep the grownups amused, but it's engaging and fun. My oldest really wants to write a story to send in!
>> But Why? from NPR/Vermont Public Radio <<
But Why? is another science-y show, but this one takes listener questions and brings in an expert to answer them. The topics are more general than some of the previous podcasts - Why Is Money Important? Are There Underground Cities? - and may appeal to a little younger set as well.
>> Peace Out from Bedtime.fm <<
My kids don't love Peace Out as much as I do, but sometimes I put it on whether they like it or not. It's a combo yoga/meditation podcast for kids with a story theme to help guide them through. They cover a variety of emotions and situations where mindfulness can be a useful tool.
If my little ones are still running wild at bedtime, I'll lay on the bed with the lights out and play an episode just to help them calm down. There are suggested movements in many episodes, but we haven't managed that because my kids are feral. If nothing else, it relaxes me!
>> Sparkle Stories <<
Sparkle Stories is available as a podcast, or as a paid subscription with access to over 1000 original stories. We've only listened to a few, but the stories follow a group of animals who live at a junkyard and come across various questions and problems to solve.
Which will you listen to first?
Any favorites that your kids love?
And of course, for grownups, I'd love to suggest my podcast, too. Search "Semi Crunchy Mama" on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play, or listen right here on my site.