As screen time concerns are on the rise, many parents are turning to podcasts as a fun (and often educational) way to engage kids — without the screen. But as children’s audio content has flooded the airwaves, it can be a challenge to find the good stuff that’s also appropriate. Luckily, we’ve discovered some excellent kid-friendly podcasts you and your family will love listening to.
Best for the whole family
But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids. Kids are always asking seemingly simple questions — “Why is the sky blue?” or “Who invented words?” — that have surprisingly complex answers. This cute biweekly radio show/podcast takes on answering them. Best for: All ages.
Smash, Boom, Best. This is a fun and fast-moving family-friendly debate podcast. A kid judge listens to and scores the rousing, fact-based arguments of two contestants on subjects such as “Dragons vs. Unicorns” and “Pizza vs. Tacos.” Best for: Big kids.
The Two Princes. This charming fantasy adventure follows two young princes seeking to save their kingdoms. In the process, they face villainy, dragons, romance and a magical forest full of danger. Though kissing happens, it is treated with sweetness and humor. Best for: Tweens.
This American Life. This popular NPR radio show combines personal stories, journalism and even stand-up comedy. Host Ira Glass does a masterful job of drawing in listeners and weaving together several segments on a big, relatable theme. Many episodes have mature concepts and frequent swearing. Best for: Teens.
Best for learning
Ear Snacks. The catchy soundtrack is the star in this podcast from children’s music duo Andrew & Polly. This funny program also covers a range of topics by talking to both kids and experts, providing thoughtful fun for young ones and their grown-ups. Best for: Preschoolers and little kids.
KidNuz. Kids like to be informed and engaged, but talking to kids about the news can be a challenge. This podcast, created by moms who are broadcast journalists, offers young listeners five minutes of kid-friendly news (followed by a quick quiz) five days a week. Best for: All ages.
The Past & the Curious. This amusing podcast features people telling interesting, little-known stories from history with an emphasis on fun and humor. Although it’s not specifically a music podcast, each episode contains an often-silly song. There’s even a quiz segment, so kids will learn something. Best for: All ages.
Book Club for Kids. This biweekly podcast features middle schoolers talking about a popular middle-grade or young-adult book and sharing their book recommendations. Public radio figure Kitty Felde runs the discussion, and each episode includes a passage of that week’s book read by a celebrity guest. Best for: Tweens and teens.
Best for bedtime
Story Time. These 10- to 15-minute stories are a perfect way to lull your little one to sleep. The podcast is updated every other week, and each episode contains a kid-friendly story, read by a soothing narrator. Best for: Preschoolers and little kids.
Be Calm on Ahway Island. Thanks to the hosts’ soothing voices and a pre-story meditation, your kid might fall asleep before the story even gets underway. If not, the gentle adventures will sweep them off to dreamland. This podcast teaches kid-friendly mindfulness practices like “deep dragon breaths” that can be carried into waking life. Best for: All ages.
What If World. With wacky episode titles such as “What if legos were alive?” and “What if sharks had legs?,” this series takes ridiculous what-if questions submitted by young listeners and turns them into a new story every two weeks. Host Eric O’Keefe uses silly voices and crazy characters to capture the imaginations of young listeners. Best for: Kids.
Stories Podcast. One of the first kids’ podcasts to grasp podcasts’ storytelling capabilities, this podcast shares kid-friendly renditions of classic stories, fairy tales and original works. These longer stories with a vivid vocabulary are great for bigger kids past the age for picture books but who still love a good bedtime story. Best for: Big kids.
Best for road trips
The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian. This serialized podcast tells the story of an 8-year-old boy living on an interplanetary space station who explores the galaxy and solves mysteries with his friends. With no violence or edgy content and with two seasons totaling more than 13 hours, this adventure is perfect for long car rides. Best for: Kids and tweens.
Flyest Fables. This original fable centers on a magical book that takes its readers to a world where they find the strength to overcome any obstacle. The writing is beautiful, and the stories are immersive. Themes can be serious (bullying, homelessness) but are handled with sensitivity and remain appropriate for kids. Best for: Big kids and tweens.
Eleanor Amplified. Inspired by old-timey radio shows — complete with over-the-top sound effects — this serial podcast follows a plucky journalist looking for her big scoop. Tweens will love Eleanor’s wit and daring, and they might even pick up some great messages. There’s even a “Road Trip Edition” episode with the first season in a single audio file. Best for: Tweens.
The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel. This Peabody Award-winning scripted mystery series has been called a “Stranger Things” for tweens. With a voice cast of actual middle schoolers, a suspenseful plot and interactive tie-ins, this story about an 11-year-old searching for his missing friends will keep tweens hooked to the speakers for hours — more than five, to be exact. Best for: Tweens.
Welcome to Night Vale. Structured like a community radio show for the fictional desert town of Night Vale, the mysterious is ordinary and vice versa in this delightfully eerie series. It’s a bit creepy and dark for kids, but older listeners will find it perfect for a nighttime drive along a deserted highway. Best for: Teens.
Best for science lovers
Wow in the World. Hosts Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas exude joy and curiosity while discussing the latest news in science and technology in a way that’s enjoyable for kids and informative for grown-ups. Best for: All ages.
Brains On. This is another radio show/podcast that takes kid-submitted science questions and answers them with the help of experts. What makes this one different is it tends to skew a bit older, both in its questions and answers, and it has a different kid co-host each week. Best for: Kids and tweens.
Tumble. This podcast not only addresses fascinating topics, but it also tries to foster a love of science by interviewing scientists about their processes and discoveries. The hosts don’t assume listeners have a science background. Even kids who think they don’t like science may change their minds after listening to this podcast. Best for: Kids and tweens.
Stuff You Should Know. From the people behind the website HowStuffWorks, this frequently updated podcast explains the ins and outs of everyday things, from the major (“How Free Speech Works”) to the mundane (“How Itching Works”). Longer episodes and occasional adult topics such as alcohol, war and politics make this a better choice for older listeners, but hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant keep things engaging and manage to make even complex topics relatable. Best for: Teens.
Best for music fans
Noodle Loaf. A delightful offering from a music education specialist and his co-host daughter will get kids of all ages singing, rhyming, moving and engaging in all kinds of musical games. The segments, games and songs are so silly and upbeat that the whole family will enjoy participating. Little listeners can even add their voice to the theme song in the podcast’s electronically compiled kid’s choir. Best for: All ages.
Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl. This two-hour podcast styled like a DJ radio show features new and old songs that kids will love, many by parents’ favorite musicians. Selections are generally high-energy rock, folk or even punk-inspired songs, but listeners will also hear mellower tunes, as well as bilingual (English/Spanish) songs and hip-hop hits. Best for: All ages.
Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child. Each week there’s a new playlist combining kids’ music with kid-appropriate songs from artists whom grown-ups will recognize, such as Elvis Costello, The Ramones and John Legend. It’s a perfect compromise for parents tired of cheesy kids’ music. Best for: Kids.
All Songs Considered. This weekly podcast from NPR covers the latest and greatest in new music with a particular focus on emerging artists and indie musicians. It covers a wide range of genres, and it even includes artist interviews and live performances. Some songs contain adult themes and explicit language. Best for: Teens.
This piece first ran at Common Sense Media. Frannie Ucciferri is associate managing editor at Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that aims to help kids and parents navigate the world of media and technology. Common Sense Media Editorial Intern Mandie Caroll contributed to this article.
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