Sure, kids love nothing more than permission to whip out an electronic device in the car and play games until they get queasy, but for your next ‘life is a highway’ trip, why not bring along some movies for your mind? You can download these free digital audio episodes to any mobile device, USB key or CD.
NPR’s first foray into podcast programming for kids explores the science behind the questions they care about most: How do astronauts poop in space? And what happens to your body when you ride a roller coaster? (Hint: it’s all about g-force). Each week, dynamic hosts Guy Raz (NPR) and Mindy Thomas (SiriusXM) keep kids – and parents – up-to-date with the latest findings on space, animals, cool technology, wacky inventions and, of course, dinosaurs.
AGES 5-12, npr.org/wow
Professional voice actors perform a wide variety of classic and modern stories, fables, and poems. Produced by a former BBC journalist, the Storynory team has released a new audio story every week since 2005, so there are hundreds to choose from, including adaptations of Greek myths, and standbys like Cinderella and Snow White. Don’t miss the educational stories about history, mind-boggling riddles, and interviews with authors of popular children’s books.
AGES 8-11, storynory.com
Using catchy music and creative storytelling, this podcast encourages children and adults to discover their sense of wonder and adventure. Featuring fictional stories interwoven with facts, interviews and original songs, the Sugarcrash Kids are sure to engage your family. One recent episode, I Have An Idea, explores what ideas are and how to make them come to life by showcasing characters making a lemonade stand, plus behind-the-scenes looks at how songwriters record new music and how artists get their ideas onto paper.
AGES 5 and up, sugarcrashkids.com
Hosts Andrew and Polly – an award-winning husband-and-wife songwriting team from Los Angeles whose work appears on several Nickelodeon shows – blend smart, quirky music and whimsical storytelling into fast-paced monthly episodes. Each 15-20 minute podcast is loosely themed; the most recent one covers shadows. The couple has also delved into the secret worlds of fruit, rain, disguises, famous hats and more. The hosts and their kiddie guests talk to each other, while a bouncy soundtrack plays under it all. Super-catchy songs will have parents humming, too. (Check out the tune at the end of the Rain podcast—we dare you not to love it!)
AGES 3-7, andrewandpolly.com
A science-based podcast for curious minds of all ages, each episode is co-hosted by a different kid. Produced by MPR News and Southern California Public Radio, the show answers questions ranging from what it’s like to be a snake handler or a food scientist, how spiders build their webs, why the sun makes people sneeze, where tornadoes come from and how a GPS knows where you are. A super-fun science factoid in every show!
AGES 6-12, brainson.org
Who doesn’t love a good bedtime story (especially at naptime)? This weekly podcast features charming 20-minute tales such as Twinkle Toes, about a young girl who is determined to dance; The Lost Shoe, featuring Mikey the pint-sized detective, and his efforts to figure out where his shoe disappears to each morning, and Follow the Wind, where Petra’s magic pipe enables her to help the trees regain their voices when the wind goes missing.
AGES 2 and up, bedtime.fm
From the team at HowStuffWorks.com, this podcast has dozens of fantastic history-themed episodes, including a look at Chinese foot binding, a feature about Laura Ingalls Wilder, how peanut butter came to be and a profile of the first celebrity hair stylist. There are also quite a few episodes showcasing Canadians – from maritime explorer Henry Hudson’s adventures, to the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds, a Civil War spy who disguised herself as a man.
AGES 7 and up, missedinhistory.com
The Story Pirates team – teachers, actors, comedians, and musicians – transform stories written by kids (some as young as five) into comedy skits and musical theater. The troupe performs these sketches live in theatres and schools, mostly in New York and Los Angeles. The podcast offers highlights from the weekly Story Pirates radio show that airs on SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live, and features an interview with the young author of the story being performed. We love how these performers bring kiddie creativity to life.
AGES 4-10, itunes.com
Described as ‘YouTube for your ears’, this show features book-loving tweens and teens chatting about their fave books and why they like them. Created and hosted by award-winning radio journalist and playwright Kitty Felde, each podcast features a celebrity reader and an interview with a kiddie lit author. Felde encourages listeners to choose the books, which have included James and the Giant Peach, Eleanor & Park and Chains.
AGES 10 and up, bookclubforkids.org
Join Joe, Maria, and their children Helen and Ethan as they learn about cultures around the world through interviews with friends who share stories about their traditions and history. This brand-new podcast has so far explored Sri Lanka, the Congo, and South Africa. Grab your virtual passports and join this family on their journey to discover diversity and what we can all learn by exploring other ways of life.
AGES 5 and up, worldofwonderpodcast.weebly.com
Although not billed specifically as a children’s podcast, British cartoonist and teacher Dan Berry’s cool show discusses how professional illustrators, graphic novelists and artists approach their work. He’s been interviewing comic artists since 2010, and through conversations with a wide variety of fascinating people from around the world, kids can learn about the creative process, and how working artists learned to unleash their talents and follow their passion.
AGES 8 and up, makeitthentelleverybody.com