Podcasts For Kids: Learning, Imagination & Quiet Time Magic

by Nicole Lemperle Correia
From the time she was an infant, my daughter has had a hard time settling down for naps and bedtime. We tried calming routines, soothing music, white noise, but even still it would take a long time for her to calm her thoughts enough to drift off to sleep.
When she was three years old, a friend suggested we try “Sparkle Stories” - a story podcast for kids.
The first time we played a Sparkle Story at naptime it was like magic. She was quiet. She stayed in bed and listened intently. And…. she fell asleep. For over a year she listened to a story for every nap. Even if she didn’t fall asleep, she’d lay quietly in bed for the entire podcast. Magic.
Ever since, I’ve been a big believer in podcasts for kids. Listening to stories requires a different type of engagement than screen time (and, studies show, listening to radio stories sparks more creative thinking in children than watching television does). Listening to podcasts gives kids a way to settle down, to immerse themselves in another world, to learn, and to use their imaginations.
In addition to naptime stories, we also love podcasts for car trips. Our oldest child gets carsick when she’s reading or looking at a screen, but podcasts are an entertaining way to pass the time without feeling ill. We can all listen together, or she can listen on her headphones.  
As The Atlantic wrote about recently, there really aren’t a lot of podcasts for children currently in production. Hopefully that will change, but even so there are several that my family enjoys. Our current favorites include:

Sparkle Stories - This was our entry point to kids’ podcasts, and will always be a favorite. Sparkle Stories feature original stories by storyteller David Sewell McCann. The stories range from realistic (we are big fans of the Martin and Sylvia stories), to fantasy, to stories of mischievous animals. Their “Storybox Playlists” focus on a particular lesson or theme - we’ve loved the “Stories for Settling Down” and “Stories of Diversity.”  (Last week, after listening to “The Dirty Dusty Gnome” in the “Helping Around the House” series, my 5-year-old started cleaning her room. See? Magic!)

Sparkle Stories are available via the free podcast, as downloadable sets for purchase from their website, or as a streaming service for $15/month. The Sparkle Team also recently launched an app, which has been a convenient way to access the hundreds of stories they’ve made available.
Brains On! Why do cats sleep so much? What’s the deal with boogers? What’s it like to live in space? How is it that every snowflakes is different? This show takes on the questions that kids wonder about, and really dives into the science of how and why things work. The format is interesting (every episode is co-hosted by a kid), the experts interviewed are engaging, and my kids are obsessed with the “mystery sounds” featured in each episode. While this is geared at slightly older children, I’ve been amazed by the information my 5-year-old picks up from each episode.
The Show About Science  - This show is hosted by Nate, who is in kindergarten, and it’s a lot of fun. The episodes are all around 15 minutes long - perfect for our shorter car rides. He interviews scientists about things like bees, fossils, recycling, sea creatures, and food science. Educational and adorable.
Storynory - Storynory is available as a podcast or as free downloads directly from the website. What I love about Storynory is the variety offered: original stories, fairytales and fables, poems, myths, even full-length classic books like The Secret Garden and The Wizard of Oz. I like that I can pick shorter poems and stories or longer books, depending on the time we have. (And study upon study has shown the benefits of listening to audiobooks, especially for early readers.)
As you plan your family’s summer road trips and vacations, try out some podcasts for the road. Your new adventures in listening could make for a more pleasant journey.


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