Road trips with kids are great fun—but they can be challenging for young (and not so young) folks who aren’t used to sitting still for hours. Figuring out what to do to keep them occupied during long drives is every parent’s challenge. Books, drawing paper and crayons, juice boxes—those are all essential elements of a successful car trip with kiddies.
And sure, if you’ve got a screen in your car, you’re probably tempted to pop in that worn-out copy of Frozen and tune out Anna, Elsa, and Olaf for the three-hundredth time, or load up your iPad with endless episodes of Paw Patrol. But there’s something else you can do to keep your kids occupied, and it’s something that the entire family can share—no earplugs required.
Podcasts have taken off in popularity over the last 10 or so years, with the most popular—This American Life, Radiolab, and Serial, for example—reaching millions of listeners. Ranging from 20 minutes to over an hour, podcasts are like radio shows on demand, and cover an endless range of topics and styles. Not all podcasts are family friendly, though, so it can be tough to figure out what’s appropriate to listen to as a family. Never fear—here are some of our favourites for full-family listening.
Serial story podcasts
These stories, which continue over a number of episodes, are great choices for long trips.
The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian
This podcast features 15-20 minute episodes over two seasons—meaning there’s more than 13 hours to keep your kids occupied. Aimed at ages five to 10, the podcast follows the adventures of eight-year-old, mystery-solving Finn Caspian, who just happens to live aboard The Famous Marlowe 280 Interplanetary Exploratory Space Station with his friends Abigail, Elias, and Vale.
Designed to be an “adventure series for the whole family,” Eleanor Amplified follows radio reporter Eleanor Amplified as she solves mysteries and foils nefarious villains. Inspired by old-fashioned radio dramas, Eleanor Amplified also has some important messages about journalism and making smart media choices.
The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel
A Peabody winner and multiple Webby Award nominee, The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel is billed as “Goonies meets Spy Kids meets Stranger Things for eight to 12 year olds.” Voiced by a cast of kids (and a couple of adults), the podcast is sure to hook listeners with its edge-of-your-seat plot and interactive tie-ins.
Science and educational podcasts
These podcasts cover kids’ burning questions in kid-friendly, accessible ways. Finally, the answers to all those “Why?” questions.
Wow in the World
NPR has a pile of great podcasts for adults (Invisibilia and All Songs Considered are two popular ones), and Wow in the World is their first for children. Each half-hour episode explores a science topic, including, most recently, how fish oil affects the brain, black holes and antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids
If you’ve got a kid who’s always asking the reasons for things—and isn’t satisfied when you say “Because I said so!” for the fortieth time—this is the podcast for them. Every episode tackles questions crowdsourced from the podcast’s listeners (which they can submit using the voice note feature on your smartphone).
The Past and the Curious
This history-oriented podcast features actors playing out stories from all over history, as well as a popular quiz segment and original music. If you’re interested in hearing about Abraham Lincoln’s underwear, opera, or female aviators, tune in.
Tumble: Science Podcast for Kids
If you’re a podcast fan, suffice it to say that Tumble is Radiolab for kids. Using creative stories and imaginative sound design, Tumble tells scientific stories in a creative, accessible way—perfect for budding scientists.
Stories, stories, and more stories. Some of these podcasts are super short, making them a good option for little ones.
The Story Pirates (actors, comedians, and improvisers) take stories created by real kids and act them out—often with ridiculously silly results. If you want to giggle and inspire your kids to write their own stories, this podcast will get them doing both.
Bedtime stories without having to turn a page! Each 20-minute story is created specifically for this podcast, which is read by Rob Griffiths, a dad himself (and former senior editor of Macworld). Griffiths’ podcast channel, Bedtime FM, also features the popular kids’ podcast Peace Out, which uses short stories to help kids calm down and relax through breathing and visualization exercises.
Stories features longer, more detailed stories than Story Time, and highlights classic stories like the Legend of Sleepy Hollow (told in a kid-friendly way), fairy tales, and original stories.
Take a break from Disney’s greatest hits (nobody wants to build a snowman anymore) and explore some neat new stuff with your kids.
Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child
If you’re tired of cheesy, low quality kids’ music, this podcast is the answer. Each week, you’ll hear a different playlist of kid-friendly songs from artists parents will actually appreciate, including They Might Be Giants, Blitzen Trapper and Ella Fitzgerald. Think of it as All Songs Considered without the swear words.
Saturday Morning Cereal BowlWhen you get tired of listening to stories, this podcast features two hours of kids’ music that transcends the usual Kidz Bop earworms. It’s not intellectual, exactly, but it is good.
What’s your favourite family-friendly podcast?