My kids are 3, 6, and 8 and their feelings about long drives range from “I have a number of very specific questions about the scenery” to “these car seat straps are the source of all unhappiness in the world.” With school commutes in full swing, weekend trips to the pumpkin patch on the horizon, and individual sound-proof pods still in development, I’ve been trying to make our car a more joyful place.
I love the Moana soundtrack as much as the next mama, but when you start humming “You’re Welcome” as you go about your adult business, it’s time to expand the playlist. Enter podcasts. When I find something as effective as snacks for bringing harmony to long and short rides alike, I press subscribe.
If you aren’t a podcast listener yourself, these kid-friendly versions may be the introduction that kick off your audio addiction.
Circle Round is the newest of the bunch, but it’s already our family favorite. This storytelling podcast geared toward kids ages 3-10 (but enjoyed by children and adults of all ages) turns folktales from around the world into delightful 10-20 minute episodes. While episodes promote values such as kindness, persistence, and generosity, they never feel preachy. The producers give a nod to their grown-up listeners by casting celebrities like Jason Alexander and Kathryn Hahn in the main roles.
If your family enjoys the most recent episode, “Why the Ocean is Salty,” consider visiting the library to check out Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett. Our 8-year-old enjoyed talking about the parallel themes.
Sesame Street Podcast is ideal for the littlest listener in your family. Familiar voices? Check. Easy to follow songs? Check. Lessons on patience and sharing? Check, check. It’s not as engaging for grown-ups as the others, but sometimes you just want to let your mind wander while your child learns the ABCs from a muppet.
Note: This podcast also has video content. If you’re limiting screen time, you’ll want to make sure your phone’s screen is out of sight while enjoying this one.
Brains On is a science podcast for kids covering topics like carbon footprints, how engines work, and good old fashioned farts. Rather than play the episodes as they’re released, we tend to pick and choose based on the topics we’re into right now. Many of our favorite episodes are set up as debates (Deep Sea vs. Outer Space or Bridges vs. Tunnels). Usually everyone in the car takes a stand and supports their opinion when the episode is over, which has led to some shockingly fascinating insights from my kids.
Our youngest will listen to this podcast as long as the topic is engaging, but the sweet spot is probably ages 6-12.
Eleanor Amplified is tagged as “an adventure podcast for your little do-gooder.” If you crossed an old-timey radio series, a Pixar movie without the video, and an awesome children’s book with a journalist heroine, you’d get this nail-biter of a podcast.
Eight to 12-year-olds will get the most out of listening, but our 6-year old is also happy to follow Eleanor’s adventures. While our 3-year-old isn’t particularly interested in the story, the production values seem to keep her mildly entertained. Warning: Since this is geared toward slightly older kids, you do get some mildly offensive language like “jerk.”
Meditation Studio is technically an app, not a podcast. Don’t let that keep you from giving your kids an opportunity to practice mindfulness in the backseat. The kids collection features 4-minute meditations using breath and visualization to encourage a sense of ease and calm in children. I was something of a skeptic, but all three of my kids love imagining themselves on a mountaintop or flying through the sky. Sometimes it’s just enough to shift their mindsets after a rough day or stop a poking skirmish from turning into a war.
As an added bonus, you have access to 200+ solution-based meditations when you’re not driving (it should go without saying, but meditation/visualization and driving don’t mix).
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Only $75 per year.