Podcasts have become a huge part of our everyday lives – allowing us to listen to interesting, informative and fresh audio in our own time, for free.
While adults can catch up on popular radio shows, lose themselves in a true crime series, or hear their favourite celebs interviewed in informal circumstances – children have a healthy appetite for podcasts, too.
We champion podcasts for children because they provide a brilliant way of absorbing information and they can be played in the car, before bed to wind down or while cooking, doing jigsaws or colouring.
Podcasts help children to focus and encourage their imaginations to expand.
We also love that the best podcasts for children are so artfully produced that parents will enjoy them too and listening can be a family activity.
Our favourites are ones which manage to combine learning with fun. All of the options in this round-up will teach children (and often adults) something new, in an accessible, entertaining way. We also favoured short podcasts, with a maximum of 30 minutes per episode, as concentration tends to be on the wane after that.
Any podcast worth its salt will be well-produced – that is to say voices and sounds will be clear and crisp.
While most lend themselves to storytelling, we have included some that focus on science, general knowledge or mindfulness.
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'You’re Dead To Me': Free, BBC
The past is a trove of intrigue and storytelling potential – as proved by this podcast hosted by historian Greg Jenner. There are jokes aplenty as Jenner goes about the serious business of unravelling the past. You’re Dead To Me is the perfect example of how children can learn without even realising it. It’s cheeky and irreverent – just the sort of tone youngsters love. We especially recommend "the history of chocolate" episode as well as the one on Blackbeard, arguably the most famous and fearsome pirate in the history of the world.
'But Why': Free, npr
“Why?” is a great question and is proof of an enquiring mind, but it can’t half drive busy parents around the bend. Which is why this podcast is a saving grace. It essentially fields questions from children and answers them all, engaging the help of experts in all sorts of different fields. No topic is off limits and no query too highfalutin or basic. Anything goes. Questions we have loved listening to the answers for include “why do we laugh?” “what is the biggest number?” and most recently, “why do baby teeth fall out?”. Parents are guaranteed to learn something new and the information is delivered in a playful, clear way. And if your children have a burning question, it’s easy to send it to the producers of But Why and have it answered.
'Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls': Free, Rebel Girls
An offshoot of the hugely successful bestselling book of the same name, this podcast is all about championing clever and tenacious women from across all sectors including the arts, civil rights and sport. Each of these episodes are about 20 minutes long and focus on one extraordinary woman – read by another extraordinary woman. Greta Thunberg's story read by Jameela Jamil is one recent stand out episode, while the sublime Pamela Adlon reading Frida Kahlo is nothing short of a treat. And don’t let the gendered title put you off – these stories are for everyone.
'Peace out': Free, Bedtime FM
This gentle podcast is perfect for children who struggle to wind down or who might need a little help turning off at the end of a busy day. These short stories all promote mindfulness and seek to instil some inner calm into the often-fraught minds of little ones. All will help with relaxation and include breathing exercises. Chanel Tsang who presents the podcast has a very soothing, soft voice, backed up by the kind of music you might listen to during a deep tissue massage. Even without the content, the sound itself is so restful.
We love the visualisation she practises in many of the episodes – imagining a bed for example. We defy anyone, adults included, to not want to head off to the land of nod after listening to this. Our three-year-old listener yawned a big yawn at the end and said: “I’m so cosy”, which is a ringing endorsement of a podcast promoting peacefulness.
'Circle Round': Free, npr
This is such a lovely podcast – combining music and folklore to create audio to suit children aged between four and 10-years-old. Each episode will have a moral hinge for children and parents to focus on – including kindness and tenacity. We especially loved listening to the recent "the king and the cobbler" episode and really appreciate how the producers addressed how important one’s imagination is in challenging times, such as the current global crisis. As well as the audio play, they suggest a range of at-home activities for children to get on with, either during or after listening.
'The Story Pirates Podcast': Free, Story Pirates
These stories are written by kids – and many of them are read by real live celebrities, including the brilliant Claire Danes. The titles alone are superb (if the likes of "the monkey and the ice skates" or "my family are tigers" doesn’t whet young appetites for fiction, we don’t know what will) and the stories themselves are all imaginative, original and beautifully written. We think knowing that these are written by their peers will be endlessly inspiring to young listeners.
'Brains On!': Free, Brains On
This is one for curious scientists, both children and adults. Hosted by reporters and young scientists, Brains On tackles big topics head on through conversation and discussion and a healthy dose of humour and silliness. The secret world of dust was fascinating and there is also a brilliant episode all about memory and the feeling of deja vu. At 30 minutes each, these are best suited for children aged six or seven or older who have more honed attention spans.
'Stories Podcast': Free, Stories Podcast
These weekly episodes are essentially performances of some of the world’s best loved children’s stories including fairy tales, fables and Greek mythology. The narrator has a lively, lyrical voice full of depth and expression which really helps children to engage with the plot and characters. The episodes last from around 15 to 30 minutes.
'Chompers': Free, Gimlet Media
This one is for all the reluctant teeth brushers out there. Dentists recommend that children should be brushing for two full minutes twice a day, so these episodes offer two minute’s worth of jokes, songs and facts in to be played during brush time so as to provide some fun and distraction. There is also a little reminder of how to best clean your teeth at various points during the podcast, encouraging children to focus on different areas within the mouth. These are short, sweet bursts of information and encouragement that ensure better dental hygiene.
The verdict: Kids' podcasts
We loved You’re Dead To Me – it's funny, fact filled and perfect for families to listen to and discuss afterwards. We’d wager this sparks the ambition of many future historians.
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