You’re cruising along with your family on a summer road trip and everyone is getting a little cranky. The air is stale, the drinks are stale too, and what’s needed is some sort of activity that everyone can agree on. Sure, each kid/parent could have their own device to waste away the hours, but it’s more fun to be able to engage with something together. That way the diversion can move from segregated consumption to common conversation. 

Landing on this shared entertainment is a tall task. Music is fine, but doesn’t pass the time very well, and it’s hard to get everyone to concur on a genre or station (Kidz Bop makes Mom and Dad want to gouge their eyes out). Playing various car-based games (20 questions, find all 50 license plates, ABC game, etc.) can be fun, but what to do when you’ve already cycled through them? 

Why not try a kid-oriented podcast? Along with the proliferation of podcasts for adults in recent years, the Kids and Family category has grown by leaps and bounds as well and can keep everyone entertained for extended periods of time (or simply on your daily commute to school). 

The key, and the hard part, is selecting something that the kids will find engaging, and Mom and Dad will find tolerable, and ideally even enjoyable.

With that curation criteria in mind, I listened to a ton of podcasts with my almost-six-year-old son, and together we decided on some top picks: The shows featured below are kid- and adult-tested, kid- and adult-approved. Most shows here are geared towards somewhat younger audiences — starting at about age five (which seems to be when kids can begin to follow an audio story) and going through the preteen years. Once your children turn into teenagers, all bets are off and you might start delving into non-kid programming. 

Almost all of these podcast hosts and creators have been in the audio production game for a long time. When you’re making something for kids, there needs to be that balanced constellation of traits: educational, entertaining, appropriate, and engaging (for just the right amount of time), typically with at least a little humor peppered in. It’s not easy to get it just right. 

While the following hit that sweet spot nicely, there are still many dozens of great options out there for kids’ podcasts; this list is but a jumping off point if you’re unsure of where to start. As with anything your children consume, it’s best to listen to an episode or two yourself to see if the tone and content match your family’s values, interests, and sensibilities. 

What If World

There are a lot of storytelling podcasts out there. My favorite is What If World. What If World is a separate planet where anything can happen. Taking ridiculous questions from kids themselves — the more outlandish the better — Mr. Eric (aka creator Eric O’Keeffe) spins answers into a rollicking, often funny story that’s entertaining for kids and adults alike. 

What if parents went to school and kids went to work? What if puppies had laser eyes and could fly? What if unicorns and cars morphed together? What if every closet had a skeleton in it? 

Are these questions absurd? Of course. Are they perfect fodder for storytelling? Yes! 

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