Nothing says summer vacation quite like that small voice coming from the backseat: "Are we there yet?" As every parent knows, it starts out as a question, but quickly turns into a demand.
While there are limits to how long any child can stand riding in car seat, those limits can be extended with some good entertainment.
My family spent two years living in an RV and traveling the country, so my children have put in some serious miles, most of them with surprisingly few complaints. And no, we didn't just turn on the movies and drive. My wife and I wanted the kids to see the land we were driving through, so we skipped the screen and instead turned to modern radio—aka, the podcast.
Here are our top podcasts for kids. If you're a podcast listener yourself, you might be thinking that spoken audio will never entertain your kids. But the best kids podcasts are more than just people talking, they're more like radio plays, incorporating music, sound effects and multiple voices to tell absorbing stories your kids will love.
I won't go so far as to guarantee you a smoother drive this summer, but before you resort to another game of I Spy or singing about 99 bottles of anything, give these podcasts a try.
This is the first podcast our kids ever listened to, and it's still their favorite. It's also my favorite, and it is important that you like these since you'll be sitting through them on a long car ride too.
Stories Podcast performs a new story every week, drawing from a variety of sources and a variety of styles. There are re-tellings of classics like Snow White, some folk tales and myths from around the world, as well as original stories. Episodes range from 10 to 20 minutes, with most on the longer side. Everything here is G-rated and safe for all ages.
The podcast has a good mix of one-off episodes and long-running series, which makes it easy to find something appropriate for your child's attention span. Our kids are big fans of the folk tales and the story series Mick Munter Monster Hunter.
Here's another creative story podcast that focuses on folktales from around the world. Episodes of Circle Round range from 10 to 20 minutes each. Lately Circle Round has been promoting some other podcast episodes in its feed, so you might find an episode in Brains On (listed below) or other kids podcasts along side its own creations.
Circle Round is a bit more overt in its value-teaching than some of the others in this list. It routinely delivers some kind of message, something about kindness, generosity, or other shared American cultural values. While teaching morality is one of the main purposes of folk tales, I find it a little heavy-handed at times.
This Australian podcast is devoted to showcasing true stories of Australian women. Fierce Girls presents stories about everything from athletes to to spies, with the unifying theme of adventurous girls with "guts and spirit." While the stories are all appropriate for kids and not graphic, the hosts don't shy away from telling stories as they happen. In some cases you might want to listen first to make sure a story is appropriate for you children's maturity level. That said, our seven-year-old twins love them.
It started as book, but now Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls has taken over the world. Well, there's a podcast anyway. Like Fierce Girls, the Rebel Girls podcast tells the stories of notable women through history and beyond. Episodes range from 15 to 20 minutes and feature some of the stories from the book, as well as some that are not in the book.
The Earth Rangers podcast has a biology slant, but makes a good listen for any kids interested in digging in the dirt, learning about animals, or listening to tales of the ecosystems in far off lands. There are episode on the jungle, the Arctic, and nearly everything between. Episodes are generally about 15 minutes each and usually tackle a single animal or environment. As with the next one, Earth Ranger is probably best suited to kids who are a little more mature.
This science podcast is aimed at kids, though I'll be honest, I've learned plenty from it as well. Brains On is educational, just don't tell your kids that. They'll love driving around America learning how insects walk on walls, how to find their way without a compass, and even where poo and pee go when you flush the toilet.
There's a series called "Smash Boom Best" in which two things are pitted against each other and your kid can pick their favorite. For example, Loki was recently pitted against Athena.
This one is probably best suited to slightly older kids.
Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl
Long before our kids got into storytelling podcasts, they loved this one. Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl is a weekly two-hour music show released every, ahem, Saturday. And I know what you're thinking: kids music. But it's really not kid's music, it's just music kids will enjoy.
Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl is also a great way to discover music your kids love that won't drive you crazy. Did you know Walkmen co-songwriter Walter Martin has a fantastic album for children? How about The Verve Pipe? Johnny Cash? All these and more I have discovered through Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl.
Between Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl and the various Putumayo collections our family has a good collection of music that we all enjoy. No fighting over the stereo, no disappearing into the isolationist bubble of headphones.
Molly of Denali
A very recent and somewhat limited podcast, Molly of Denali sets the backstory for a coming PBS cartoon of the same name. It's an eight-episode show, but at the time of writing, only six have been released. Each episode is about 10 minutes long, and they're sequential, telling the backstory of Molly Mabray, an Alaska Native girl growing up with her parents, family and friends in Alaska. If you like the idea of your kids getting into a PBS cartoon, subscribe to this.