Whether it’s cold, snowing, raining—or like it was for me today—filled with tornado warnings, there’s a good chance your kids are going to be stuck indoors this winter. There are limits to how long any child can stand being stuck indoors, but those limits can be extended with some good entertainment.
Before you turn on the screens though, consider a less controversial form of entertainment: good old-fashioned radio, aka podcasts. 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 people just 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 peaceful winter’s afternoon enjoying your tea in silence, but before you resort to endless episodes of TV, give these kids’ podcasts a try.
Updated for February 2020: We’ve added a few new podcasts to keep your kids entertained.
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 too. I recommend sitting through a few episodes to make sure you’re OK with the content.
Stories Podcast performs a new story every week, drawing from a variety of sources and a variety of styles. There are retellings of classics like Snow White, some folktales, 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 folktales and some of the longer story series.
Unfortunately, since this guide originally went up, Stories Podcast has gone all-in on the advertising at the beginning of every episode. I understand the need for revenue—there might be ads all around this article after all—but it got to the point where sometimes my kids lost interest before the story came on.
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 of Brains On (listed below) or other kids’ podcasts alongside 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 folktales, 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 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 your children’s maturity level. That said, our 7-year-old twins love them.
Offering a mix of classic stories, like those of Beatrix Potter, and less well known content, Planet Storytime aims for that mix of entertainment and education that Fred Rogers perfected. Planet Storytime used to publish an episode every Monday, but it recently backed off that schedule to spend more time developing original material.