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Parents' Guide to Podcasts

Everything you need to know to download, stream, and listen to this trending -- and gloriously screen-free -- form of entertainment.

Caregiver and child facing each other while wearing headphones

What if something out there had your kid begging you to turn off the TV or tablet, put away the video games, and listen to a story? It seems practically impossible in today's media environment. But with podcasts, "no screens" becomes "no problem." Podcasts made for -- and even by -- kids are popping up all over the place. Looking for a great podcast for your kids? Check out our podcast reviews.

More and more families are tuning in, with 1 in 4 kids listening to podcasts in 2020. You may have already hopped on the podcast bus, thanks to popular but mature hits such as Serial and Radiolab. But thankfully, podcasters are starting to realize that kids love what they're doing as much as grown-ups. Teachers are even using them in the classroom. With exciting stories, fascinating facts, and lively sound effects to grab kids' interest, all you need for an entertaining family listening experience are some headphones or a set of speakers.

Are podcasts good for kids?

Listening to podcasts created for kids and families is a great way to:

  • Boost learning. With engaging hosts and interesting stories, podcasts can be tools to teach kids about science, history, social and emotional learning, and more. It can also help kids build vocabulary and learning skills, and even improve reading abilities.

  • Bond over stories. Families can use podcasts to bond without screens or devices. The stories can spark conversations on important topics like health, puberty, and racism.

  • Reduce screen time. With podcasts, families can enjoy the same level of engagement, entertainment, and education as screen-based activities, without worrying about staring at a screen. They even allow kids to use their imagination and critical thinking skills.

  • Learn anywhere. Parents and caregivers can listen with their kids on the go. The options are endless -- you can play podcasts while cooking dinner, in the car, or on trips. Too tired to read a book during bedtime? Listen to a calming story together!

  • Explore interests. Kids and families can find stories they can relate to, discover diverse voices, and learn about different experiences.

Podcasts sometimes vary in quality and age-appropriateness. If you're unsure about whether a podcast is good for your kids, check ratings online. Common Sense's ratings and reviews can help you find podcasts that are great for child development, learning, diverse representation, and more.

How to listen

It can be intimidating for a first-timer to enter the world of podcasts, but these days it's easier than ever to start listening. Podcasts are available to stream online or with apps you can download specifically for podcasts. Here are some popular options for listening:

  • Amazon Music. The music streamer has free podcasts that you can follow without a subscription.

  • Apple Podcasts. The app's "Kids & Family" section features expert-recommended picks from Common Sense.

  • Audible. The audiobook and podcast service lets you listen to free podcasts without a subscription.

  • Google Podcasts. Google's free podcast app is available online, on Apple's App Store, and on the Google Play Store.

  • iHeart. The radio and music app also offers podcasts.

  • Kids Listen. An online service that features kid-friendly podcasts.

  • Spotify. The music-streaming platform has a whole dedicated section for podcasts.

  • Stitcher. "Stitch" together custom podcast playlists with this mobile app.

  • YouTube. Many podcasts share episodes on the website for free.

  • Find plenty more on our list of Podcast and Audio Apps.

Many of these apps also have programs for smart speakers like Amazon Echo or Google Home, so listening can be as easy as asking Alexa.

Once you have your favorite app or website, you can search its library by topic and start exploring everything from science to story time to music and more. You can even check out our recommendations, including podcasts with diverse characters and stories, great podcasts for little kids, and educational podcasts for kids of all ages. And don't forget to subscribe! Subscribing lets the app push new episodes directly to your device as soon as they're available, so you'll always have the latest stories at your fingertips.

Frannie Ucciferri, former Common Sense editor, contributed to this article.

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media offers the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based ratings and reviews. Our timely parenting advice supports families as they navigate the challenges and possibilities of raising kids in the digital age.