What podcasts should my family be listening to?
Here are some recommendations for podcasts that kids can enjoy on their own or with you, and even a few just-for-parents picks that are great for commutes, cleaning sprees, or cooking. Plus, if you're not already on the podcast train, we can help you figure out where to find them and what to look for. Ready?
Wait, how do I even listen to a podcast in the first place?
Podcasts are available to stream online or with a "podcatcher," an app you can download specifically for podcasts. Here are some popular options for listening:
- Apple Podcasts. The original podcast app (only available for iPhones and iPads).
- Google Podcasts. Google's free podcast app for Android users.
- Kids Listen. An online service that features kid-friendly podcasts.
- Pocket Casts. A mobile app with a sleek, easy-to-use interface.
- SoundCloud. An online audio-streaming platform for podcasts as well as music (also an app).
- Spotify. The music-streaming platform has a whole section dedicated to podcasts.
- Stitcher. "Stitch" together custom podcast playlists with this mobile app.
Many of these apps also have associated skills or programs for smart speakers like Amazon Echo or Google Home, so listening can be as easy as asking Alexa.
What podcasts will my kids enjoy?
Honestly, there are probably hundreds of great podcasts. But finding the good stuff among all the mediocre offerings can take soooo long. We boiled down our top picks to the five most engaging, entertaining, and educational podcasts for kids in the 8-12 age range. Each offers something slightly different—from suspense to science—and most will be entertaining to parents, too. See what you think:
Often compared to a kid-friendly Radiolab, this podcast not only addresses fascinating topics but also tries to foster a love of science itself by interviewing scientists about their process and discoveries. The hosts don't assume that listeners have a science background—but even kids who think they don't like science may change their minds after listening to this podcast.
The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel
This Peabody Award-winning scripted mystery series has been called a Stranger Things for tweens. With a voice cast of actual middle schoolers, a gripping, suspenseful plot, and interactive tie-ins, this story about an 11-year-old searching for his missing friends will keep tweens hooked to the speakers for hours—more than five, to be exact.
Regularly one of the most popular science podcasts out there, "SciFri" (as it's known to its fans) has been informing and entertaining listeners for more than 20 years. For curious science lovers who want to learn about the latest discoveries, Ira Flatow's weekly discussions with experts and listeners are a must-listen.
Book Club for Kids
This excellent biweekly podcast features middle schoolers talking about a popular middle-grade or YA book as well as sharing their favorite book recommendations. Public radio figure Kitty Felde runs the discussion, and each episode includes a passage of that week's book read by a celebrity guest.
Stuff You Missed in History Class
Little-known history comes alive three times a week in this fascinating, comprehensive podcast from the people at HowStuffWorks. You don't need to be a history buff to get hooked, but if you're not, you might become one after a few episodes. With a focus on weird events, overlooked stories, and underrepresented groups, this popular series is educational, too.
Anything good for parents?
If you're already a podcast fan, you may be familiar with Serial, Radiolab, My Favorite Murder, and others. But here are a few of my favorites that touch on parenting issues—especially parenting with technology—and that have truly taught me something new.
If you listen to NPR you may have heard Shankar Vedantam weigh in on the way our unconscious mind influences our decisions. His podcast dives even deeper into these topics, exploring technology (like how social media makes us feel and act) and other compelling stuff (like how to exercise your empathy muscle). You can listen to this one with your kids.
What Were You Thinking?
This six-episode series from reporter Dina Temple-Raston explores the teenage brain—something all us parents could understand better. Topics are intense—suicide, terrorism, and more—but the way she explains the science is worth it. Teens might find this fascinating, too.
Their Own Devices
A former White House tech policy advisor and his partner, a pediatrician, talk to parents and kids about screen time, gaming, sexting, and raising tweens and teens. Their tagline is the best: MTV Parents Raising YouTube Kids. Kids probably won't be that interested.
This collection of tip-heavy episodes tackle all of life's challenges, from saving money to getting fit to parenting screen-obsessed kids. With lots of expert advice and upbeat hosts, these fairly short podcasts will leave you with plenty of ideas for leading a happier life. Totally appropriate for kids, but not usually relevant to them.
Mom and Dad Are Fighting
Starting in 2013, this parenting podcast produced by Slate has taken a no-BS approach to advice on topics from sibling rivalry to feeling like the worst parent in the world. The hosts (who are parents of toddlers to teens) answer listeners' questions on things like talking with kids about racial slurs, dealing with carpool logistics, and remembering a beloved family member. For parents only.