Every summer when I was a kid we’d pack up the car at the end of August and head to Maryland’s Eastern Shore for week’s vacation. It was a glorious time spent jumping waves, making sand castles, and eating Maryland crabs until our lips burned only to cool them off with sweet ice cream on the boardwalk at dusk.
Bethany Beach was a three hour drive from our home and once our family of five was finally settled into the station wagon and on the road my dad, who loves the beach, would start singing. He always sang the same songs (as dads tend to do).
“Give me Rival dog food, arff arff, arff arff. Your dogs eyes will shine–coat look fine–with nourishing Rival dog food!”
What kind of song is that, you ask? It’s the jingle to a dog food commercial that played on the radio in 1944 when my dad was 8-years-old.
I called my dad recently to ask him more about the Rival dog food jingle, and children’s radio in the early 1940’s. “Radio is wonderful for the imagination,” he said, recalling that his favorite shows were Fibber McGee and Molly and The Lone Ranger. “Our imagination grew. I was glued to those shows.” I could hear the smile on his face as he remembered them. And then he sang me the Rival dog food commercial over the phone.
Yet, when I was growing up in the late 1970’s and early 80’s there weren’t any kids shows on the radio. Children’s radio programming was dead.
Well, I’ve got great news. It’s back! Podcasting has led to a wonderful resurgence of original radio programming for children and that’s so exciting. As a mom of three girls ages 6-13 I’m thrilled with these new shows and want to share them with you so you can tune in with your family.
So, here are 11 wonderful podcasts for children of all ages.
Science seems to be a popular topic for podcasts. I found a few of the science shows out there to be like a lecture (one of them is But Why), but there are some super engaging shows available, too. Here are my favorites in age group order.
Wow in the World is my 6-year-old’s favorite show. Produced by NPR and hosted by Mindy and Guy Roz, this science-focused show aimed at kids in Kindergarten through 3rd grade is entertaining, fast-paced and fun. Mindy acts as a stand-in for the kids listening. She’s silly, zany, and enthusiastic. Guy Roz is a bit skeptical of her ideas, but ready to learn and he loves kale salad. Sound effects and peppy music, plus listener voices (we’ve even called in!) help keep the segments moving. (iTunes)
Tumble is like RadioLab for kids in 1st-5th grades. Hosts Lindsay and Marshall consult scientists to get the answer to real life questions like what did dinosaurs really sound like. Kids voices help animate the show. (iTunes)
Brains On is a science show for kids in 5th-7th grades produced by Southern California Public Radio. The show is hosted by an adult and a kid so you get both voices. Nicely produced with special guests and sound effects this show breaks science concepts down into interesting and easy to digest morsels. Stories are relevant to every day life. (open in iTunes)
Story and Song Shows
There are podcasts out there that just read books aloud (Circle Round and Disney’s Story Central are two of them), but I’m more interested in true shows that present original content made for radio. Here are three.
Each episode of Little Stories for Tiny People presents an original story intended for a very young audience. Toddlers and preschoolers ages 2-4 will enjoy an animated voice telling them a story they’ve never heard. It’s great to have a thoughtful podcast just for this very young age group. (iTunes)
If you have a child who is an aspiring writer (or you want to inspire your child to write more) Story Pirates is a fabulous show. Each episode begins with a reading of a real story written by a real kid. Next, the actors and comedians who host the show put the story on as a funny, highly engaging audio play. Finally, they call the kid who wrote the story to ask them more about it. This show is an off-shoot of an in-school creative writing program and it’s truly wonderful. Best for elementary aged kids. (iTunes)
Radio Drama Podcasts
Like the old time kids radio shows my dad listened to in the 1940s, these serialized dramas will have kids with their ears pressed up against the little speakers on their iPhones to hear the next installment.
The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian is a serialized science fiction podcast for elementary aged kids told in 15-20 minute segments, perfect to put on in the car when you’re driving to and from after-school activities. (iTunes)
The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd is another serialized adventure story for school-aged kids told in the style of old-timey radio. The episodes tend to be quite short, about seven minutes. It’s like watching a great cartoon, but you have to imagine the action taking place. (iTunes)
From the creators of The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd, Saturday Morning Theatre presents a series of audio dramas in different genres. There are westerns, mysteries (like the one pictured here), comedies and adventure stories. Well-produced with sound effects and expert voices, these shows are highly entertaining. (iTunes)
The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel is an award-winning serialized mystery show for 8-12 year olds and it’s told by kids of that same age. Three pals set off to to find two missing friends. (iTunes)
One Other Show Not to Be Missed
I have one other great show to recommend that doesn’t fit into the above categories. Don’t miss this one!
Short and Curly is a show from Australia that’s focused on ethics. Kids really grapple with ethical questions and this show addresses them in both a serious and funny way. I really love Short and Curly and can’t help but think perhaps Wow In the World is modeled on it in some way. A great show! (iTunes)
Hopefully there’s a show or two in this list that will appeal to the kids in your life (and to you, too, because you’re probably going to be stuck listening to it!).
To compile this list I listened to a whole lot of children’s podcasts. Not all of them were good, but I’m super impressed with the quality and variety of what’s out there and I’m happy to share these 11 excellent ones. The age of children’s radio is back!