So Many Great Podcasts for Kids… But Where to Start?
So here’s a great problem to have as a parent. There are so many educational, fun, engaging, and all-around amazing podcasts out there for kids. So many that it can actually be kind of overwhelming. How do you know if a podcast is the right fit for your family? How do you even know where to start?
Well, we’ve taken the guess work out of it for you by going directly to the source. Here, Kids Listen member podcasts give us the inside scoop on which of their shows’ episodes you should check out first, and why. You can check out all these episodes on the Kids Listen App under the playlist “Starter Episodes.”
Aaron’s World. Start with Episode 7 — Cryolophosaurus. Aaron’s World is a serialized audio adventure for kids. Part science podcast and part audio drama. If you like stories with dinosaurs, robots, time travel, and plenty of science, then this podcast is definitely for you! Though it’s best to start from the beginning, the first dozen episodes are fairly self-contained and perfect for sampling. Mike Meraz, co-host of Aaron’s World, says “One of our favorites is Episode 7 — Cryolophosaurus. It’s an adorable little episode about an arctic dinosaur that many young kids count as their favorite. But it’s special to us because it marks a milestone in our family’s podcasting adventure. Aaron was just 6 years old and taking his first steps as a voice actor. This is the episode where he finally found his voice and was so happy with the final result. It’s far from perfect and that is certainly p]art of its charm. But for a little kid podcaster, it was a big step. And one that eventually led our little podcast down an award winning path. Give it a listen. But remember, it’s only a small sample of the adventure that follows. We hope you enjoy it.”
Be Calm on Ahway Island. Start with Toy Box Cinderella. Toy Box Cinderella owes its existence to one of the show’s listeners — 4 year old Lauren. Marianne Embree, host of the show, says: “This is our first listener story suggestion so it will always be very memorable to us. Any time you take a character and a story that is well known and put your own spin on it there are challenges. In this version our heroine, Alyssa, a doll, has some characters that are not as nice as they could be, a friend with some magic who helps her get ready for the party and someone at the party that everyone wants to get to know…very much like the famous story. The message in our story I like most is that while Alyssa gets a pretty dress she is mostly recognized for her intelligence, accomplishments and kindness to others. The character at the party she meets is not a handsome prince but a unicorn with unique gifts and appearance. Alyssa is applauded for her ability to work well with others and doesn’t hold a grudge against some that might not have treated her as she was hoping. There is a lot in the story to unpack and we hope kids and their parents will listen more than once and talk about the messages within the story. Themes of loneliness, mistreatment, forgiveness, and recognizing people for how they behave — not how they look!”
Book Club for Kids. Start with Episode 2: The Crossover. Kitty Felde, the host of Book Club for Kids, says “ This has to be my favorite. When I walked in to the school library, five 5th grade boys were literally climbing the walls. The school librarian plucked them off the bookshelves and plunked them down to record. We discussed Kwame Alexander’s Newbery Award-winning book in verse about brothers and basketball. The boys talked about poetry, sports — and about their own relationships to their siblings. There were tears and even an a cappella song the boys made up! Pure magic. It demonstrates the true power of books.”
Book Power for Kids! Start with Episode 13: Hilo: The Great Big Boom. Who flies, has energy beam and ice breath? It’s Hilo, the boy who crashed to Earth! Leilani, age 9 at the time of recording, reviews Hilo: The Great Big Boom, by Judd Winick. Why is it host Brennen Power’s favorite? He explained: “The kids really hammed it up on this one, and you can’t beat Judd Winick for wonderful silly situations. The Hilo series is one of our family’s favorites and it made for a wonderful and exciting drama.”
Circle Round. Start with Stella and the Dragon. Rebecca Sheir, host of Circle Round, says that “While “Stella and the Dragon” isn’t necessarily our favorite episode (with nearly 40 Circle Round stories at this point, it’s impossible to pick just one!), this one is a stellar (no pun intended) example of the many fun features every Circle Round story brings your way each and every week:
(a) A folktale adapted as a radio play for modern audiences: The plot for ‘Stella and the Dragon’ comes from Romania… but in the original version, the protagonist was Stan, not Stella! In this day and age, we felt it was important for a woman to take center stage and prove her strength against a giant, green dragon.
(b) A well-known voice from the stage, screen and/or airwaves playing the lead role: Stella is portrayed by Kathryn Hahn, a virtuosically versatile performer whom grown-ups might know from Bad Moms, Transparent and I Love Dick. Kids might know her as Ericka in Hotel Transylvania. When directing our talent, we ask them to deliver an energetic, colorful, almost musical performance; we often tell them to imagine they’re voicing an animated character in a TV show or film. Kathryn Hahn took all those balls and ran with them, to beautiful effect!
(c) Creative sound design: Sound designer/composer Eric Shimelonis always takes a restrained, minima list approach with his sound design. You’ll hear a lot of fun sounds in this episode — the laughter of 100 children as they frolic in Stella’s house and yard… the giant, green dragon snorting sizzling breaths of fire… the whoooooosh of a boulder as the dragon hurls the rock high into the sky — but there are plenty of sounds you won’t hear. That’s because we want to encourage listeners to use their imagination, and fill in the audio blanks themselves. We often refer to Circle Round stories as “movies for your mind”; we strongly believe those movies are every bit as aural as they are visual!
(d) An original score played with a single solo instrument, one that captures the mood of a tale and/or its cultural/geographic origins: The solo instrument for this episode — the orchestral bass — does a wonderful job of capturing both the enormous physical size of the dragon…and the hefty mental strength of ‘Stella the Powerful’!”
Cool Facts About Animals. Start with Episode 32: Tokay Gecko. In this show, a mom (well, okay, it’s me) and her three kids (ages 4, 6 and 8) tackle a new animal each episode, and talk about what makes them so cool. Perhaps the most adorable of all reptiles, the Tokay Gecko was nominated the favorite episode among the Cool Facts About Animals Crew. We like this one because it’s a good balance of silly and informative, making it easy for kids and grownups alike to have fun while learning more about the animals that share this planet with us. Our sound quality does get a bit better as time goes on, but you can get a good flavor for what our show is like from this one!
Earth Rangers. Start with Episode 1: Polar Bear Fur, an Birds with Flippers. New podcast alert! This one is so new, you have to wait a few more days for the first episode to go live, but this will be worth the wait. Host Stephan Richter says: “Calling all kids between the ages of 5 and infinity; if you think that animals are amazing, this is the show for you! Join host Earth Ranger Emma as she travels the world to discover the wildest animal facts out there and solve nature’s biggest mysteries. With top ten countdowns, an animal guessing game, conservation conversations, and epic animal showdowns, this is a journey you won’t want to miss! In the first episode, you get to join Earth Ranger Emma as she travels to Antarctica to meet everyone’s favorite flightless birds…penguins! Then it’s up to the Arctic to talk to a polar bear scientist and learn why polar bears look white, despite having black skin. Wait, what!?”
Little Stories for Tiny People. Start with Little Hedgehog Goes to School. Host Rhea Pechter says “ It is so difficult to pick just one episode to start with, but I’ll trust my listeners and choose Little Hedgehog Goes to School. This story follows a tiny hedgehog as she attends school for the very first time and realizes it is not exactly what she expected it to be. For one thing, there are no ponies and she was very confident there would be ponies. The day doesn’t go as planned, but Little Hedgehog ends up leaving with something so much better than a pony. This is the first in a series of stories featuring Little Hedgehog, her glorious imagination, her lovable Dad, and her endearing best friend Bebe. Little Hedgehog has become my most popular character and after listening you will know why.”
Noodle Loaf. Start with Zagga Zy Xylophone. Host Dan Saks says: “This episode holds a special place in my heart because it was the first one where we had a bunch of listeners singing on the show plus I ended up learning a new song and making a new friend. Not only did we get our first three Noodle Loaf choir singers but we had a listener from NC sing an echo song with me that she had requested. Her mom had written to the show asking if we could do her daughter’s favorite echo song, Rabbit On My Shoulder by Peter Alsop. I didn’t know the song but I soon found out why she liked it, it’s hilarious and catchy! I asked the mom if her daughter would sing it with me which she ended up doing beautifully. Before recording the song I had written to Mr. Alsop asking permission to do his song, which led to a wonderful exchange with a kids music veteran. He reminded me how important it is to use our music to spread love and positive messages which inspired me to write the Families Belong Together song that appears in a later episode. Besides the echo song, there are some fun music games in this episode, some subtle Michael Jackson, Styx and Beenie Man references for the music nerd parents and some of my favorite Noodle Loaf one liners like ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try triangle’ Ha!”
Story Shed. Start with Isabella Umbrella. Story Shed is one of the newer Kids Listen podcasts, and we couldn’t wait to hear which episode host Jake Harris recommended we start out with. Jake said: “This is a perfect introduction to Story Shed because it is a story which embodies everything we believe in. It is a story about celebrating differences and not being afraid to be yourself. Like all our stories so far it rhymes and has a real sense of playfulness and fun. This episode is also the perfect introduction to our ‘Little Helpers’, Leo and Bel, who join us at the end to discuss the events of the story and the main themes that it raises.”
Story Spectacular. Start with The Shape Escape. This episode offers a great glimpse into the zany story world of Angela Ferrari. All was going well in “Shape Valley” until a big bully Circle escaped and caused mayhem!!! Who will save the day? Perhaps an unlikely hero!!! This story features action, adventure, jokes and even a groovy song.
Host Angela says: “I love this episode so much that I even decided to turn it into a book!” That’s some praise!
Tumble Science Podcast for Kids. Start with The Call of the Antarctic Dinosaur. Co-host Lindsay Patterson says “There are a few reasons why this is remains one of my all-time favorite episodes:
1. Julia Clarke is one of the coolest paleontologist working right now. She’s been making huge discoveries about dinosaurs that change the way we think about how they look and sound. Dinosaurs are awesome, and Julia says we’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to learn about them.
2. This episode is full of Antarctic fossil expedition adventures, and we visit Julia’s lab where she shows us her finds.
3. Tumble is about how science works, and how we know what we know. We go beyond Julia’s headline making discoveries to find out how she does it, and what makes her an amazing scientist.”
What if World. Start with Episode 80: What if Cows Could Make Money from Mooing and Sinking into the Deep Sea, and Getting a Treasure Box? Mr. Eric of What if World says: “Even though the sun and the moon are big characters, their story is small: a girl stands up for herself and a boy learns how to apologize. It’s also got one of my favorite characters, Abacus P. Grumbler, sparring with the narrator in little 4th-wall-breaks, as well as a group of crooning cows singing a cappella. It was meant to be the big finish to a slew of sun and moon oriented questions. Of course, now kids keep asking for more Moon Cows. I can’t wait to oblige.”
Check out all these episodes in the linked Kids Listen playlist. Happy listening! And let us know — which is your favorite episode of your favorite podcast? We want to check it out!