Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Secret Weapon: Podcasts

When I need to keep the kids happy and quiet and I don't want them staring at a screen, I turn on a podcast (or an audiobook). Once we turn on a podcast, especially one where the story spans multiple episodes, my kids can listen and play relatively quietly for up to four hours! (Though the average is more like two hours.)

 Podcasts are especially helpful for Orion, who craves audio stimulation and can go crazy if he doesn't get enough music or stories in his ears.

Listening to podcasts is a great way to slip in some fun education or literacy. The best podcasts appeal to both parents and kids. Here are some of our family's favorite podcasts (and why we like them).

How do you listen to podcasts?

Sometimes you can listen right on the podcast's website. But you can also use a dedicated podcast app or software.

I like Castbox.fm (app and web) and Spotify. Google Podcast has a super simple user interface. Stitcher is popular. Lost Boy uses iHeart Radio. And Apple users can use iTunes.

Our Favorite Five for Kids

Brains On!  We love Molly, Mark, and Sanden (and now Bob and Gungador, too!) Each episode features a child co-host (or two) who have sent in a question that Molly explores. The questions are usually science related, and we hear from answers from experts all over the nation. There are funny skits, and Mystery Sounds, and curious kids in every show. This show is one that parents can enjoy as much as kids. And! it counts as science if you're homeschooling (or isolationschooling). If you sign up for their Fan Club, the team sends you questions to consider and activities to try at home that are related to new episodes. Also, once in a while they send you swag. We just got some cool stickers last week. This is probably our top favorite show.

Smash Boom Best is a debate show done by the same team as Brains On! They set up a debate with guest debaters, then follow a prescribed format to argue it out. Lest you think this might be boring for elementary age kids, their topics range from Pizza vs. Tacos to Robots vs. Aliens to Unicorns vs. Dragons to Piranhas vs. Venus Flytrap. And lest you think it's too silly, they have resource materials that such as a score card so your child can decide which side was more persuasive, and a bingo sheet so your child can listen for logical fallacies (or animal sound effects). They also have a half-time segment "designed to show you how to build strong arguments and how to spot weak ones." This one is potentially educational, if you play it right. ; )

The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian is about a kid named Finn Caspian. He lives on a space station with his parents and his friends, and his robot. Finn and his friends go on exploration missions and meet all kinds of aliens, friendly and not. They get into trouble and rescue each other. This podcast is done by a dad. His young son is his editor and he interviews his editor at the end of most episodes. This one isn't my favorite podcast, but Lilli and Orion LOVE it! I do enjoy the fiesty robot co-host.

The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd Darren and the kids like to listen to old time radio shows and this podcast is like a modern old time radio show. It's a perfect fit! And it's a bit difficult to describe... there's time travel and hilarious miscommunications. Here's a quote from the podcast's description "Join Dr. Floyd as he tries to thwart the plans of his evil arch nemesis, Dr. Steve, all the while learning about the people and events that shaped the history of the Earth. If satirist Stan Freberg and Jay Ward, creator of Rocky & Bullwinkle, had created Mystery Science Theater 3000 mixed in a little Time Bandits and gave it an educational spin, the result would have been...The Radio Adventures Of Dr. Floyd!" This is one that I like to listen to with the kids!

The Cinnamon Bear is a Christmas tradition at our house. It is an honest-to-goodness old time radio show that first aired in 1937. It is a Christmas adventure story in which a brother and a sister go on an adventure to Maybeland to find their lost silver Christmas star. Their travelling companions include the Cinnamon Bear and the Crazy Quilt Dragon (sometimes we're not sure if he's a friend or a foe!). The show was originally designed to be aired starting on November 26th, with six episodes a week until Christmas. We usually start it the day after Thanksgiving. You can find it in lots of places all over the web. We burned it to cds several years ago, but we have also found it on Spotify, Castbox.fm, and archive.org.

There's More!

If you do a quick search for "kids" in the search box of your podcast app you'll find lots of other options. I found about twenty new titles to try, including:

Do your kids already listen to podcasts? 

What are their favorites?

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