I have an unhealthy obsession with podcasts. I am a stay-at-home parent whose only companion during the day is a 2.5-year-old. Although I am very excited to hear the results of her “speriments,” which consist of putting my crap into cups, adding some sort of marker or piece of chalk and pouring water and baby soap in or near them, I do still like to hear about things that interest adult women of a certain age, like murder and how to make Instapot meals.
Most of the time, I listen to the good stuff courtesy of my headphones on my morning runs. My headphones are Bluetooth, purple and I love them. They make it culturally appropriate to either ignore or pretend to ignore people talking to me. Socially accepted rudeness is really underrated.
Since the kind man I chose to marry just so happens to be in the Air Force, I am driving two kids and three dogs for about 20 hours at the end of the month, where we will then unpack the stuff we just packed up. The only difference is that it will be broken on the other end.
Since it’s illegal to drive with headphones in the majority of states, and I only have enough patience for either the Trolls Soundtrack or traffic but not both. With that in mind, I am lining up some great kid-friendly podcasts to listen to in the car.
I am certain there may be a “few” other folks making a long, stinky PCS drive this season, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite kid-friendly podcasts.
Full disclosure, I am an NPR junkie, so most of these programs were produced or mentioned on their shows.
Wow in the World is a program by NPR hosted by Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz, who many of you may recognize from the TED Radio Hour. Their programs are just over 30 minutes each and delve into stories based in science and technology.
My daughter, who just turned 6, was delighted to hear a recent story entitled, “Your Crabby Pee is Scaring Me,” which explains how researchers at Georgia Tech studied the chemistry of crab pee as it relates to the balance of the ecosystem in Georgia estuaries (which are bodies of water in which a river meets the sea — they explain this as well.) They are enthusiastic hosts (sometimes mildly annoying), but there are plenty of soundbites amid the learning to keep the kids engaged and quiet.
Circle Round is another NPR gem in which folktales from around the world are adapted for kids and families in 10- 20 minute episodes. The stories are told by people from stage and screen, and focus on key principles that we all would like to instill in our children, like determination, kindness and empathy. Even my 2.5 year old loves these stories.
As a history nerd, I always offer up this program first. Fortunately for my children’s future employment prospects, they are science geeks, so I often get outvoted.
However, when I do get my way, Presidential, it is. Each episode, which highlights an American president, delves into not only the factual history of each of our Commander in Chiefs, but also how those decisions impacted the lives of citizens of the time and their repercussions throughout our nation’s history.
Pulitzer prize winning journalists and historians are often the main storytellers. I learn new and interesting things each episode. Did you know George Washington was a total badass?
CIPYD, as it is affectionately known to its most loyal listeners (me), is a podcast I listen to when I just can’t conjure the emotional or intellectual fortitude to devote to learning. This program, which is produced by MaximumFunny.org, is all about two women who love dogs and love to talk about them for 45-60 minutes each week.
Renee Colvert and Allegra Ringo are comedians who choose a dog to pet each week. Then they discuss the experience, feature dog news, talk about a dog breed, and host their very funny friends who have dogs. It’s sublime.
This podcast is so dear to my bleeding liberal heart. In the past several years, I have made it a daily exercise to express to my older daughter the importance of journalism with integrity. From WHYY (NPR in Philadelphia) comes this exceptional program that follows the earnest and determined reporter, Eleanor Amplified, as she tracks down stories across the world.
I cannot put it better than the WHYY site: “Eleanor defends the very values you expect from high-quality journalism. The importance of access to information. Being inclusive of different points of view. Telling the truth, and more. Eleanor will spark laughter and conversation the whole family will enjoy, while preparing kids to appreciate journalism and make smart media choices in the future.”
This is a super fun podcast that reminds me of the scenes in A Christmas Story when Ralphie and Randy listen to the “Little Orphan Annie” program on their radio. Anything that resembles that movie can’t be bad. These short 5 minute stories are great for younger children whose attention span is limited, but also they stealthily weave in events that have shaped world history. You can download full seasons of the show, which have really fun guest performers. I love this one, personally.
TED Talks were what led me to love radio and podcasts. Each week, NPR and Guy Raz (and additional hosts for the Kids and Family version) bring you a curated collection of TED Talks centered around a topic that you may or may not have cared about before you listened to the program. You will care after listening. They are indescribably interesting and feature TED speakers from around the world. Their perspectives are unique, their knowledge is extensive, and they hit you right in the heart in many cases. I have changed my parenting, my workouts, my relationship with my husband and my general outlook on life as a result of this program.
Enough with the kiddie stuff. If you’re lucky enough to get a stretch of childless road, here are a few of my current favorite non-news grownup podcasts:
There’s Crimetown, the story of organized crime in Providence, RI produced by HBO, which is SOOOOOO good.
There’s Scene on Radio, specifically the Seeing White Series which looks at race from the perspective of being white in America.
Check out Hidden Brain, which explores the science of why we do the things we do.
And My Favorite Murder, a series in which two comedians discuss true crime stories and somehow make them funny.