Why Podcasts Are Great For Kids And Parents

Jul 8, 2015

Podcasts are digital audio episodes that you can download to your computer, phone, tablet or other mobile device and listen to on your own time. Unlike videos, blogs and ebooks, you don’t need your eyes to enjoy podcasts—you can listen while you’re getting ready in the morning, sitting in traffic or riding transit, doing laundry or even during late-night infant feeding sessions. As a medium, podcasts can be pretty ideal for parents on the go.

Podcasts can be pretty ideal for parents on the go.

Podcasts are also great because audio offers a special intimacy. There’s something about sound and the way podcasts are produced that stimulates listeners’ imaginations in a way that visuals don’t (The Atlantic explores the emotional appeal of listening in Inside the Podcast Brain: Why Do Audio Stories Captivate?). Plus, there’s a special intimacy to hearing people talk openly about their own experiences—a hallmark of many podcasts, whether they’re produced by public radio or private stations with big budgets and international correspondents, or recorded by amateurs on their phones.

Podcasts For Parents: You Are Not Alone!

For parents looking for tips, support or camaraderie, finding the right podcast can be an amazing moment. Podcasts for parents may offer validation or helpful advice, or might just remind parents that whatever problem they’re facing, they’re not alone. When I listened to parents share their experiences—positive and negative—on The Longest Shortest Time, a parenting podcast by Hillary Frank and WNYC, I felt an immediate bond with complete strangers.

“There is something so intimate and connected about having voices right inside your head. It’s like no other platform,” says Levi Weinhagen, creator of the podcast Pratfalls of Parenting

The concept behind Weinhagen’s show is ordinary people with creative jobs—writers, musicians, actors—talk about how parenting has affected their lives and careers. “People who make and do creative work and have kids will inevitably have their work impacted by their relationship to their children and have their parenting be impacted by their creative work," he says. "My interviews aim to get at those intersections.”

Even though listening to the show may feel like eavesdropping, it can still be a profound experience. Some aspects of parenting are universal.

“The biggest response I get is that the show makes people feel like they’re not crazy. Through the stories my guest share, listeners learn that the hard work of being an artist and of being a parent is a shared experience,” Weinhagen says. “And my guests often have realizations about themselves or their work during our conversations—listeners appreciate being let in on those moments of clarity.”

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Kids Like Podcasts Too

The same things that make podcasts great for parents also make them ideal for kids.

Molly Bloom, co-host and co-creator of science program Brains On!, says she hears from kids who are excited to hear the voices of other kids on the podcast.

“It’s exciting how engaged our audience is. We hear from listeners every day,” she says. “Audio is a very intimate medium because it feels almost like a one-to-one interaction on the part of listener. The listener is drawn in because they are painting pictures in their head while listening. That makes it a very active form of consuming information and really engages [kids’] imaginations.”

Podcasting is on-demand—so parents and kids can listen to episodes whenever they want to.

With the tagline, “We’re serious about being curious,” Brains On! tries to answer the questions of its 6- to 12-year-old audience without being condescending. Interviews with experts, fun skits and even songs explore topics from colour-changing animals and the origins of language to volcanic eruptions and GPS wayfinders.

“Our goal is to tap into kids’ natural curiosity. We realized science was a perfect fit for answering their questions and encouraging them to have a sense of a wonder about the world,” says Bloom. “Since our show is for kids, we also love that podcasting is on-demand—so parents and kids can listen to episodes whenever they want to, and as often as they want to.”

Listening For The Whole Family

We asked the CBC Parents Twitter and Facebook community about which parenting and kids podcasts you enjoy. Many of you said you liked sharing programs with the whole family, whether on long car rides or while sitting together at home. CBC Radio’s Vinyl Cafe came up a few times—a good reminder a podcast can be enjoyed by kids without being created solely for them.

A podcast can be enjoyed by kids without being created solely for them.

Depending on your children’s interests, there’s an endless number of high-quality niche podcasts out there that make for great family listening.

For example, 99% Invisible does compelling pieces on architecture and design, Make It Then Tell Everybody features interviews with cartoonists about how they stay creative and The Thrilling Adventure Hour is a guest-star-packed homage to old time radio drama. Since these programs aren’t specifically geared toward little ones, you may want to listen first to ensure you’re OK with the content.

We’d love to hear your other podcasts suggestions for kids, parents and families! Please share your favourites in the comments below.

We also have a few podcast suggestions for you:

Great Podcasts for Parents

1. The Longest Shortest Time: Calling itself your “3 a.m. bedside companion,” this show deals with everything from mental health and discipline to sex and diversity. Episodes are so well produced, you’ll become addicted in no time.

2. Grown-Ups Read Things They Wrote As Kids: It’s pretty much what the title says—which means this Canadian show can be hilarious, poignant or cringe-inducing. It can also be an empathetic reminder to parents of what being a child or a teen is like.

3. Mom And Dad Are Fighting: A pair of Slate editors discuss the latest controversies and coolnesses in parenting, sometimes with special guests. They don’t always agree.

Great Podcasts for Kids

1. Vinyl Cafe: This Canadian storytelling and music podcast is a hit with families from coast to coast. Vinyl Cafe stories are about Dave, owner of the second hand record store, and his family.

2. Spare The Rock, Spoil The Child: Billed as “indie music for indie kids,” this dad DJ and two kids share really, really good music (whether from children’s entertainers or just easily accessible bands), along with book reviews and live sessions. The full radio shows are online and you can download the playlists as podcasts.

3. The Cramazingly Incredifun Sugarcrash Kids Podcast: With a name like this, if you have younger kids, you owe it to yourself to listen at least once.

4. Storynory: Download from a deep catalogue of voice actors performing stories (classic and new), fables and myths. You can read intros and story text upfront if you’re unsure whether your kid is too young or too old.

5. Brains On!: Kid-co-hosted production from public radio stations in Minnesota and California. Aimed at kids 6 to 12, but you’ll probably listen to them all and learn new things every episode.

Article Author Erik Missio
Erik Missio

Read more from Erik here.

Erik Missio used to live in Toronto, have longish hair and write about rock ‘n’ roll. He now lives in the suburbs, has no hair and works in communications. He and his wife are the proud parents of a nine-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy, both of whom are pretty great. He received his MA in journalism from the University of Western Ontario.

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