The best thing about podcasts is that they cover everything under the sun. You can find hours of music, history, amazing science, or delightful fiction podcasts. The same is true of the best podcasts for kids. We gathered some of our favorites and broke them down by age, but you might find your elementary school-aged child enjoys the tunes in the preschool list, and teens will definitely enjoy a lot of the content in the other categories as well. While you’re here, why not also check out our pick of the best podcasts of 2021?
The best podcasts for kids ages 3 and up
The perfect bedtime podcast, Peace Out features short stories designed to help kids calm down and relax. They’re guided through breathing and visualization exercises, but for younger kids, just the soothing sound of the narrator’s voice will be enough to lull them off to sleep. For older kids, this is a great introduction to meditation and mindfulness.
Great for bedtime or long road trips, Planet Storytime’s weekly episodes feature a mixture of classic tales and more modern ones. Each story has its own cool music and sound effects kids will love, and there’s a catch-up episode at the end of every month, featuring all that month’s content, if you miss an episode or just want a longer listening session.
Andrew & Polly make music for kids, and their cute and catchy songs show up in their podcast, Ear Snacks. The episodes revolve around a theme, with activities for kids — like a scavenger hunt for clocks — and interviews with experts. The one about the U.S. Census includes a song about mail, while the decoding bugs episode talks about caterpillars as well as computer coding.
Thinking up endless stories can put a strain on your creativity, so why not let Story Time take over sometimes? The tales are between 10 and 15 minutes, and each has an age rating. Many are for ages five and up, but you’ll find some suitable for three and four-year-olds as well. The calming narration makes them perfect for bedtime.
Music snobs lucked out when some of their favorite musicians became parents and started making kid-friendly songs. This podcast is two hours of tunes from the likes of Caspar Babypants, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, and Recess Monkey. Never heard of ‘em? You’ll also hear songs from the Walkmen’s Walter Martin, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, and They Might Be Giants.
Yet another podcast primed for a dance party. There’s definitely some overlap with Saturday Morning, but Spare the Rock’s playlist includes more artists you’re likely to find at an aging hipster’s dinner party, like Mates of State, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, Folk Implosion, and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. In between, you’ll still hear plenty of jams about pirates, monsters, colors, and space.
Little kids will definitely be tickled by learning the ins and outs of camel spit as they take magical journeys around the world to meet all sorts of interesting animals and the people who study and take care of them. Who knew sloths used to be so misunderstood? Poor lazy bears. There are only 12 episodes to listen to, but kids will enjoy every one.
The best podcasts for kids ages 5 to 8
The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd
Kids of all ages will love listening to the exploits of the world’s most brilliant scientist Dr. Floyd and his plans to fend off his evil nemesis, Dr. Steve. But this podcast is educational too, teaching kids about history along the way. Sadly, it’s not in production anymore, but there are over 10 years worth of episodes to listen to.
One of the newer podcasts on our list, Story Seeds launched in March 2020. It’s a unique concept — bestselling authors and kids ages 6 to 12 get together to collaborate and grow great stories from little ideas (seeds). Each episode showcases the brainstorming conversation between authors and kids, then follows the author’s creative and writing process. Finally, the episode ends with a story read aloud by the author.
For true stories about adventurous, fierce girls, this Australian podcast is well worth a listen. Although it’s aimed at kids, it’s a good idea to listen first to make sure each story is appropriate for your kids. They’ll learn about gutsy women like Adelaide Miethke, the girl who used radio to teach kids from the Bush, and Dr. Abigail Allwood, the girl who looks for life on Mars. It’s pretty inspirational listening for all ages — and a good starting point for some interesting conversations with your kids.
A little like the everyday father-son and daddy-daughter conversations that happen in every family, Five Minutes With Dad is a personal growth podcast designed for your kids. Listen in on conversations between a dad and his two kids, on topics ranging from how to help in your community to how to show appreciation for your relatives.
Fans of How I Built This have never heard NPR’s Guy Raz like this. He and Mindy Thomas take a magical “Wow Machine” to all sorts of crazy places to explain science to kids. Whether they’re visiting the world’s first blue-eyed ancestor (based on a 2008 research paper) or figuring out why onions make you cry, the two have a blast in this high-quality production. There are lots of sound effects and kid-friendly jokes (and some meant more for the adults listening along, too; for example, most kids probably won’t get “rage against the latrine.”)
Kids ask a variety of questions you might think you know the answer to — why do deer lose their antlers, how is paper made, what is electricity made of, etc. — but it might be best to defer to an expert. Luckily, But Why is full of them, and each manages to tailor their answers for younger listeners, like explaining the heft of antlers by comparing them to walking around with sacks of flour atop your head.
Ask a science-loving kid what they want to be when they grow up, and they might say an astronaut or paleontologist. Tumble is a science podcast that will introduce them to all sorts of other cool professions, like dog DNA researcher, geochemist, mathematical biologist, and underground astronaut. One perfect episode for right now? A scavenger hunt for the wildlife inside our homes.
Though recommended for ages 4 to 10, the podcast has guest stars grownups might recognize, including actor Colin Hanks, comedian Margaret Cho, and Mixed-Ish’s Mykal-Michelle Harris. While fairy tales traditionally teach kids about the dangers of the world around them, these sweet stories are more about being kind and not giving up.
The beloved magazine is also available in podcast form. It has a bit of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse energy, with hidden sounds to listen for in each episode. The playful hosts, Tim Kubart and Juanita Andersen, might design costumes out of items around the house or create a radio play. There are also shorter episodes with kid-submitted tongue twisters and jokes.
Sadly, there are only a handful of episodes of this National Geographic Kids podcast, but they’re all enjoyable. Each episode is a lighthearted retelling of familiar Greek myths, like Jason and the golden fleece, Arachne the weaver, and Echo and Narcissus. Kenny Curtis tells the stories, aided by the Oracle of Wifi, who chimes in to decrypt words like phalanx. It’s one of the best history podcasts for kids.
This podcast reimagines fairy tales like Thumbelina and Beauty and the Beast with a feminist bent. They’re rewritten by a bevy of playwrights. Other episodes feature a time-traveling kid scientist named Nova, who visits famous figures such as Ada Lovelace, Mary Shelley, and Bessie Coleman.
Aaron created this podcast when he was between the ages of 6 and 11, so there are no new episodes. But for four seasons, he and his family resurrected plesiosaurs, megalodons, and other prehistoric creatures for a science-themed adventure full of sound effects and enthusiasm.
Warning: You may not make it through an entire episode fully conscious. After several deep dragon breaths in and out, a calming narrator and tranquil music help kids (and caretakers) relax and maybe even fall asleep.
The best podcasts for kids ages 8 to 10
Prepare to have this theme song stuck in your head. Molly of Denali follows the adventures of the eponymous Alaska Native girl living in a remote town, solving mysteries big and small. There are two seasons to enjoy, plus a PBS show that picks up her tale after the podcast ends.
Debates about which is the superior age (ice or Jurassic) or starch (rice or noodles) have never been so fierce. In about 35 to 45 minutes, guest debaters must convince a judge, who’s sometimes on their school’s debate team, that the facts are on their side. The rounds involve creative challenges and six-word summations. Are you team shark or team skunk? This podcast might change your mind.
A mix of original stories and adaptations of fables and fairy tales, this podcast combines storytelling with songs for episodes that last between 10 and 20 minutes. What’s a meowmaid you ask? You’ll have to listen to find out.
For those concerned about the secret world of dust or who need to know more about narwhals, Brains On! has you covered. Kids submit questions, and host Molly Bloom and kid co-hosts ask experts to find out more. The answers are often more in-depth and complex than some of the shows aimed at younger audiences, and the jokes are a bit more sophisticated, too.
If you found your child has the 411 on world events, chances are they’re already listening to KiDNuz. In about six minutes, the podcast catches listeners up on the daily news. Recently there have been many related to the coronavirus, but they still cover lots of other stories, like info about the Mars Rover and the Wonder Chicken fossil.
What do electric bathing, a dead whale, a luggage maker, and lab coats have in common? They’re all part of the history of the hot dog. The Past & the Curious brings together a range of lesser-known, yet nonetheless true, stories from history in highly entertaining fashion.
Bad news: If you’re reading this, you live in What Is World, where kittens don’t play the glockenspiel and unicorns aren’t real. In What If World, the opposite is true, and host Eric O’Keefe answers questions only kids could dream up in charming stories full of imagination and delightful characters.
Budding sci-fi fans will want to check out Finn Caspian’s world. He and his friends Abigail, Elias, and Vale live on a space station where they get their very own robots but also have to contend with aliens who tell bad jokes. Jonathan Messinger, aided by his then-6-year-old son, Griffin, brings this serialized podcast to life.
The idea behind this 30-minute podcast is pretty simple: Kids submit stories, and comedians, actors, and musicians riff on them, whether it’s a bear who couldn’t disco or a hamster with a j-o-b. You’ll often hear familiar voices chime in, including David Schwimmer or Dax Shepard. The results are hilarious enough that adults will enjoy tuning in as well.
With a mix of stories, poems, and fairy tales, Storynory has episodes that last anywhere from two to 25 minutes. They come from all over the world, so you might hear about a tiger from Korea or get a song about Bonnie Prince Charlie from Scotland (aka, the theme song for Outlander).
Yes, the title is awkward, but the show is both silly and thought-provoking. Science journalist Carl Smith, filmmaker Molly Daniels, and ethicist Dr. Matt Beard team up to tackle all kinds of sticky questions, like when should kids get their ears pierced and should those piercings include a GPS tracker? If you’re not sure how to tackle the topic of cannibalism with your kids, there’s a resource guide provided to help you navigate if your only real exposure to ethics is The Good Place.
In our guide to the best scary podcasts for Halloween, we called Unspookable the kind of podcast R.L. Stine fans will wish existed when they were kids. Nightmares don’t end with October, however, and this show can help dispel some of the myths and mysteries associated with things that go bump in the night — like werewolves and dolls. Yes, dolls.
The best podcasts for tweens
If you’re into comic books, sci-fi, and fantasy — or if you’ve ever wondered who would win in a fight between Red Hulk and Homelander — you’ll be pleased to hear there’s a podcast that feels the same way. Lively, well-researched debates will keep you engaged, and give you plenty of fuel for later conversations with your friends and family.
Mars Patel and his friends are middle-school misfits, so no one — not even the teachers — are too upset when two of the crew go missing. This serialized podcast follows Mars and Co. as they try to find the other MIA tweens. Adding a nice touch of authenticity, the actors are all kids themselves. The first season is widely available, but seasons two and three are only on Pinna, which offers a 30-day free trial.
We wrote about this podcast back when it debuted in 2019. To quote ourselves quoting Belle, this story has everything: Far-off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, a prince in disguise. Noah Galvin, Ari’el Stachel, and Christine Baranski lend their voices to this rom-com about two princes who meet cute while trying to save their kingdoms.
If you know a voracious reader who’s always looking for new books to read, this is the perfect podcast for them. Middle schoolers discuss middle-grade books — including When You Reach Me, Hypatia Academy, and One Crazy Summer — and guests (often NPR hosts) read excerpts. There are author interviews, as well as other book recommendations and supplemental materials. With dozens of episodes, there’s bound to be something they haven’t devoured yet.
Morgan Givens puts his considerable vocal talents to good use in what he calls fables for the 21st century. An anthologized podcast, every handful of episodes follows a new main character, who’s chosen by a magical book. While they’re facing very real problems in their everyday lives, the book transports the reader to fantastical kingdoms, a brief escape that will enchant listeners as well.
In this fiction podcast, Eleanor Amplified is a journalist battling dastardly henchmen with names like Lars Torso. There’s a lot of dry wit, and the heroine is part Veronica Mars, part Lois Lane. As a reporter, Eleanor is not only looking for the truth but also helps listeners critically examine cultural forces such as advertising and tech conglomerates — and each episode is sure to spark laughter as well as serious conversation for the whole family.
What are the origins of croquet? Why hasn’t the Equal Rights Amendment passed? How did NORAD start tracking Santa Claus? Who’s Chien Shiung Wu, the first lady of physics? Holly Frey and Tracy Wilson have the answers to all these questions and more. There’s a huge backlog of episodes, so you’ll have plenty of unusual or overlooked history to keep you occupied.
Tai Poole was a curious tween who started asking questions about how the world works. Instead of merely Googling, he asks experts interesting and entertaining queries. Adults will probably also want to know why songs get stuck in your head or why we experience deja vu. There are also teaching guides to go along with a couple of episodes if you want to assign the kiddos some homework.
The best podcasts for teens
The majority of the podcasts listed here weren’t created specifically for teens, so there may be certain episodes with topics and language that aren’t appropriate for all listeners. Several of these shows were recommended to us by Emma LaBarre, an 18-year-old high school senior who loves podcasts.
Stuff You Should Know
With topics ranging from “How Groundhog Day Works” to “How Class Action Lawsuits Work,” Stuff You Should Know is the podcast for inquisitive minds. With new episodes several times a week, take a deep dive into a new topic each time, and wow all your friends with your knowledge. There are over 1,000 episodes so far, so there’s plenty to keep you entertained, and episodes range from 15 minutes to over an hour. Occasional adult topics like politics and alcohol make this a better option for older teens.
This eerie series plays out like a local community radio show for the fictional town of Night Vale. Deliciously creepy, it’s a unique concept that works thanks to the dulcet tones of narrator Cecil Baldwin. It’s not one we’d recommend for younger listeners, but teens will love it, whether they dive into the most recent episode or start from the very first episode.
Host Glynn Washington is a storyteller, and has he got some doozies. Whatever the theme of the episode, you’ll hear unique tales in a cadence that’s all Snap Judgement’s own. The show has covered everything from a siege in Syria to rafting on the Amazon River to a cave in a South African desert.
This American Life has been knitting together disparate stories into a larger theme for decades, and helped launch the careers of Sarah Vowell, David Rakoff, and David Sedaris. The movie starring Awkwafina, The Farewell, is based on a TAL story. You’ll also hear about a school swap from Chana Joffe-Walt, a mini-musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda, and the saga of two doctors with the same name from a pre-Serial Sarah Koenig.
Another show that’s been around a while, Radiolab has spawned spinoffs like Dolly Parton’s America and More Perfect (both great listens, as well). Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich started the show as fairly science-centric, but it later morphed to touch other topics, like punk rock’s arrival in Cuba. If you’re not sure where to start, they have a list of memorable episodes already picked out.
Even if you’re not studying for the SATs or ACTs, you might find it interesting that “trend” was a nautical term long before it meant something everyone was tweeting about. Language is fascinating and strange, and host Helen Zaltzman has a lot of fun exploring its ins and outs.
If your favorite reader is too old for the recommendations in Book Club for Kids (see above), then Get Booked might fit the bill. Book Riot’s Jenn Northington and Amanda Nelson give personalized reading recs to listeners, whether they’re into novels or nonfiction, sci-fi or romance. Here’s a list of some of their most-recommended books.
There’s an argument to be made for “read another book,” but Harry Potter is comforting to a lot of people. Hosts Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile both hold master’s degrees in divinity from Harvard, and they teach listeners the practice of “sacred reading.” They examine each chapter of the HP books through a theme — like desperation, skepticism, or joy — and closely scrutinize the text. Techniques like Lectio Divina and Havruta (don’t worry, they explain everything) can be applied to any book and will turn podcast fans into more careful readers.
Current events don’t exist in a vacuum, and Throughline hosts Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei connect the dots by offering context with stories from different points in history. For example, they explain the ways astrology has waxed and waned in popularity from the Enlightenment until now. In another episode, they talk about the electrical grid by going back to both 2003 and the late 1800s.
Scientific studies can be confusing and conflicting to even the trained eye, so how is a layperson to know whether coffee is actually good for you, if organic fruits are healthier, or if you can really be hypnotized? Science Vs’ Wendy Zukerman delves into the research, including peer-reviewed studies and clinical trials. She also talks to experts to help sort out all kinds of scientific controversies, from emotional support animals to essential oils.
Podcast recommendations for teens from Emma
We asked Emma LaBarre, an 18-year-old high school senior who loves podcasts, to tell us about some of her favorite podcasts — and this made top of the list.
“This podcast is my favorite way to get the main updates of political news. It is only about 15 minutes long, which is perfect because that is about how long my drive to school is.”
“I love psychology (I want to be a psychiatrist), and this podcast is a perfect way to learn more about the topics I find interesting. At the beginning of the school year, my brother would ask me to put on music instead, but within a month he refused to listen to anything other than Hidden Brain. The show touches on many different psychology topics, and the host demonstrates the information in a way where it is fun to learn.”
“I like that they review and discuss different books because I am able to learn a little bit about the topics without the book being spoiled,” Emma told us. “For example, I recently listened to the episode where they interviewed Philip Roth, and within minutes I had paused the podcast so I could buy his book The Plot Against America on Amazon.”
“I have listened to all of the first three seasons of Slow Burn (Watergate, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.). What I like about this podcast is that it presents the facts of these different scandals in a storyline fashion, so although they are historically accurate, it feels more like someone telling you a story than lecturing you about history.”
“My family has always listened to Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me! while driving, and when I started driving my own car, I continued this tradition. It is a fun way to get the news because it is presented like a game show with celebrities and comedians playing. My goal in life is to win Peter Sagal on my voicemail.”
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