Podcasts for the preschool set

You know that feeling you get, when you’re on a long drive to visit family, and your kids are insisting on listening to Wheels On The Bus for the umpteenth time? That feeling of gosh, couldn’t we listen to something else for a change, something quiet and soothing that won’t leave the kids complaining “Your song is very long, I want my song!” I’m ashamed to say that after almost two years of listening to podcasts like Serial, Planet Money and RadioLab, it finally dawned on us that hey, kids podcasts might actually exist.

They do exist, and they are awesome. Honestly, I’m surprised it took us that long to figure it out. Some are by the same radio and podcast producers that you know and love, like NPR and Ted Talks, but they aren’t always appropriate for the preschool set. (NPR’s science for kids podcast Wow in the World seems to be more suitable for children who are aged at least in the double digits.)

Still, there are some lovely story podcasts that are perfect for younger children to listen to on the drive to school or activities. (We sometimes use them to incentivise the kids to clean up their toys quickly on a Sunday afternoon.) Most of these run for between 7 and 10 minutes, but some are considerably longer. You’ll probably want to download them to your phone while you’re home or in a wifi zone because they can be a bit data intensive.

These are my top three stories podcasts for kids:

Story Time from Bedtime FM is my absolute favourite stories podcast. (I can’t speak for the kids.) I love the tinkly theme music and the voice of the host Rob Griffiths is so easy on the ears. In fact, all the narrators we’ve heard so far have great voices and seem to speak at just the right speed – not too hurried, and not too slow and creepy (see the Story Home). Original stories arrive fortnightly and each episode comes with a short synopsis and an age guideline, so you know exactly what you’re getting into beforehand. Expect to meet characters like Teddy No-Nose and Buffy Bunny, who my kids find wonderfully silly. (If you’ve been listening to and enjoying Story Time, do consider donating to them or supporting them on Patreon. They do a great job each week.)

Stories Podcast is another great podcast series for kids. It has a huge library going back to 2014 and is updated about once a week. Some of these are fairy tales, some are historical tales, some are original stories, and some are silly poems. There are also stories that come in multiple parts. Danyaal particularly enjoyed the slightly scary two-parter, Max Goodname and the Silent Knight but he didn’t really get the rhyming Peanut Butter Jelly War, which I found quite amusing, or the overly serious fable The Moringa Grove. Still, given how often it is updated and the diversity of stories, it’s a great series for families.

Storynory is also a gem. It is usually updated two or three times a month (although last September there were nine updates) and the breadth of material it covers is vast. At the same time, that’s part of the problem – it can be too varied and unpredictable. One week you might get Astropup and the Best Hotdog in the Universe, on another you’ll get a short version of Cinderella. Then again, you may get a rendition of the poem High Flight by World War 2 spitfire pilot John Magee or a rendition of the four-and-a-half-minute Riddling Knight, “an ancient story sung in a ballad that mixes riddles and romance,” set to the tune of Scarborough Fair. Basically you have a 50/50 percent chance of any episode being appropriate for the age group your children are in.

Other podcasts to try
The Story Home has about 15 stories that you can get free if you subscribe to the podcast. The narration by storyteller Alan Scofield can be slightly creepy-sounding but is not unbearable. What the podcast really seems to be there for is to hawk the app which offers in-app purchases for about 100 more stories. The app is available for R29.99 on iTunes South African app store and individual stories like Puss in Boots, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Tale of Peter Rabbit sell for R14.99 each. If your kids are voracious story-listeners, you might want to go this route but honestly, there are enough free stories podcasts out there to get you through loads of car trips first.

The Children’s Corner has some traditional stories like Paul Bunyan, The Pancake That Ran Away and How The Leopard Got Its Spots. But the narration feels a bit rushed at times and there are only seven podcasts in this series in total, so you might only want to listen to this if there haven’t been any appropriate updates on your other feeds.

Have you tried any of these or do you have any to recommend? Let us know in the comments.

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