The Best Educational Audio for Kids

The Best Educational Audio for Kids

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Audio improves language skills

Listening to audio is one of the best ways to help your child improve their vocabulary. Audio also allows young learners to engage in language with more complex sentence structure and vocabulary than what they are able to read on their own. In addition, audio can often introduce a listener to ideas or genres that they wouldn’t try otherwise. When I taught high school, my English classes listened to different types of audio on a regular basis for these same reasons.

Audio is also a fantastic resource for supplementing our children’s education at home. I relied on it heavily when I homeschooled, and now that my kids are in school, we still listen to tons of audio in lots of different formats.

Audio is the most convenient educational resource for modern parents

Not only is listening to audio good for the kids, but it’s also the easiest, most convenient (aka laziest!) thing you can do for your kids as a parent. It’s basically screen time, but without the screens. You can listen in the car on the way to school, or at bedtime.  When I’m tapped out for the evening and I just don’t have a bedtime story in me, I can pull up one of our favorite audio resources. The kids get a story. I get the break I’m needing. It’s a win!

Have a family road trip planned?

Audio to the rescue. All of these resources are family-friendly. Sometimes we play an audiobook or podcast out loud in the van for everyone to hear, and sometimes just one child might plug into a tablet and listen to a story or book on their own. When you have MANY hours on the road, variety is key.

What should we listen to?

Okay, on to the good stuff. Here are 5 of our favorite tried-and-true, kid-tested and parent-approved  audio resources from our family.

1. Storynory.com

This is the best resource for free bedtime stories on audio. There are original stories, (my girls like the Katie, the Ordinary Witch stories) as well as classic tales and myths, (my son listened to ALL the myth stories after reading the Percy Jackson series,)

My daughter stayed up really late for about a week listening  The Secret Garden from Storynory as well. There’s so much to explore on their website, and it’s really easy for the kids to navigate it and decide what they want to listen to. This is a no brainer for kids and parents. It’s so easy to use, it’s free, and its wonderful content is there waiting for you.

 

2. Audiobooks

There are endless amounts of wonderful children’s books on audio. My children beg me to buy them more audio books, and we can easily go past the one book per month in our Audible membership. As a result,  I’m always on the lookout for children’s audio on sale, or from our library, because my kids just devour it. If you’re not sure where to start, one of our family’s audible favorites was The Chronicles of Narnia BBC Radio version. The story is acted out instead of narrated, so it’s a lot of fun if your kids are already familiar with the story. Children have to really pay attention to the sound effects and dialogue to understand what’s happening.

We also adored the audible version of Wonder. A few months ago, we were traveling from western to eastern Nebraska. (If you’ve ever done it, you know it is not the most interesting of drives!) Anyway, the kids could hardly wait to get back in the car to listen to this wonderful story about the power of kindness. I recommend it for upper elementary and middle grade kids.

The Story of the World History CD’s

These audio CD’s are basically the history of the world told in a way that is children can understand and told IN ORDER. (This is the way I wish schools taught history, instead of the hodgepodge way the curriculums are set up. Sigh.)

Anyway, there are 4 volumes, starting with ancient history up to modern times. I have bought the audio CD’s, (unfortunately they aren’t availabe in Mp3 format, so we bought the CD’s and downloaded them.) We often listen to these CD’s in the car as we’re driving around town. My son also likes to download them to his ipod and listen on his own.

These are a bit of an investment, and can sometimes be found at local libraries (at least on the East coast) but I promise YOU as well as your kids will learn a ton about history, geography from ancient times to the present. If you want more enrichment, you can buy the books and activities that accompany it,but you will certainly learn plenty just from listening.

Children’s Symphonies

These are a delight for young children especially ages 1-6 or so. The music and narration is enchanting and keeps the toddlers happy on the go. Again, it’s a win. A few of our favorites are Peter and the Wolf and Tubby the Tuba. There’s a whole series of CD’s called Maestro Classics. We’ve listened to many of them and they are very well done.

 

Podcasts

Ah Podcasts! The popularity of podcasts has really picked up steam in the last couple years, and now it seems that every writer, blogger or online influencer is starting to create audio content in the form of podcasts. It’s totally free and just a great way to learn about any topic you’re interested in.

Podcasts just for kids:

Tumble science  Spend a few minutes with laid-back, kid-friendly hosts who are heavy on the kids’ puns. (The kids will adore it.) The content is based on lesser-known scientific topics discussed in a kid-friendly way. The voyage of the Ocean Trash is a really fascinating episode to start with.

Wow in the World  This is NPR’s new kids show about “Science, Technology and new discoveries.”  There’s only one episode out so far. There were 3 segments, and I thought the format was a good mix of informative plus fun/silliness.  *See my footnote about scientific content.

 

But Why: Kids phone in questions. (They are adorable!) And experts come on the line to answer them. Great for the child that always has a million questions.

 

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel.   YOU GUYS! My kids and I have fallen in love with this one!   We can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen to Mars Patel, an 11 year old whose 2 friends have gone missing, but no adults seem to notice or care. This is captivating from the very first minute. Think Serial meets Netflix’s Stranger Things, but for kids.  This is fantastic story-telling for middle grade and upper elementary.

 Podcasts for parents and their older kids:

My 12 year old says he’s too old for the content that’s geared specifically to kids. (Giant “sigh”over here!) But the fun part is that he enjoys listening to a lot of the same things my husband and I listen to!

A few of our favorites for the family:

{These shows are marketed for adults, but the content is many times interesting for older children. I would just recommend listening WITH your children, and then you’ll be able to know the themes of any content and if it’s not something you’d want your children to learn or hear about.Every podcast I listen to will start with a warning about content if its not particularly appropriate for children.}

How I built this: Interviews with Entrepreneurs in which they tell the story of how they started their business.

99% invisible: How design shapes our world. I recommend starting with Episode 197: The Fish Cannon or Episode 189: The Landlord’s Game .

Planet Money: Economics in the real world, and usually explained in a way that makes sense even if you don’t have a background in Economics. This episode about the chip readers is really interesting.

Audio for kids is expanding

The great news is that there continues to be more and more resources available. In addition, all the podcasts I listen to will start with a warning if the content of that particular episode is not suitable for children, so the kids often listen to what I’m listening (by default)!

You guys, get going on this!  Get your phones and tablets out, download some great audio content and help your kids have a great time learning on the go, at bedtime or whenever or wherever you listen.

 

*I wish that this podcast, and other kids’ podcasts about science would do a better job of is addressing “human origin” questions. “Wow in the world” offers a scientific explanation of why humans are smarter than all other species, and in my opinion, it’s a  pretty far-fetched explanation. I just wish they would explain that it is a scientific theory and address that many people have a lot of differing beliefs, including religious beliefs on this topic. Anyway, I’ll still listen to this with my kids because I’m open to having these conversations with them.