Podcasts for kids are an amazing learning tool, help to avoid screen time, are the perfect activity for road trips, keep kids wildly entertained, and they are totally free!
Learning a language is a sensory (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch) experience! You learn not only by looking at the language, but also by hearing it, smelling, tasting, and touching it too. At Everest Education, we are always experimenting with new and effective ways to keep my students engaged and learning. One of our biggest challenges is how to get students engaged with English outside of our lessons together. Lessons are great, but students make much faster progress when they also engage with the language outside the classroom. That’s why we start incorporating podcasts into our blended learning model – to teach English both in class and as supplemental material.
Podcasts are all the rage these days – a valuable resource and have a lot of potentials to teach kids English. They are the perfect way to compliment your child’s language classes and pick up some new vocabulary during family road trips and house chores. And did you know that while podcasts are on the rise for adults, they’ve become just as popular for kids and families too?!
However, as children’s audio content has flooded the airwaves, it can be a challenge to find the good stuff that’s also appropriate. To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of our favorite podcasts – including perfect bedtime stories, science exploration, cool news, and more. Use the grade recommendations as a guide, and age them up or down as needed.
But first, what’s a podcast?
The term Podcast is actually a portmanteau of iPod and Broadcast.
A podcast is a recording of audio discussion on a specific topic, like business, travel, learning language… that can be listened to. Podcasts are usually original audio shows, consisting of individual episodes on a variety of topics, even though today video podcasts do exist.
Podcasting has really grown out of a need for background content. That means something that can entertain you, educate you or inspire you in the background of other boring or rote activities.
Podcasts cover almost any topic, are typically free and on-demand. This means anyone can access them, at any time, about any one thing and across a variety of platforms, all for free. To put it into context, you can imagine podcasts just like audio content similar to talk radio shows or e-books. They are usually free to access across desktop and mobile devices. Anyone can listen to a podcast with an internet connection and a pair of headphones.
What’s Great About Podcasts for English Learners
Podcasts are great for a bunch of reasons.
- Podcasts are easy and convenient. Podcasts make the most of the time that would otherwise go to waste. That’s why everyone loves them! No matter what stage of the learning process your child is at, it is helpful to get as much exposure to spoken English as possible. Podcasts allow your child to tune into the language anytime and anywhere: while your family is out for a walk or in the car while preparing for dinner, before going to bed… They’re a great way to allow your child to stay connected with the language without much effort.
- Podcasts are authentic. There is a big difference between textbook English and “real English” as we hear it on the street. Podcasts can give your child more experience listening to conversational English as it is really spoken. They are useful because they provide students with examples of how people actually talk. Rather than silly, made-up dialogues, podcasts feature real conversations and speech. Children can get used to listening to podcasts where the speaker talks with “umms” and “ahhhs,” and learn to apply this in real life so that their spoken English sounds more natural.
- Podcasts are diverse. Some English textbooks try to provide a variety of English accents in their audios, but many don’t. Podcasts offer us a wide range of types of spoken English. You can find podcasts on nearly every topic, from science questions to lesser-known history, and in nearly every genre, from short fiction to in-depth journalism. Podcasts expose students to a wide variety of methods of communication, including narration, casual dialogue, scripted dialogue, and interviews. Additionally, as the popularity of podcasts continues to grow, more creators are focusing on content for young people.
- Podcasts are interesting. Students don’t want to do exercises unless they’re genuinely engaging. Podcasts are designed to hook kids with music, jokes, compelling stories, and more. Some are designed in a serial format with cliffhangers at the end to get kids to tune back in.
- Podcasts teach specialist vocabulary. There’s a podcast for every interest, every opinion, and every profession. Parents can choose the content and form that fits your child’s interest. For example, if your child is a science lover, listening to science podcasts will not only teach them new knowledge but also expand their vocabulary in that field.
- Podcasts are free. Podcasts themselves don’t have subscription or download fees, so anyone with internet access can listen and download for free. Most podcatcher apps are free, too (although some do have costs associated with them).
Best podcast that your kids will love
With podcasts, families can enjoy the same level of engagement, entertainment, and education as screen-based activities without worrying about staring at a screen. So, where to begin? We’ve done the research to find 12 awesomely entertaining podcasts that your kids (and you) will enjoy.
Podcasts for Students in Elementary School
“Stories Podcast” performs a new story every week, drawing from a variety of sources and a variety of styles. There are retellings of classics like Snow White, some folktales, and myths from around the world, as well as original stories. Episodes range from 10 to 20 minutes, with most on the longer side. “Story Podcast” has a good mix of one-off episodes and long-running series, which makes it easy to find something appropriate for your child’s attention span.
2. Circle Round
Here’s another creative story podcast that focuses on folktales from around the world. Created and produced by parents of young children, Circle Round adapts carefully-selected folktales from around the world into sound- and music-rich radio plays for kids ages 4 to 10. “Circle Round” is a bit more overt in its value-teaching than some of the others in this list. Each 10-to 20-minute episode explores important issues like kindness, persistence, and generosity. And each episode ends with an activity that inspires a deeper conversation between children and grown-ups.
Why do dogs have tails? Why do ladybugs have spots? Do dragonflies bite? Have you ever heard these questions from your child and have no clue to answer them? No worries, “But Why” can take care of that! This production, from Vermont Public Radio, tackles such topics as Why Do people have nightmares?, Do animals get married?, and Why do lions roar?. “But Why” aims to answer kid questions about everything from nature, politics, culture, science, even the end of the world. Your kids can submit their own questions, too; instructions are on the website.
“Wow in the World” is a science, technology, and new discoveries podcast developed by National Public Radio. If your child is intrigued by hermit crab behavior, solving the problem of what to do with all those disposable water bottles, space vacations of the future, or the benefits of saying thank you, this is an ideal option. “Wow in the World” takes kids (and their grown-ups) on a journey fueled by curiosity and wonder. In this weekly show, hosts Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz explore the science behind topics kids will love – from singing mice and wombat poop to the amazing power of a dog’s nose. “Wow in the World” is also a favorite podcast channel of Tony Ngo – Everest Education’s Chairman and Co-founder – and is the go-to solution when his kids start fighting with one another.
>> See Tony’s review for Wow in the World here: https://blog.e2.com.vn/best-english-learning-podcasts-for-your-kids/
“What If World” is a storytelling podcast for kids. Every two weeks, the creative host of this podcast – Mr Eric, takes questions from kids and spins them into an entertaining tale. What if a tiny dragon lived in my closet? What if there were a never-ending bowl of ice cream? What if cats ruled the world? What we love about “What if World” is the way they include their lessons after each story. For example, in one of their newest episodes of What if a dragon got stuck in time?, they teach children how “Being honest with others can help you feel better about yourself. Time keeps moving forward, and that makes life interesting and every day special.” These lessons are not only valuable for kids, but also for adults as well.
Best Podcasts for Tweens in Middle School
1. Brains On!
“Brains On!” is an award-winning science podcast for kids and curious adults, produced by American Public Media. Episodes of this podcast explore the science behind topics such as ants, engines, hiccups, and salty foods. “Brains On!” is co-hosted by kid scientists and reporters from public radio. Your kid will love learning how insects walk on walls, how to find their way without a compass, and even where poo and pee go when you flush the toilet.
There’s a series called “Smash Boom Best” in which two things are pitted against each other and your kid can pick their favorite. For example, Robots or Aliens: which is cooler?. The show is best suited for slightly older kids.
Listen as world-famous radio reporter Eleanor foils devious plots, outwits crafty villains, and goes after The Big Story. Eleanor Amplified is an adventure series for the whole family. Eleanor’s pursuit of truth takes her into orbit, out to sea, and even to the halls of Congress! Her adventures are entertaining and informative. 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. It is appropriate for kids of all ages and recommended for kids ages 8-12.
“Listenwise” provides high-quality podcasts and lesson collections with interactive transcripts for English Language Arts (ELA), Social Studies, and Science. “Listenwise” is an award-winning listening skills platform, searchable by topic area or school subject. It advances classroom learning by providing additional content and building listening skills. There is also a focus on current events that keep learning tied to the real world.
4. Youth Radio
Youth Radio is a podcast for teens, published by teens. It was created to showcase the power of young people as makers of media, technology, and community. “Youth radio” brings the teen perspective to issues of public concern.
Podcasts for Teens in High School
One of the largest oral history projects of its kind, “StoryCorps” has recorded the stories of over 250,000 people in the U.S. Students at just about any grade level or in any subject area could use the “StoryCorps” interviews in a variety of ways, including writing prompts, discussion topics, primary sources for research projects, and more. Your teens also can record their own stories as well.
“This American Life” is a weekly public radio program and podcast, featuring compelling, funny and often very surprising stories with intriguing plots – little movies for radio, as they call them. This popular radio show and podcast combines personal stories, journalism, and even stand-up comedy for an enthralling hour of content. Each week they choose a different theme and curate stories based around it. The focus isn’t specifically on English language learning here, instead “This American Life” offers a great opportunity for English learners to get used to different regional American accents while listening to unusual and interesting real-life stories from around the country.
From the people behind the award-winning website HowStuffWorks, this frequently updated podcast explains the ins and outs of everyday things from the major (“How Free Speech Works”) to the mundane (“How Itching Works”). Longer episodes and occasional adult topics such as alcohol, war, and politics make this a better choice for older listeners, but hosts Josh and Chuck keep things engaging and manage to make even complex topics relatable. And with nearly 1,000 episodes in its archive, your teen might never run out of new things to learn.
A word from Everest Education…
Podcasts are growing in popularity with families. They give you an engaging way to connect with kids, no screen required. It can be daunting for a first-timer to enter the world of podcasts, but digital tools have made it easier than ever to start listening. So if your child is a newbie to podcast, walk through this list with her and discuss to find out which is her favorite. You can test out any of the free episodes via their websites, iTunes, or Apple/ Google Play and then subscribe to the ones your kids love.
Although podcasting developed for children and families is still in its infancy, this platform holds great promise to inform, entertain, and educate.
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