The Benefits of Podcasts for Children

Margaret R. Paccione-Dyszlewski, PhD

We know kids should read. What about listening?

The benefits of reading to children are well established. When we read to our kids, they build vocabulary, language skills and literacy. It improves their attention and memory, and stimulates imagination and curiosity. Books on tape have become increasingly popular in recent years. Now young audiophiles have another option: podcasts.

Podcasts are a great way to use technology for learning. You can access podcasts from many devices—a computer, tablet, mp3 player, or smartphone—and from many streaming services, like Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher.

Podcast listening has increased considerably in the last five years. Of Americans 12 and older, 44 percent say they have listened to a podcast, up from 40 percent last year. There is a podcast for everything — including quality children’s content. Although only a small percent of podcast downloads is currently aimed at kids, an ever-increasing array of options is available.

Wow in the World

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 download. Listen to Wow in the World

Dream Big

As a psychologist, I delighted in listening to co-hosts 9-year-old Eva Karpman and her mom, Olga Karpman, as they inspire us to take action to follow our dreams. These run 15 to 20 minutes, a perfect length to listen to in the car on the way to soccer practice. Listen to Dream Big

Brains On!

Episodes of this podcast, produced by American Public Media, have explored 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. Listen to Brains On!

Ear Snacks

For those interested in music-themed topics, Ear Snacks provides a family-friendly blend of music, science, art, and culture. Listen to Ear Snacks

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

This serial mystery story is perfect for middle schoolers and has a Peabody Award to its credit. Listen to The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

Grammar Girl

Macmillan publishes several educational podcasts, including its hallmark show Grammar Girl, under its Quick and Dirty Tips (QDT) network. Grammar Girl podcasts offer students a different way to experience and understand writing, grammar, and punctuation topics. Listen to Grammar Girl

Although podcasting developed for children and families is still in its infancy, this platform holds great promise to inform, entertain, and educate. I suspect it won’t be long before there is a podcast about research linking listening comprehension as a positive predictor of later academic success.