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Listen Up: The Best Podcasts and Storytelling CDs for Bedtime, Downtime, Car Rides and More

Hit play on these options to keep your kids (and you!) entertained for hours of easy listening

Published on: March 17, 2016

Baby in headphones

Looking for something to listen to during car rides that'll keep the kids entertained without driving you crazy? Or perhaps you need an alternative to videos for those stuck-inside or sick days? Look no further than podcasts. Not only are most podcasts free, but there's always fresh material thanks to new episodes. We’ve rounded up some of the best family-oriented podcasts, and thrown in a couple storytelling CDs for fun, too. 

Try these at bedtime, while doing chores around the house or just when the kids (and you!) need a screen break. Happy listening!


Sparkle Stories
Photo credit: Sparkle Stories

Sparkle Stories

Average rating on 5/5 stars

Sparkle Stories is great for all ages with reviewers saying the podcast works wonders at bedtime. Instead of retelling classic stories and folktales, Sparkle Stories features original works (more than 875 of them!) with many by storyteller and teacher David Sewell McCann. Most narratives feature kid characters solving real-life problems; there's a nugget of wisdom in each podcast, along with plenty of age-appropriate humor. After listening, enrich the experience by checking out the crafts and recipes on the Sparkle Stories website.

Sesame Street

Average rating on 4/5 stars

The Sesame Street podcast offers perfect bite-sized bits of learning for the preschool set. Including both video and audio, each episode lasts about five minutes with a new podcast every Monday. Sing along, learn about letters or just giggle with the loveable Muppets from 123 Sesame Street. 

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel by Blobfish Radio is a serialized drama for middle graders. Kids will love listening to Mars Patel on his journey to find two missing friends. This podcast is Goonies meets Spy Kids meets Stranger Things, for children 8-12. 

Brains On!
Photo credit: Brains On!

Brains On!

Average rating on 4.5/5 stars

Brains On! is a public radio production featuring both kids and professional scientists that's great for kids in elementary school and up. Even parents will enjoy these episodes chock-full of science and engineering. A couple of personal favorites include "Spider Sense: The Amazing World of Spiders" and "Fart Smarts: Understanding the Gas We Pass." Plus, don't miss out on each episode's “mystery sound” that'll keep kids guessing.


Average rating on 4.5/5 stars

There's a new story every week with this podcast. The tales vary from retellings of classic fairy and folk tales to brand-new material. They come from a variety of cultures and are rated G+ (a.k.a. the stories are family-friendly, but may include some scary fantasy elements). Action, humor and even the occasional song liven up this well-performed podcast. 


Average rating on 4.5/5 stars

With a bank of more than 100 tales, Storynory has something for everyone. Classic books such as The Secret Garden are presented as serials; there are also single-episode pieces. Find a detailed list of suggestions broken down by age and gender on the Storynory website. They even have spooky stories for “those who like their spines gently chilled!” 

Good Mythical Morning
Photo credit: Good Mythical Morning

Ear Biscuits

Average rating on 5/5 stars

Ear Biscuits is the podcast of Rhett and Link, hosts of the YouTube show Good Mythical Morning (GMM). In most episodes, Rhett and Link interview popular YouTube personalities with the one-hour format allowing for longer, deeper conversations. There are a few “Rhett and Link only” shows as well, which are very similar to the GMM show — good news for any tween or teenage fans in the audience!

Myths and Legends

Average rating on 5/5 stars

If you’ve ever wondered where old stories and legends come from, you’ll love this podcast. Myths and Legends writer and producer Jason Weiser delves into the origins of stories you thought you knew. With knights, princesses, vampires and dragons, this podcast takes history and makes it interesting. I'd recommend this for teens and up because many of the tales are dark.

Welcome to Night Vale

Average rating on 5/5 stars

This quirky serial is loved by teens and adults alike. Twice-monthly stories are told in the format of a radio show reporting the happenings in the strange desert town of Night Vale. One reviewer described the serial as “'X-Files meets Twilight Zone meets Fringe'meets comedy.” I personally find it impossible to describe. What I do know is that many of the teens in my life love this podcast. The show has even inspired a novel.

Roam Schooled

Average rating on N/A

Portland's Jim Brunberg created Roam Schooled to help break up screen time for his twin 7-year-old girls, Dana and Vern. Rather than rely solely on Google, why not go out and find the answers themselves? Jim partnered with musician Ben Landsverk and Roam Schooled was born. Each episode, Dana or Vern asks a question and they spend the podcast searching for answers. Recent installments include "What the heck is the Statue of Liberty there for?" and "Why do people have tombstones?"

CNN Student News

Average rating on 4.5/5 stars

Aimed at a middle and high-school student audience, this is a 10-minute, commercial-free news show. Used in many social studies and civics classrooms, CNN Student News provides a roundup of the day's top stories and encourages student participation. The app recommends teachers and/or parents review each episode before sharing just to double-check the featured content is A-OK for your child.

Bill Harley
Photo credit: Bill Harley

Storytelling CDs

Bill Harley

Bill Harley is a two-time Grammy Award winner who tells stories and sings in silly free verse while playing a variety of instruments. Reviews say that Harley’s unique stories are fun for all ages including parents. From personal experience, these CDs are big hits with both my middle schooler and third grader. Check them out on Amazon or at your local library.

Christopher Leebrick
Photo credit: Christopher Leebrick

Christopher Leebrick

A professional storyteller since 1986, Christopher Leebrick travels the country performing stories. The native Oregonian tells tales from around the world, sometimes adding music with his harmonica and cedar flute. All three of his CDs have won national awards. 

Andy Offutt Irwin

Award-winning southern storyteller, musician and whistler Andy Offutt Irwin tells stories kids will love as much as kids: about free-range childhood adventures, catching bullfrogs (and teaching them jump), buying penny candy and losing teeth. His latest, The Wild Amphibian Show, is especially worth a listen for families, and totally appropriate (and hilarious) for all ages. 

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