While I'm a huge fan of podcasts for adults, there's a special place in my heart for kids’ podcasts. I mean, really, what’s not to love? You can keep your kids occupied for 20 minutes with a great story that you don’t have to read to them. That means that you can, oh, I don’t know, go to the bathroom? Clean up the cat’s hairball from this morning? Or even join them for some quality time together. And all while avoiding the guilt over screen time!
One of my favorite podcasts for kids is new to the scene. It’s called Circle Round, and it’s produced by the NPR Boston affiliate WBUR. Here’s what you need to know.
Circle Round is a weekly podcast that presents 10 to 20 minute folktales. Out of all of the stories so far (14 at the time of writing this), I’ve only heard two of them before, and I read a lot of children’s books. So chances are that you will get to hear something new.
The stories come from around the world and embrace many different cultures. They also all have a moral, although not a hit-you-over-the-head moral. In general, the stories practice and teach inclusivity, tolerance, and kindness. And, spoiler alert, they all have happy endings.
The podcast is hosted by Rebecca Sheir, who also narrates each story. Each character is played by an actor, with at least one being played by a well-known actor like Jason Alexander or Sela Ward.
I have three kids, ages three, five, and seven, and this is the one podcast that they all ask for by name every week. Despite their different ages, they all get a lot out of the podcast. My youngest loves the voices. My oldest loves to try to guess what will happen next.
My middle child’s favorite part is my favorite part too. At the end of each podcast, the host turns the story over to us. “Now it’s your turn,” Sheir says, and poses a question to us that is related to the story. These questions can range from the practical to the more philosophical.
For instance, after the episode “Why the Ocean is Salty,” a morality tale from Asia about the importance of knowing when enough is enough, Sheir asks us to think about what we would wish for if we had a magic jar that would fill up with whatever we wanted.
In “The Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle,” an English tale reminiscent of "The Fisherman and the Sea," Sheir asks us to think about what or who we are thankful for, draw a picture of it, and then ask someone else what they are thankful for. The questions are great for sparking discussion and, often, for feeling good about ourselves and those around us.
You cannot go wrong with episode 14, “The Shepherd’s Disguise.” It’s a story from Germany about an advisor to the queen who steals ideas from others in order to make himself look good and ultimately pays the price. The advisor is expertly and hilariously played by Tony Hale, who plays Julia Louis Dreyfus’s assistant on Veep and Buster Bluth on Arrested Development. It didn’t matter what he said, his intonation and delivery was so perfect we were all laughing hysterically.
I would caution that if you have easily-scared kids, you might want to avoid episode 5, “The Rice Cakes and the Oni.” While it is ultimately funny, it does involve a boy and his mother being captured by monsters. It took my daughter a few tries before we made it through.
Stories Podcast is another great choice for families who love a good story. These are almost all told by a single narrator and has an original song performed in each episode.
Rating: Listen with kids. Specifically recommended for age three to 10 , although I’m thirty-(cough cough), and still enjoy it.
Subscribe to Circle Round on iTunes here.Want more podcast suggestions? Find all our picks here.