The secret to keeping kids entertained and educated during lockdown is to mix it up so they don't get bored. Good podcasts are the perfect addition to your lockdown home school timetable - usually short and easily digestible, they are screen-free, so children can listen while they're lying in bed, playing or doing something creative, like drawing or painting. There's so many to choose from, we have picked some of our favourites from the best podcasts that have an educational slant but are mostly such fun that they won't even realise they're learning!
A familiar publication to plenty of primary-aged children, the weekly current affairs publication for eight to 14 year-olds has a podcast edition that takes fans behind the scenes of this award-winning magazine. Presenting news in a child-friendly way, each week members of The Week Junior team join Bex from Fun Kids Radio to talk about the hot topic of the week, and discuss their favourite stories. Get kids listening to subjects such as the spaghetti trees April Fools prank, whale vomit, how to get a good night's sleep and new technology that uses stinky fruits! Then find out if they can separate fact from fiction in the ‘Real or Rubbish?’ report which seeks to work out what is fake news and what is fact.
Meet nine-year-old Zara and eight-year-old Rose, who despite their tender years have been running their own news podcast for a year. Covering news and current affairs around the world in their weekly podcast, the girls present at least five stories in each episode.
Science and more
Do your children ask you questions that you struggle to find the answers for? Yes, ours too! This is the place to find the answer. The show is led by kids - they ask the questions - and presenter Jane Lindholm with help from producer Melody Bodette does her best to come up with the answers. Your own kids can get in on the act by recording their question on a smartphone using the memo function or an audio app, and sending to email@example.com. Questions that the pair have managed to answer recently - and for which we applaud them - include: Are llamas ticklish? Why do pickles and cacti look alike? What are boogers made out of? How do fish see underwater without goggles? Do skunks like their smell? Do pigs poop? Are elephants afraid of mice? Are jellyfish made of jelly? and Why are yawns contagious?
Another podcast for curious kids (and their grown-ups) who ask lots of questions, this one focuses on science, technology and innovation - expect suitably gross topics like bug eating. If you're trying to encourage kids to do a bit more writing, print out the free WOW-sheet, which encourages more scientific thinking. Hosts Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas have gone the extra mile now and introduced a daily seven-minute, science-based game show -Two Whats?! and a Wow! - to keep our minds ticking over during lockdown.
Producer Moly Oldfield has a great job - she's one of Stephen Fry's 'elves' on BBC panel show QI, and spends her working days visiting museums and studying encyclopaedias and reference books to come up with the fascinating and obscure facts used on the show. So she's surely the perfect person to present a podcast answering all those tricky questions that your young scientists might ponder - why are rainbows so colourful? Can blue whales talk to killer whales? Why do flamingos stand on one leg - and lots more. Put her to the test by recording your own questions and sending to firstname.lastname@example.org. Author Molly also features some top-notch guests experts, including historian Dan Snow and children’s author Oliver Jeffers. It's no surprise this is one of our top podcasts, as the show recently snagged a British Podcast Award.
We suspect that as time goes on and we're all kept at home for longer, we'll be asking more questions like which animals fart the most? How can we translate cat purrs? and do dogs know they're dogs? Brains On! enlists the help of a different child co-host each week as its aims to answer kids' questions on anything to do with the science world. There are more than 100 episodes to choose from and recent subjects include Narwhals, the unicorns of the sea. See if you can identify the week's Mystery Sound and then enjoy the Moment of Um, when the presenters try to find out things like does water have a taste, and why our tongues stick to ice!
Aimed at young scientists aged six to 12, Tumble looks at the stories behind science discovery. Hosted by science journalist Lindsay Patterson and teacher Marshall Escamilla, they enlist the help of experts to cover all kinds of topics. Meet the children who travelled to the Galapagos Islands with their scientist dad, the sports scientist who learned how it could help to improve his basketball performance, and explore genetics through dog breeding to discover why dogs look so different. And if you're wonder if it's any good, last year it was the 2019 Gold Award winner of the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award, in the category of Children’s Science News. It's an international prize, so they are definitely doing something right!
Passionate about history? Learn more from Holly and Tracy. Each fortnight they cover a specific topic - they have just released a very topical episode about the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, or maybe you'd like to learn about The Unsinkable Violet Jessop, who survived a number of shipwrecks - including the Titanic! This American podcast also teaches us more about the history of Hallowe'en (it's not how The Simpsons told it!) and the story of French Queen Marie Antoinette. These episodes are quite long at around half an hour, so are probably more suited to listeners in years 5 and 6.
Brought to you by the nice people who make Brains On!, which we mention above, this is a history podcast for the whole family. Here you'll discover the tales behind things you didn't really think had a history. There's some quirky subjects to appeal to even the most reluctant of history students. Who could resist learning about how skateboards were invented, the origin of the sandwich, or the development of emojis? Each episode runs for around 30 minutes and, like Brains On, teams up the presenter with a child co-host. History with a difference.
This presenter dad is joined by seven-year-old Sophie and four-year-old Ellie as they bring exciting tales from long ago - or not-so-long-ago. Discover brave Jack Cornwell, the youngest person to win the Victoria Cross in World War One or, as we have recently come to collectively appreciate the nurses of the NHS, be inspired by the tale of Florence Nightingale, the Lady of the Lamp, and put yourself in the trenches as you learn more about the Christmas truce of 1914. Find out how strong women changed the course of history, and more about the Space Race. We particularly like some of the fascinating soundbites, including an actual recording of Florence Nightingale's voice and a recording from the Moon Landings in 1969.
These fairytales have at their heart extraordinary women, and are designed to inspire girls to have big dreams. Just as enjoyable for boys, each episode tells the story of an inspiring woman, and is told by a modern-day woman who is a pioneer, creator, champion, leader, or warrior! Learn about women such as Kit DesLauriers, the first woman to ski Everest, and American philanthropist Melinda Gates. Based on the best-selling book series written by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, subjects include Katia Krafft, a French volcanologist; Carmen Amaya, 'The Gypsy Queen'; and the Mirabel sisters, who led their country to freedom. A chance to learn more about modern history through the eyes of some fascinating women.
Welcome to the town of Splendid. This West Virginia town would be quite ordinary if it wasn't for the remarkable number of giant bugs, superheroes, detective dogs, racecar driving cats, time travellers and other unusual activity that goes on there. Does it have anything to do with Professor Theo's Mystery Lab? Well possibly, but he doesn't like to share his secrets. He does, however, broadcast a story every week from his university campus base. Each episode lasts between 10 and 15 minutes.
Keen young readers can listen to discussions about the week's book, as well as bonus interviews with authors. It's an American weekly podcast, so you might need to pick and choose books that are available in the UK, but it's an interesting listen and offers some different books for very keen readers to search out. You can even record yourself talking about your own favourite book and email it into the show. Each episode includes a celebrity reader and an interview with the author. The host is award-winning public radio journalist Kitty Felde, and the podcast has won the Literacy in Media Award.
A little less highbrow is this podcast from digital kids radio station Fun Kids. Presenter Bex talks to favourite kids authors, including Tracey Beaker creator Jacqueline Wilson, pop star-turned-writer Tom Fletcher, comedian Julian Clary and school librarian and author Judith Eagel. Bex even gets to chat with former Children's Laureate Michael Rosen. Ideal for keeping up with the latest children's book releases and getting great ideas on what to read next, as well as finding out more about authors and how they are inspired. Might encourage even reluctant readers to pick up a book when they're bored! Each episode lasts around half an hour.
Not strictly one of the educational podcasts as you have to stream it from the BBC website, but it does such a great job of making Shakespeare accessible for younger readers that we felt compelled to include it here. Shakespeare is so tricky to understand, but he wrote some great stories, which even young children can enjoy. A must-hear is Harry Potter's Moaning Myrtle (also known as actress Shirley Henderson) telling the tale of Macbeth, and King Lear, rewritten by Mr Gum author Andy Standton and told by no less than thespian Simon Callow. Each tale is 10 to 15 minutes long, and if you want to extend the learning possibilities, there are suggestions for topics and discussions to follow up after you have listened to the story.
Encouraging critical thinking, this is another idea from those lovely folk at Brains On! This time, they produce a debate show, taking two ideas, smashing them together and battling it out (with words!) to decide which is the best. It's great fun, with topics such as Pizza vs Tacos (Tex Mex is a no-brainer win for us!), Invisibility vs Flying, and Aliens Vs Robots or - most importantly - Cats Vs Dogs. Would-be public speakers can learn to use persuasion, passion and facts to support their own opinions. Youngsters will certainly know more about the art of debate after listening to a few of these podcasts.
Education has come on from the days of learning reading, writing, arithmetic and reciting facts. Educators now recognise that having a growth mindset is vital for kids to get the most out of their education, sports and life in general and achieve their potential. Helping them on this journey is this inspiring podcast, where young listeners can discover growth mindset and how to believe in yourself. They can learn how to be the kids who never gives up, by discovering the inspirational stories of others. For instance, there's hockey sensation Emma from Alberta, Canada, who explains how she used positive self-talk to help her skate her way to victory. Or hear more from Nicole Cardoza, the yoga teacher who learned to train her brain to enjoy each moment as it comes. The chance to learn a skill that will last a lifetime.
Now more than ever, it's really important that we all learn how to feel calm and peaceful and relax. This podcast teaches children more about mindfulness, as Peace Out guides them through relaxing stories, breathing techniques and specially-designed activities. Discover the Birthday cake Breathing Technique, a top to toe relaxation technique and how to complete a grounding technique for the whole family- not just the kids! Make this a regular feature of your lockdown day - whether it helps you all to start off the day feeling calm, or becomes your go-to listen just before bedtime.
Get the kids (and yourself) really thinking with this ethics-based podcast that asks some curly questions that you'll have to work to get your head around. Open up a can of worms with What's the point of school uniform? Should we ban families? or should you become a vampire so you can be immortal? This Australian podcast will really get young students - and their grown-ups - listening and thinking about the rights and wrong of history, modern-day life and society. Don't say we didn't warn you!