(Updated on April 4, 2022, to include family-friendly podcasts beyond the author’s original list.)
Nothing can replace the age-old ritual of sitting together with a physical book. But family-friendly podcasts offer the chance for children to engage in an infinite universe of stories, topics, music, voices, and cultures. (Just like they do for us grown ups.)
Early introduction to podcasts is key in managing screen time. Family-friendly podcasts give your child all the learning and entertainment without the dry eyes, bad posture, lack of physical activity, and possible screen time addiction.
My family listens to podcasts on long car rides. We listen over meals to ease us into conversation that goes beyond “how was your day,” and during hair detangling sessions. Family-friendly podcasts are the soundtrack to our art making and morning play, and frequently usher us into sleep.
As a Black parent, educational and family-friendly podcasts for kids also provide an alternate source of content to introduce, accompany, and reinforce cultural values. Though not every entry on this list of family-friendly podcasts for kids was created and hosted by Black creators, they all regularly feature Black stories and Black voices. Some put our stories in a global context. And others spotlight essential content for Black families in these times, like mindfulness and social justice.
1. African Folktales Podcast With Makafui
In African Folktales Podcast, host Makafui recounts the origins of African folktales in a simple and soothing way. The first episode explains how Anansi the spider got stories from the sky, and the pantheon of traditional tales blooms out from there. Makafui provides a foundation in African Folktales simple enough for children ages 5 and over.
My 7 year old loves the music, the character analysis, and the proverb of the week, where Makafui delves into the subtext and cultural context of the stories. (Or as she put it, “I love that he tells a story about the story.”) Once the kids settled into the music of Makafui’s cadence, they couldn’t get enough of this family-friendly podcast.
2. Mbaganire: An African Folktales Podcast
Mbaganire: An African Folktales Podcast doesn’t soften what could be sensitive topics, like death, so this podcast is most appropriate for children 8+. Ugandan host Patience Nitumwesiga begins each story with a call of “Mbaganire!”—meaning Let me tell you a story!—to which the children respond in the affirmative, “Tebere!”
Though most of the stories are in English, the preservation and transmission of folktales from around the continent is Patience’s main priority—songs are sung beautifully in each story’s original dialect. She often invites friends into lively discussion at the story’s end, providing delicious grist for your own conversations on nature, gender, and tradition.
3. Stoop Kids Stories
Join host Mel Victor for Stoop Kids Stories, a weekly podcast full of stories of trust, community, and curly hair. Stoop Kids features a rotating cast of seven school-aged characters, creating a diverse and familiar crew of protagonists for light and fun— but also very realistic—stories. It touches on topics that all children will find pressing, such as braces, bullying, spelling bees, even first pimples!
“Your bestie Melly” doesn’t only write and narrate each episode, she choreographs dance challenges for kids on social media and raps the intro. Mel is an absolutely magnetic presence and a family favorite. It’s perfect for children ages 5 and over.
4. So Get Me by Alphabet Rockers
If you don’t know the Alphabet Rockers, they are a Grammy-nominated, Oakland-based, multicultural music collective who makes a very special brand of “woke literacy” hip hop. Their podcast takes a conversational format, featuring interviews with “real kids making real change in their lives and community.”
Kids talk about everything from being transgender and use of pronouns to Black Girl Magic and activism. In the first episode, a 10 year old talks about her experience leading a protest. The kids’ takes on issues important to them are so rich and significant, that the Alphabet Rockers’ stellar music becomes an added bonus. This is a great podcast for older, tween-age children.
5. Flyest Fables
A young underdog, a princess, and New Orleans as a background…what more could you need? These layered, winding tales are best for children aged 8+, but the lilting Southern accent, copious magic, and singing set the perfect tone for bedtime at any age.
Morgan Givens is a talented, prolific writer, storyteller, and associate producer at NPR, who uses sound—birds, wind, footsteps, and song—”to immerse” young listeners in the story. Flyest Fables are modern folktales for the modern child.
6. Like You: Mindfulness for Kids
Like You is a children’s podcast hosted and narrated by Noah Glenn. (He regularly collaborates with Black contributors, Mia Saine and Eso Tolson.) Accessible for children as young as 3, these short-and-sweet episodes are focused on helping children build strategies and techniques for managing emotions and relaxation.
Like You is at its best when offering breathing and meditation exercises. These exercises use the natural world to engage children’s imaginations. Children are invited to “hibernate like a bear,” “imagine a sunset,” or “grow like a wildflower.”
This podcast for kids is a great foundation for parents who are new to mindfulness. (or who have with children living with anxiety. This world can be stressful, especially for our children. Learning mindfulness techniques early is so important. Like You makes it simple and fun.
7. NPR’s Circle Round
Hosted by mom and journalist, Rebecca Sheir, Circle Round is another ageless family favorite. Rebecca adapts stories from around the world, and enlists celebrities to voice them.
Our favorite episode, “Cow Wells and Cow Bells,” is based on an East African folktale. In it Emmy Award winner Billy Porter voices a man who tries to grift a passerby out of his camels. This educational podcast for kids points out how some folktales have roots in multiple regions. It gives children (and those of us listening with them!) a lesson in how cultures connect.
8. Afro Hair Kids Story Time and Positive Affirmations
Of all the family-friendly podcasts on this list, Afro Hair Kids is the most no frills. The story is the star here. Host Melissa Blake is Black and British; her crisp diction introduces children to the English language in its global context. Just listening to her reading stories, poems, and affirmations by writers of African descent is soothing in its simplicity. And it’s this simplicity that makes it a suitable podcast for all ages.
9. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls tells stories from the popular series of books of the same name. This podcast for kids features stories of women throughout the history of the world who’ve done great things, told by women who are doing great things. It is a rich treasure chest of global tales for children ages 7 and over.
Rebel Girls does a great job of introducing listeners to important stories in a comprehensive way. One of my family’s favorite episodes tells the story of Queen Nanny, a woman stolen from modern day Ghana who went on to escape slavery and lead Maroon communities in the mountains and jungles of Jamaica. Nigerian activist and playwright Funmilola Fagamila narrates her story, and the episode is preceded by a bonus “get to know you” episode about Fagamila herself.
10. I Love Story Time
Host Gahmya Drummond Bey is an internationally recognised educator, author, TED speaker, and global curriculum designer. On I Love Story Time, Bey reads from classics old and new, like Green Eggs and Ham and Jazz Jennings’ I Am Jazz, primarily to children discovering letters and literacy (ages 4 and up).
11. Hey Black Child: The Podcast
Hey Black Child: The Podcast features the stories of “lesser known African-American heroes from the past and present,” voiced mostly by the children of the Ausmer Family, Avery and Jackson.
The Ausmers talk about everything from voting to “the truth about Thanksgiving” to a very cool episode about race, kids, and banking. This podcast is full of conversation starters for your family, especially for children ages 7 and up.
12. Black Worldschoolers Storytime Hotline
While not technically a podcast, the opportunity to access stories beyond the ones in your home library is what makes Black Worldschoolers Storytime Hotline an important addition to this list. Created by Natalie Pipkin (of Black Worldschoolers on Instagram), this hotline features a different book each week by a Black author, with volunteer narrators. (Sometimes, the author IS the narrator!) Sharing stories of Black culture, joy, and liberation go hand-in-hand with accessibility here, as the hotline runs 24/7 on 1-844-950-1811, a toll-free number.
13. Akili and Me
Akili and Me is a fun, colorful African podcast aimed at helping children learn English, but can be repurposed for children (ages 2 and up) of any mother tongue. Through story and song, children learn numbers, letters, and new words, with the help of little Akili and her animal friends.
14. Henry’s Library
Let your children join Henry, a 5-year-old Black boy, and his friendly pets on a magical journey as they follow their curiosity and ask questions about STEM subjects like medicine and physics.
This podcast is an offshoot of What Is Black, a parenting podcast that talks about how to go about rearing healthy and flourishing Black children.