As I woke up New Year’s day and made pancakes to the sweet sounds of NPR, I realized how much I really like radio. But with radio dying, I’ve started making my way over to podcasts which let you filter exactly what you want, when you want it, often for free. With parents being the master multi-taskers, it’s nice to have some options for listening while you’re driving or working or doing other stuff, so here I’ve put together some of the very best podcasts for parents on iTunes.
But really, you don’t have to have kids to love them.
For Rewriting History: Stuff You Missed in History Class by How Stuff Works
While we’re all slowly but surely learning that Christopher Columbus wasn’t the upstanding guy we thought he was, and the Pilgrims and Wampanoag were hardly best friends, this podcast from by How Stuff Works continues to enlighten. Learn about the fascinating story of Satchel Paige, how Disney’s Haunted Mansion was built, how Pluto was discovered, and why the Boston Massacre really wasn’t one at all.
For Keeping the Kids Entertained in the Car: StoryNory
We recommended StoryNory audio books years ago, should you need a break from kids’ music. Now it’s a super popular podcast on iTunes, with one new, beautifully narrated children’s story each week. There are titles you know, like the entire long version of Pinocchio, plus original stories, myths, fairy tales, and adventure stories from all over the world. Really terrific for kids of all ages.
For Raising Smarter Kids: TED Talks Kids and Family
While this is a video podcast, like the rest of the TED talks podcasts, many segments make for great listening too. Some of the topics are about parenting (like Steven Leavitt discussing the limited value of car seats versus seat belts) but there are plenty you’ll want to share with the kids. Don’t expect chirpy cartoon-style narrators; these are actual talks curated from TED and TED X. Find poet Shayne Coyczan’s captivating spoken word piece on bullying, Jane Goodall on what separates humans from chimpanzees, inventor Jay Silver discussing the invention of MaKey, and David Byrne and Thomas Dolby (be still my 80’s heart) playing Nothing But Flowers.
One negative: Our publisher Kristen Chase’s TED X talk about the start of Cool Mom Picks and mothers reinventing needs to be in here!
For Great Storytelling: The Moth
This is a compendium of the best of The Moth, the popular live reading series comprised of true stories all recounted to live crowds without notes. From popular restaurateur David Chang (above) to a retired felon, to a speechwriter tasked with “making Al Gore funny,” the stories are compelling, with the added excitement of knowing this person is live on stage with only a microphone. This is definitely one for adults, not the kids, though older tweens and teens will probably appreciate a lot of the topics if you screen them first.
For Writing Smarter. Or More Smartly. Or uh…Better: Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
We’re grammar nerds around here to varying degrees, but that in no way means we always get everything right. Whether you’re behind a screen typing all day like I am, need to help the kids with their English homework, or just prefer posting Facebook updates that make use of actual punctuation and words found in dictionaries (no, UR is not a word), Mignon Fogarty’s podcast based on her popular column will definitely help.
For entertainment of the non-salacious variety: This American Life (free)
Though an obvious choice, we couldn’t leave out the number one US podcast, which earned its spot for good reason–this NPR staple program features fascinating human interest stories with a heavy dose of edge, intellectualism, and humor. It’s something you can listen to with your kids in the room, without worrying about newscasters breaking in with updates about awful things. We heart you, Ira Glass.
For Always Having Something to Say at a Cocktail Party: Freakonomics Radio
I hear from so many parents that leave the workforce that they feel limited in what they can talk about with friends when they’re away from their kids. So let’s work on that? From the authors of one of my favorite, most quotable books, the Freakonomics podcast shakes down stereotypes, takes on conventional wisdom, inspires you, infuriates you–and does it all with facts, not bloated talk-radio hyperbole. Man, I love it.