Sooner or later, it’s going to happen.
You’re going to be stuck in the car with your beloved family or friends for an inordinate amount of time. Maybe it will be for the trip you always wanted to take to Walt Disney World Resort (hello, 20-hour drive!) or a shorter jaunt to Amish Country or Niagara Falls.
Whatever the trip, you’re going to need something that can keep everyone happy (and occupied) for an hour. Or two. Or – shudder – 20.
To help you out, we’ve rounded up some family-friendly and general-interest podcasts that should help smooth out any long ride, no matter who calls shotgun, hogs the snacks or takes up way too much room in the back seat.
This science podcast is for both kids and curious adults. Each episode answers a question or looks at a particular topic through a child’s eyes. Molly Bloom hosts, with a different kid each episode co-hosting and various experts chiming in.
Check out “Narwhals: Unicorns of the Sea?” for a good introduction. During it, you’ll learn that only males have the trademark “horn” – it’s really a tusk! – and that they grow in size over time.
The shows have delved into topics like roller coaster designs, the science behind Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” how electricity reaches your outlets, and mystery sounds galore. Everyone – not just the kiddos – will have fun deciphering the various sounds. Hint: They’re never what you think they are!
Episodes are just short enough to keep kids’ attention – podcasts range from 4 to 60 minutes.
Chances are you’ve heard a TED Talk or two. During these short talks – usually less than 18 minutes long – you can learn about everything from AI to the power of introverts to zoology from leading experts in the field.
TED Talks Daily podcasts take these informative video talks and distills them into an audio format. You can find a talk on almost every conceivable subject, from the morals of driverless cars to digital photo archeology to what it’s like to see the Earth from space.
Third-grader Eva Karpman hosts this short podcast aimed at inspiring kids – and their adults – to pursue their passions. Sometimes her mom Olga joins in, too. Each episode is between 20 to 30 minutes long, just perfect for keeping a young one’s attention.
Recent episodes have found Eva talking to Melissa Hartwig, a sports nutritionist behind the Whole 30 food craze; one-handed concert pianist Nicholas McCarthy; and Joe De Sena, who founded the Spartan Race.
Anyone who’s heard “This American Life” knows it’s a special brand of radio show – and luckily for us – podcast. The first episode I ever heard was “House on Loon Lake.” I was in my car running errands, when suddenly I found myself in the middle of the podcast and absolutely unwilling to leave the radio, straining to learn more about the abandoned house and the gang of kids who discovered it. I sat in driveway and listened to the rest of the show for 20 minutes.
The show is that good. Host Ira Glass and his cohorts examine a different theme each week. It’s essential, gripping storytelling that’s extremely hard to explain. But it’s intoxicating and addictive. Most are suitable for all audiences, but you may want to listen to one you’re interested in beforehand to make sure it’s OK for younger listeners. (The website has episodes divided into topics like “Stories Kids Seem to Like,” “Funny Stories” and “Award Winners” to help you choose.)
But be warned: This show has been on the air since 1995, and has hundreds of episodes in its archives. Happy listening!
Anyone who thinks kids (and adults!) spend way too much time on their screens today will appreciate this biweekly podcast where host Kitty Felde chats about middle-grade books, or books that are aimed at readers ages 8-12.
Each episode is 20-minutes long, and discusses all genres, including the classics, not just the teenage vampire pulp that seems to invade the publishing world every few years or so. And the kids are the stars here – discussing what they like and don’t like about books, and asking questions of various authors.
Recent episodes have found children excitedly chatting about Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach,” Dave Barry’s “The Worst Class Trip Ever” and Kwame Alexander’s “The Crossover.”
If you love silly science, you’ll love this podcast from hosts Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas. I mean, really, how can you not like any podcast where the host imagines pouring pancake batter into a 3-D printer for some quick and easy flapjacks?
Equally silly episodes explore the science of doggo sniffers, the organizational habits of squirrels and the brain-boosting effects of recess.
Most episodes hit the 20-minute mark, just perfect for playing a bunch during a really, really long car ride.