Have you seen those Swag Wagon™ commercials? Oh wait, of course you have. For a while there they couldn’t be escaped, and they were indeed mildly amusing. I say “mildly”, because the premise that minivans can actually be cool is not a huge shocker for me. Minivans are awesome. They are functional, they are easy to drive, they won’t topple over when there are high winds on the freeway, and most importantly, your kids can safely be seated far away from you.
Unfortunately, even when they are all the way back in the third row, you are still going to hear them. Especially if your Swag Wagon™ is not Swagged out with DVD or video game players, like ours (the SwagishWagon™?).
Buying entertainment for them can quickly get expensive. This last weekend things got so desperate in the Swagish Wagon™ that I found myself running into a coffee shop with Wifi in order to download $30.00 of children’s audiobooks, while my husband ducked flying feces in the minivan. Just kidding! (The flying feces was from another time.) DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU.
But with a little preparation, there’s no need to spend any money in order to entertain your kids on your next car trip. And I’m not talking about the old tried and true methods of junky snacks and endless “I Spying”. The following options won’t fuel the obesity epidemic, and allow for moments of thoughtful conversation or mutually silent contemplation up in the front. Just make sure the speakers are on only in the back!
1. Molly and the Sugar Monster
This free podcast chronicles the adventures of the Sugar Monster and his adorable foil, Molly. Each episode is quite short, but they are funny enough that kids will want to listen to them over and over again.
2. Elmo’s Adventures in Spending, Saving, and Sharing
In this series of short podcasts, Elmo learns about financial responsibility through conversations with his father. (Note to Wall Street). Elmo is his charming self, and kids will learn about ATMs, debit cards, and most importantly, the concept of “value”.
3. Pinky Dinky Doo
Pinky’s got a story, she knows just what to do! If your kids have seen the PBS cartoon series, then you are as familiar as you ever wanted to be with Pinky, her little brother, and their rock star guinea pig. Although this series was originally designed as a video, it translates well to a podcast. Each episode is about 10 minutes long and introduces a new vocabulary word. Pinky Dinky Doo can be blamed for the following conversation between my husband and our three-year old:
Three-year old: Daddy, did you have ice cream for dessert?
Three-year old: I did too! Isn’t that a cacophony?
Husband: Do you mean coincidence?
Three-year old: Yeah, a cacophony is when it’s raining cats and dogs and they are making a lot of noise.
4. Keith M. Bower’s Free Stories for Children
This series of free fairy tales are well-narrated familiar stories such as Hansel and Gretel or Jack and the Beanstalk. The narrator has a nice, expressive voice, although they may have been recorded in a closet somewhere as the audio is not perfect. A note of warning, however. While the first 3 podcasts on this list are great for kids 8 and under, these are not sanitized or modernized versions of fairy tales. The o.g. versions contain some scary stuff, with parental abandonment, murder, starvation, etc…. Older kids will love how gruesome they are, but stick to Elmo or the Sugar Monster for the youngest kids.
5. Free Audiobooks from your Local Library
In addition to the audiobooks on CD that libraries have in their collections, many are now offering digital audiobooks that can be downloaded over the internet. My library has hundreds of available audiobooks- may sure to check yours for information!
What are your favorite free family podcasts?