This might sound like a load of hipster garbage, but trust me on this one: get your kid into podcasts. No, I'm not suggesting that your kindergartener start listening to Serial or anything like that. We're well into the 21st century, and just like all other forms of media, there are plenty of shows geared directly towards children. And now, even that old pediatrician's waiting room mainstay, Highlights magazine, has a new podcast for kids. Highlights Hangout is the product of a partnership between the 72-year-old magazine and Tinkercast, the creators of the hit NPR podcast Wow in the World. It's all of the same stories, characters, puzzles, and jokes parents will remember fondly, but in a new, modern format.
Why do kids need to listen to podcasts? Because it makes parents' lives so much easier. Oh, and kids actually enjoy them, too. I guess that's important, too. But trust a mom who speaks from experience: this is a game changer. When your kid can't imagine going another moment without screen time, because all of their books and toys (and the outside world in general) are just too boring, pop on a pair of headphones and let them listen to a podcast. It's just as entertaining as TV, but it won't turn them into a zombie. Even better, most of them are actually educational — just don't tell the kids.
Children's podcasts are also great to listen to as a family. If you have a slow eater, and conversations during family dinners mean they won't clean their plate before bedtime, let somebody else do most of the talking, then discuss it together over dessert. And anyone who's driven more than, say, 10 miles with a child in the car knows that road trip entertainment is a must. Reading makes them carsick, and you'll be damned if you're going to listen to Kidz Bop, am I right? Podcasts will keep them from going stir crazy in the backseat, and you'd be surprised how much you'll enjoy them, yourself, as well as the thoughtful conversations they spark.
Highlights Hangout, which premiered in June, premieres one 20-25 minute episode on the first Monday of each month. It's hosted by Juanita Andersen, who has a background in educational children's theater, and Tim Kubart, the 2016 Grammy Award winner for Best Children's Album who you might remember as the host of Sprout's preschool morning show Sunny Side Up. The podcast features new takes on all the magazine's classic features, like "Goofus and Gallant" (tag yourself; I'm Goofus all the way) and "The Hidden Sound Game," an audio version of "Hidden Pictures" that encourages listeners to pay close attention throughout the show to spot all the hidden sounds.
"Ask Arizona" invites listeners to send in their requests for advice, and kids can also send in jokes, tongue twisters, poems, just like the magazine, through the podcast's "HangMail" portal, or by calling 888-5-HANGOUT. Wow in the World listeners will be happy to hear the familiar voices of Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz, who stop by at the end of each episode to answer science-related questions submitted by real kids, before the show closes with a riddle kids can try to solve before the answer is revealed the following month.
While most kids' podcasts have a narrow focus, such as super heroes, fairy tales, or science (there are so many science ones, and that is not a complaint) Highlights Hangout follows a typical magazine format in that it covers a variety of topics. The first three episodes offer lessons in such diverse subjects as surfing, meteor showers, hiccups, lobsters, and how to navigate a party when you don't know any of the guests. You can access all of them through Stitcher, iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. The next episode premieres Monday, Sept 3, and after binging the first three, my kid can't wait.