Using Podcasts to Boost Learning for Kids with ADHD

Plenty of students struggle to pay attention in classrooms.  But children with ADHD struggle to focus, process information quickly, and translate information into learning and understanding.  At times, traditional classroom teaching methods fall short for kids with ADHD. Fortunately, today there are a many tools and techniques available to supplement classroom teaching for kids with a variety of learning styles. Many of these tools embrace a multi-sensory approach, where kids engage with new material not just visually but also through their other senses of hearing, touch, and sometimes even taste and smell.

For kids with ADHD who are auditory learners, Podcasts are a highly accessible and often underutilized resource when it comes to alternative methods of learning new information. Before I share some of my favorite podcasts, here’s a little more information about what makes them so great for supplementing learning for kids with ADHD (and kids without ADHD!):

  • Enhanced learning. Engaging hosts, dynamic storytelling, fascinating topics, and connecting big concepts with everyday life are just some of the reasons that the podcast format connects so well with kids and helps them focus and retain detailed information. On top of this, podcasts are often short. They pack a lot of information and entertainment into a snack size format that is just the right length for a child who struggles to pay attention for long periods of time.
  • Reduced screen time. Parents are often encouraged to limit their kids screen time (I’ve written a few posts about why this is so important for kids with ADHD. But the inevitable question from parents is: if I remove screen time, what’s the alternative? Well, audio podcasts are a great alternative! They offer an engaging experience without a screen.
  • They can go anywhere. Have player, will travel. You can play podcasts in the car, on the bus, on your phone – any place that you have an audio player (and some headphones).
  • They cost nothing. Unlike audiobooks, podcasts are often free and sometimes they are even more interesting to kids than an audiobook.

Today there is a growing catalog of kid-focused podcasts available, with something that every child with find interesting. Figuring out which podcasts are best can take some time, so here’s a list of some of my favorites to get you started:

  • But Why? A Podcast for Curious Kids tackles questions like “Why do leaves change color?” or “Who invented words?” Topics are submitted by kids (using the voice feature on your phone), making the podcast responsive and engaging. Try asking the “Buy Why?” team about challenging topics in science and math to help your child grasp abstract or confusing topics.
  • The Past and The Curious. Comedic performances help make history come alive in this highly entertaining podcast. In addition to the terrific storytelling, the producers are working on a companion graphic book that should be fun for kids.
  • Tumble: Science Podcast for Kids. In each episode, science is brought to life through extremely engaging storytelling.  The producers have a strong belief that science is not something that is simply something that you do or memorize, but instead is a process that is comprised of mistakes, false starts, failed experiments and learning and that builds on itself over time. This process is what drives the storytelling and educational material in this podcast, making the underlying message highly compelling to kids –  especially those who have struggled and failed and need encouragement to keep trying.
  • Brains On! A different science lesson is tackled in each episode, allowing you to find at least one that fits your child’s interests. To the delight of many children, there are also some non-classroom science topics (ahem…The History of Boogers and Farts!). Just the kind of highly entertaining, yet educational, material that will get even the most skeptical child hooked on science podcasts.
  • Stuff You Should Know. Sometimes better for teens than younger children, this podcast explains the ins-and-outs of historical moments or key concepts in math and science.  You’ll find topics like, “What is an invasive species?”, “The Gettysburg Address: Short and Sweet” or “The Great Wall of China,” to name a few.
  • The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd. At first you might think this podcast is all fun, as Dr. Floyd tries to overcome a wide cast of nemesis.  But in order to win, Dr. Floyd has to learn about history – and so too will your child.  Super hero meets history in this podcast!
  • Wow in The World. Produced by NPR, this show is all about fascinating facts from around the world and is focused on space, science and technology.

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