Today we’re talking all about how we use audiobooks for kids in our family. I’ve included tips for listening, the apps we use, and some of our favorite first audiobooks for kids.
The most frequent question I’ve gotten in the last few weeks is what audiobooks I use for Lincoln and Adelaide and with so many kids at home, this is such a great time to start audiobooks! We’ve used audiobooks for kids daily for the last few years and have relied on them even more during the last few weeks. Today I’m sharing all about how we listen to audiobooks at our house from where we get them and how we listen along with tips to get your kids started.
How my kids listen to audiobooks
Devices we use to listen to audiobooks:
Fire Tablets: We use Amazon Fire tablets to listen to audiobooks. I disconnect the tablets from the internet once I have loaded the audiobooks so the kids can’t access other material. Amazon Fire tablets do have a full kids setting where you can set time limits for different activities, use parental controls, and a lot more…but, honestly, I haven’t taken the time in the two years that we’ve had them to figure that out. I just loaded Audible and Scribd onto the tablets and help them set up their books.
We have a 32 gig and a 16 gig. One is 8″ display and the other is 7″. I prefer the larger one for watching movies when we are on the go because the volume goes louder (easier for Lincoln to hear in the car) but for audiobooks it really doesn’t make a difference.
Iphone + Ipad: I have both audiobook apps we use on my phone so if we’re in the car I’ll usually just use my phone. In the beginning, before we got Fire tablets, we had an old ipad I used for the kids to listen to things before they fell asleep at night.
Apps we use for listening to audiobooks
Audible: Audible lets you In the beginning (the first year) of listening to audiobooks, my four year old listened to the same book over and over. The repetition is great for comprehension and I didn’t have to listen to it on repeat so I let him choose when he wanted to move on to another book. Because of this I purchased a lot of audiobooks in the beginning. We have a large collection of picture books with corresponding images (basically the get to “watch a book” as the narrator reads it and the picture is shown on the screen) and short chapter books on Audible. We pay for the monthly subscription but I buy most of the kids books without using my monthly credits because they’re much cheaper (I spend the credit on a book for me or a compilation of books).
Scribd: Have you heard of Scribd before? Scribd is like netflix for audiobooks. You can listen to many different titles during the month but once you stop paying the monthly subscription, you no longer have access to any books. I’ve been using it for about a year for myself but just started using it for the kids in the last few months.
Overdrive/ Libby app: Most libraries have an audio library you can access through Overdrive or Libby (Libby is the updated more user friendly version so download that). I use this for adult audiobooks all the time but I haven’t used it for the kids.
Hoopla: Some libraries give you access to this digital library.
When my kids listen to audiobooks
Quiet time: Each day we do quiet time after lunch for 1.5 – 2 hrs. When they’re 2-3 years old they usually play for awhile and then fall asleep. As they transition out of napping, they playtime lasts the entire quiet time. Audiobooks have been super helpful in allowing my kids to stop play and take a nap when they’re tired because they can still listen to something while they drift off. Even now, I will sometimes find my five year old just lying on the couch listening to his book after a tiring morning. Usually though, both kids have an activity or two set up (a bin of magnatiles, some coloring books and crayons, a marble run) and we pick a book together to turn on before I leave them for their independent play.
Bedtime: After I tuck the kids into bed I turn on an audiobook and they fall asleep listening. They know that if they get out of bed for something other than going to the bathroom they lose their audiobook privilege for the night so it has made bedtime SO much smoother in our house. It helps them wind down at the end of the day and we all love having this part of the routine.
In the car: On longer car rides we will also do audiobooks but usually then I’ll just put in on the car speakers through the Audible or Scribd app on my phone.
Tips for getting kids started with audiobooks
- Give your kids something to do with their hands while they listen. This might mean putting on a book while they’re coloring at the kitchen table, building with blocks in the living room, or playing with dolls in their room.
- Pick a story they’re familiar with or give them an overview: Adelaide LOVES the Disney princess audiobooks which tell the same stories she already knows. Having it be something they’re familiar with helps them follow along with the story. If you’re trying a new book, give them a one minute overview of the story to help their mind create a framework (and listening to the book will fill in the details).
- Make it fun, make it casual: Audiobooks are no-pressure! Don’t ask them a million questions about what they’re reading (but do show an interest if they want to talk about it). Don’t act disappointed if they don’t fall in love with the book right away.
- Pretend it’s for you. I can’t tell you how many times Lincoln has told me he didn’t want to start a new audiobook and later that he “HATED” a book I put on in the car. I started telling him it wasn’t for him, it was for me – he could listen if he wanted to but it was just a book I wanted to read. Fifteen minutes in he was in love with stories from Roald Dahl and Beverly Clearly he refused to try by himself.
My kids favorite Audiobooks
Lincoln’s favorites (from ages 4-5)
- Three Tales of My Fathers Dragon Trilogy by Ruth Styles Gannet (a great first read-aloud chapter book set)
- Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (Adelaide, age 3, loves these, too)
- The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne (Adelaide, age 3, loves these, too – if you buy these on audible, look for the sets of multiple books for a better deal)
- The Merlin Missions Series by Mary Pope Osborne
- Ralph The Mouse by Beverly Cleary (our second chapter book series after My Fathers Dragon)
- Henry Huggins Series by Beverly Cleary (disclaimer: I don’t love some of the things the elementary school boys say this series – “no girls allowed” “girls are stupid” but Lincoln LOVES this one).
- Ramona Quibly Series by Beverly Cleary
- James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (This Roald Dahl audio collection is great but the stories are abridged)
Favorite First Audiobooks
- StoryParty from Audible: These are great for younger listeners or kids just starting out with audiobooks because the stories are shorter and require less of an attention span (which develops as kids get used to listening). Each chapter is a collection of stories based on a single theme. I love them because the kids can listen to short stories without me having to come in and start a new book every 2-5 minutes for them.
- Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon: I read lots and lots of lists when I was looking for the first chapter book to read aloud / listen aloud to with Lincoln and this one showed up again and again. Lincoln listened to this almost all the way through every day for 3-4 months. He LOVED it.
- Scripture Scouts: I grew up listening to these short audio episodes that follow a group of friends as they explore + act out stories from the scriptures. The same producers do this non-religious values based program that I’ve hard wonderful things about, too. These are a great intro to the world of audiobooks because they are filled with songs and a cast of characters which act as a great transition from listening to music to audiobooks.
- Disney Princess Collection: If you have a princess lover, these classic Disney stories have great reviews (50% off right now – under $8) and Adelaide LOVES this bedtime + adventure version. They’re great for getting started with audiobooks because the stories are shorter, easy to follow (but full of description), and include characters your child is likely already familiar with.
Like this? You might also be interested in:
- How to start quiet time with your toddler
- My favorite adult reads of 2019 (all of which I listened to as audiobooks)
- 6 Ways to host a virtual playdate