Since I started my Instagram page at the end of July, the questions I get most often are related to how to use audiobooks with kids– when did we start, how do my kids listen, what books have they enjoyed, etc. So, at long last, here are answers to the questions I most frequently get about how our family does audiobooks!
When were your girls ready for audiobooks?
We started using audiobooks with the girls consistently about a year ago, when our oldest was about 4.5 years old and our youngest was a little over 2. At the time, I downloaded our first kids’ audiobooks for our oldest daughter so that she could listen to stories during her quiet time. She quickly asked to listen in the car, and my youngest got hooked too! Last summer, we started to play our audiobooks sometimes when we were just hanging out around the house, doing art projects or having snacks. Now, audiobooks are a regular part of both of my girls’ lives!
What books did we start with?
The first book I downloaded for our 4.5-year-old was Mrs. Pigglewiggle by Betty MacDonald. I wanted something long enough to occupy her for a whole quiet time and thought that she was ready for a longer story, especially if she was building with magnetic blocks or legos, coloring, or playing with her dollhouse. We moved quickly through Mrs. Pigglewiggle and onto Charlotte’s Web (this is actually read by E. B. White– so cool!).
Listening to longer stories wasn’t nearly as fun for me or our 2-year-old in the car, though, as having the story broken up so much (or missing parts that our older daughter listened to during quiet time) made it harder to sustain attention. So, we bought a bunch of shorter books (or longer books with shorter stories instead of related chapters) last January during a big Audible sale. Some of the biggest hits then were:
- books from the Frog and Toad collection, narrated by Arnold Lobel himself– Frog and Toad All Year, Days with Frog and Toad, Frog and Toad are Friends, and Frog and Toad Together have all been huge hits.
- books from the Mercy Watson collection, narrated by Ron McLarty– we now have the first 5 stories and love them all!
- James Herriot’s Treasury for Children, narrated by Jim Dale– though this is one longer book, each chapter is a separate story, so perfect for shorter attention spans or shorter car rides. And Jim Dale is SO good!
Each Mercy Watson and Frog and Toad book runs about 20 minutes, whereas the James Herriot stories are about 10 minutes each. Those are usually perfect for most of our car rides!
Where do we get our audiobooks?
For the most part, we get all of our audiobooks through Audible.* We’ll frequently grab one from the library when we notice a good one available, but my girls like to listen to them over and over (and over) again… So owning them it is! My husband and I both have the Audible app on our phones, and we have an extra iPad that lives high on a shelf in our 5.5-year-old’s room that serves as an Audible player. With an Audible membership, you get one “free” download each month, so I try to look at my wishlist and use that download to get the biggest bang for our buck (like the time we downloaded ALL of the Ramona stories for one credit). Additionally, I watch closely for sales– Audible often has children’s books for just $1 or $2.
However, I do really like the audiobook “kits” that you can find at most public libraries. Now that my oldest is starting to read independently, she also loves that those have the page turn signals, so that she can read along with the stories.
When do we listen to audiobooks?
Most of the listening we do is in the car or during quiet time. My girls ask for audiobooks almost every time we’re in the car (except when they ask for showtunes, which are another favorite for us). Sometimes it drives me crazy because we skip through stories a lot, or I miss important parts of the story when they listen on their own during a quiet time (there is a good chunk of Tumtum and Nutmeg that I just can’t seem to ever hear, no matter how often we listen), but I’m working on getting over that. A few times a week, the girls will bring the “audiobook iPad” to our main room so that they can listen while they eat snack, play, or craft.
My oldest listens to audiobooks EVERY SINGLE quiet time. She also likes to listen to them as she falls asleep at night, after we read stories with her. Fortunately, Audible has a sleep timer setting, so when she’s falling asleep at night, she can choose to listen for either 8 minutes or 15 minutes (spoiler alert– she always chooses 15…).
What are some of our favorite stories?
The Ramona Quimby Audio Collection, narrated by Stockard Channing– I used one of my Audible credits for this one, and it was well worth it. It has every Ramona story all in one collection!
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children, narrated by Jim Dale– this is the sweetest collection of gentle animal stories, written by Herriot about his days as a country veterinarian.
The Mercy Watson series, narrated by Ron McLarty
The Frog and Toad series, narrated by Arnold Lobel– we have listened to these so many times that even my 3-year-old can recite them all word-for-word, and my 5.5-year-old even has the copyright information memorized!
Little House in the Big Woods, narrated by Cherry Jones– this one is also slightly pricier, so use your credit or wait for a sale!
Winnie-the-Pooh, narrated by Peter Dennis– his voices make my girls giggle every time!
Charlotte’s Web, narrated by E. B. White– admittedly his storytelling isn’t the most engaging to me, but my girls actually enjoyed learning about how he wrote the story himself and don’t seem to mind the lack of voices.
Tumtum and Nutmeg, narrated by Bill Wallis
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, narrated by Karen White
How do we handle questions while listening to stories?
Generally, our audiobook time is simply for pleasure, meaning I don’t often stop to ask the girls questions or see how closely they’re listening. We do enough in-person read-alouds in our house for those conversations (and I still try to limit those parent-led conversations to about half the time, so that they can just sit back and enjoy the story the majority of the time). I will, however, pause the story if we’re in the car and I have a big reaction to what we’ve heard that I genuinely want to share with the girls.
Since a good amount of the audiobook listening my girls do is without me (such as during a quiet time), they honestly don’t ask too many questions, either. If we’re listening together and they have a question, then I’ll definitely stop the story to answer.
I hope you found this information helpful. Do you use audiobooks with your children? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks? If not, please comment or shoot me a message if you have any questions that I haven’t answered!
*This post isn’t sponsored by Audible. We have just found that it works for us, so I wanted to share how we use it. Audible is currently running a membership deal— only $6.95 a month for the first 3 months! Just click here to find that deal (no affiliate link here… I just wanted you to know about it!). The deal is available until December 31, 2018, so act quickly!