Introducing audiobooks to your kids

One of the questions I get asked most: “how do I get my kids to start listening to audiobooks?”

Audiobooks have seriously been a lifesaver for us. I would likely turn to screen time a lot more if we didn’t have them and I’m sure we’d have more meltdowns without them.
I got the idea to start using audiobooks when we were on a looooong road trip. I didn’t want to offer the kids the iPad the whole way but they needed something. Big was about 2.5 years old at the time, Bug around 14 months. The first audiobook I purchased was one that we already had the physical book for and we’d read out loud with the kids a lot. It was so fun to watch their reactions as we turned the book on over the truck’s audio system and they figured out it was the same story they’d heard many times before.

Download Audible and Spotify

Audible and Spotify are the two apps that I use to listen to audiobooks. I pay a monthly subscription for both it’s totally worth it for us. Just be aware if you’re downloading Audible, that you sign up for the right one. For example, audible.com is American and audible.ca is Canadian. If you register through the American one but you live in Canada, you’ll have a tricky time pairing your app. Audible is also tricky because you can only purchase books from their website (in my case Audible.ca) but I listen to the books on their app. You can save books to your wishlist on the app, but you’re not able to purchase. With Spotify, it’s technically free (unless you pay for the Premium version like I have) but there are wayyyy less books available. The best luck I’ve had with Spotify is the Disney stories and Robert Munsch books.

Old iPhone and a Bluetooth speaker

The kids often listen to the audiobooks on an old iPhone or a Bluetooth speaker. The old iPhone I keep in the kids’ room and Audible is the only app on it. The battery life on the phone is terrible so I always have it hooked up to a cord and plugged in. I keep it out of the kids’ reach and they know they’re not allowed to touch it. We also have a Bluetooth speaker that I pair with my phone, I’ll move it into whatever room the kids are listening in.

Age

I don’t think it really matters what age your kids are. Mine were 2.5 and 1.5-ish but I think there’s no harm in starting younger or older. Just know their age will likely determine their engagement. A one year old will likely be happy to have an audiobook on in the background while doing other things. A 3 year old may be more likely to sit and flip through a book while listening to the audio version.

A familiar story

I’ve continued with the same strategy as the first time I had them listen to an audiobook. I buy the audio version of books the kids already have. This way they recognize the story right away and are more likely to be engaged. Often before I even buy a new physical book I look up if the book also has an audio version. This way I have the option of purchasing the audio later.

Where to listen

I think starting audiobooks while in the car is an awesome way to introduce them. Since there’s little for a kiddo to do in the car anyway, they may be more likely to enjoy them in the car without much pressure from you. Speaking of pressure, if your kids aren’t into them right away, don’t sweat! Remember it takes time to get into anything new. I also really love listening to audiobooks when I don’t have the energy to read a book to them myself, but I want the connecting time with my kids. So we’ll curl up on the couch with the book and let the audio do the talking (and I just have to flip the pages!!).

When to listen

Once the kids are used to listening to audiobooks, I find it helps to start adding them into your day at the same time every day. For instance with us, every morning while the kids eat breakfast we listen to two Winnie the Pooh stories on Spotify. The kids love it. We used to listen to music but then the kiddos would stand up and start dancing instead of eating, hahah. I also find it helpful to our daily rhythm to listen to the same stories. In the afternoon when the kids are getting tired and dinner isn’t ready yet, I’ll often turn on an audiobook for the kids in the living room. This way they can be near me without interrupting as I make dinner. We’ve also started turning on a 20-minute audiobook after Big and Bug are in bed. The kids share a room now and sometimes I find they can get each other really excited at bedtime. Listening to an audiobook chills them both out.

CDs and read-a-long books

The other thing I’ve bought are a few CD’s and read-a-long books from Amazon. We got a CD player from Value Village and have set it up where both kids can access it (and we taught them both how to use CD’s without breaking them!). What I really like about these is they give a little sound when it’s time to turn the page. I have no idea if these will help the kids with reading one day, but it can’t hurt! Learning to follow along with the story and turn the pages at the right time seems positive to me!

Independent listening

Don’t expect your kids to listen to a book for an hour independently at the beginning. Maybe you have the type of kid who will do this right away… but don’t get your hopes up, lol. My kids have been listening to audiobooks for awhile now and over time, they’ve developed the attention span and interest in them that they’ll listen on their own for long periods of time (mood dependent, of course).

Do your kids listen to audiobooks? What about you? Drop your favourites below!!

Written by Alex Turner