How to Listen to Podcasts Like a Pro

If you're not tuning in to the slew of parenting podcasts out there (including our own Pregnancy Confidential) you could be missing the latest advice on bringing up your kids. Not sure how to become a podcast pro? These basics will get you listening in!
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Step 1: Download a podcatcher.

You can play podcasts via an mp3 player or iTunes on your computer, but you won't be able to subscribe to your favorites without a podcatcher, the slightly creepy name for an app that manages and plays the podcasts you want to hear. Plus, for podcast listening on-the-go on a smartphone or tablet, apps are a must. For Macs, iPhones and other Apple devices, experts love Overcast (free) or Downcast ($2.99), while Player FM and Podkicker (both free) are popular options for Android and PC users. Some stations, like NPR, also have their own apps to connect you to streams of all its podcasts, including its Tell Me More series, which checks in with diverse moms and dads for their common sense and savvy parenting advice.

Step 2: Subscribe to your faves.

Next, search for and subscribe to the podcasts you want to check out. Parents columnist Sabrina James suggests these four parenting podcasts you shouldn't miss for parenting-peer advice, insight, and some LOLs, including our new Pregnancy Confidential series, a week-by-week podcast that walks listeners through the physical, emotional, and all-round quirks of each week of pregnancy. We also love The Longest Shortest Time, a bold show about parenthood and childhood hosted by This American Life contributor Hillary Frank, and Mom And Dad Are Fighting, where Slate's news director Allison Benedikt and culture editor Dan Kois bat around topics like racial issues in schools and vaccine debates through the prism of parenting. Of course, there are podcasts about more than just parenting, so search for anything your heart desires!

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Step 3: Manage your settings.

There's such a wide range of podcasts available it can be overwhelming—and easy to over-subscribe. Remember your smartphone, for example, only has so much memory, and downloading too many podcasts might make that dreaded "storage full" message appear on your screen just when you need to capture your kiddo's cutest moment ever. Go to your podcatcher's settings and make sure you have the app set up to only download the latest episode of the podcasts you're subscribed to. Older episodes will still be visible in your feed, but you'll have to be connected to a wifi network to stream them or download them manually. (In most apps, you can also choose whether your podcatcher app auto-deletes played episodes.) Pro tip: Launch your podcast app a few minutes before heading out the door to make sure the latest episodes of your favorite podcasts have loaded so you aren't frustrated by not being to access them while you're on the go.

Step 4: Find time to listen.

Multitasking is a mom's best friend, and the hands-free, eyes-free nature of podcasts mean they can be worked into your day in no time. Listen while you are doing laundry or the dishes, packing lunches or cooking dinner, exercising, driving home from carpool, or commuting to work—really anytime you could listen to the radio or watch TV, you can press play on a podcast instead. You can even pop in your earbuds while the kiddos are making a racket and hear advice on how to get them to behave!

Step 5: Get the whole family involved.

Want to find some family-friendly fare you can listen to with your kids? Check out Stuff You Missed in History Class, fun and entertaining info about everything from the Salem witch trials to Chinese foot-binding, and Storynory-Stories for Kids, stellar storytelling of fairy tales, myths, and histories performed by professional actors and storytellers. There's also the Brains On! Science Podcast for Kids (self explanatory, right?) and Radio WillowWeb, which is made by elementary school kids about literature, geography, math and more. All can prompt great family discussions—and just might help you avoid hearing "Are we there yet?" one million times on car trips!

Ellen Sturm Niz is an editor and writer who counts This American Life, Call Your Girlfriend, and Death, Sex and Money among her favorite podcasts. Please don't talk to her if she has her headphones on.

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