Gentle audiobooks for younger kids
November 3, 2021 5:08 PM   Subscribe

Gentle, not-too-scary, not-too-exciting audiobooks help our 5-ish year old chill out as part of the pre-bed process. Suggestions for more audiobooks we can listen to?

Audiobooks that have worked for us:

- The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
- James Herriot's Treasury for Children
- Encyclopedia Brown books by Donald Sobol
- The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall
- Winnie the Pooh
- Frog and Toad
- Stuart Little
- Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew

Audiobooks that have not worked for us:

- Judy Blume books, because he loves these, especially the Fudge books, but the realistic bad behavior gets him wound-up and excited
- Beverly Cleary, because he loves these, but the exciting bits are too exciting
- Actual Nancy Drew (too pro-railroad/regressive, dad can't take it)
- Little House on the Prairie (too racist, mom can't take it)
- The Boxcar Children (too much kids being separated from their parents, kid can't take it)
- Amelia Bedelia (too silly)
- The Calendar Mysteries (too scary)
- The A-Z Mysteries (too scary)
- Pippi Longstocking (too exciting)
- The Magic Treehouse Books (too exciting)
- The Magic Tollbooth (too scary)
- The Chronicles of Prydain (too scary)
- Roald Dahl (too scary)
- A Wrinkle in Time (too scary)
- Little Women (too young)
- Podcasts (frequently too exciting with too many special effects and things intended to be funny/amusing)
posted by joyceanmachine to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Paddington Bear? We've enjoyed these as audio books on car rides with a four year old.
posted by ice-cream forever at 5:29 PM on November 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: All of a Kind Family is lovely and very mild.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:34 PM on November 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Beatrix Potter?

Maybe The Wind in the Willows? Some sections are exciting, but there are lots of soothing bits. Some of the vocabulary might be a little ambitious for a 5 year old, but your 5 year old may vary.

(Also, I am wildly curious about original Nancy Drew being "too pro-railroad" for dad, please elaborate if you happen to pop back in for other reasons. Maybe this was a typo or autocorrect, but I must know.)
posted by the primroses were over at 5:44 PM on November 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Checking my audible library for my kid at that age - Beatrix Potter, Atinuke's Anna Hibiscus series, and Ursula Le Guin's Catwings series were gentle bedtime stories. Sarah Plain and Tall is wonderful and calm but possibly too old/sad for them yet. I would suggest for bedtime re-listening to the ones they already like. I have chunks of Pippi Longstocking forever embedded in my brain from those years.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:49 PM on November 3, 2021

My Father's Dragon was a great bedtime read-aloud for my kids at that age, and I see it is available as an audiobook.
posted by metonym at 6:03 PM on November 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Our almost 5-year-old loves listening to (and reading) the Zoey and Sassafras series. Each audiobook is about an hour long but it’s in chapters so you can listen to it serially. A girl uses science experiments to aid magical creatures that come to her for help. Very little tension and the narrator, while good, has a calming and not overly dynamic voice.
posted by CiaoMela at 6:03 PM on November 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The audiobook of Kiki’s Delivery Service is charming and calming. We’re mostly car audiobook listeners (with my five year old), but some of the others that we’ve enjoyed that seem calm enough for bedtime include The Silver Arrow, maybe Castle Hangnail (might be too exciting?), the Enchanted Forest books (Dealing with Dragons, etc).

Also very curious about the pro-railroad leanings of Nancy Drew!
posted by twigatwig at 6:48 PM on November 3, 2021

EB While. Charlotte's web, trumpet of the swan, especially.
posted by sulaine at 7:15 PM on November 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Jamie and Angus Stories - Anne Fine
Happy Little Family - Rebecca Caudill
The Children of Noisy Village - Astrid Lindgren
Toys Go Out - Emily Jenkins

If you like these, there are sequels for most of them.
posted by Redstart at 7:37 PM on November 3, 2021

Little Bear is the most chill and soft book I can think of and I hope it’s available on audio—the cartoon version was my kids’ favorite cool down show well into elementary school.
posted by padraigin at 7:43 PM on November 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Pippi Longstocking? (Query for racism but if you avoid “Pippi in the South Seas” you might be ok. Also might be a bit exciting.
E Nesbit books
The Old Bear stories
posted by Balthamos at 1:31 AM on November 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As a much younger/lighter version of "Little Women", and for a "Penderwicks" atmosphere: "The Exiles" by Hilary McKay. Three books about four sisters: Ruth, Naomi, Rachel, Phoebe. They're all bookworms. They try to be good (except Phoebe, maybe). Because they all have endearing faults, they get into trouble quite a bit. I don't think it's too exciting, though. Potential triggers: There's a fire right at the end of the first book, but nobody gets hurt. A hedgehog and an old person die in the third book. Still, the sisters handle these sad situations well and are supported by adults or support each other. There's a bit of mischief, mostly from Phoebe, but it's calm (she's stoic) rather than exciting. I think if you liked "The Penderwicks", there's a 95% chance you'll like this one.

Also, the "Madicken" series by Astrid Lindgren is much calmer than Pippi Longstocking (for one thing, everyone has parents!), but still features strong and smart girls, warmth towards imperfect children, and beautiful Swedish landscapes. Might be a bit dated, but certainly worth a try.
posted by toucan at 4:11 AM on November 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

You might like Daniel Pinkwater - it's hard to tell whether he'd cross over into your too silly category, but he narrates his own books and his voice has a great lilt to it that might help you achieve your objectives... I'm a huge fan of Once Upon a Blue Moose and Borgel , if you're looking for a place to start
posted by Mchelly at 6:38 AM on November 4, 2021

Best answer: I had a tape of “Mr Gumpy’s Outing and other stories” by John Birmingham when I was a kid and they were great for falling asleep to. I don’t remember anything too scary or exciting, but it’s been a while since I listened to them.
posted by girlalex at 6:27 PM on November 4, 2021

Best answer: The Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome might do the trick. Summertime boating adventures that involve things like racing along a lake or trying to figure out who an unknown grownup viewed from a distance might be. Key characters include: a farming family who sell the kids milk, a fun uncle, some other outdoorsy kids, and similar everyday people.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:53 PM on November 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the recs, folks, and super-excited to try the things listed, as seen by the number of marked as best answers!

Slice of life may be the best genre for this, with exactly the kind of stakes that ocherdraco mentions -- we listened to Catwings last night, which I really enjoyed, but the kittens having to leave their dumpster home because mama cat getting married distressed him, and then some of their country adventures got too scary.

On the railroad propaganda: it was sort of a joke, but sort of not? We were listening to Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase. A core driver of the plot in that is that the railroad trying to line up land rights to build a bridge. It keeps coming up in the story that some people are trying to renegotiate their deals with the railroad, and the framing of that as BAD and UNJUSTIFIED led Mr. Machine to do a lot of bathtub-side grumbling every time it came up. "Oh no, the railroad might have to pay people more money to build that bridge? How dare people change their minds about having a giant bridge on their property? What will the impoverished, unprotected railroad do?????"

And the grumbling led to the kid getting excited, and by the time I came in with towel to get the kid out of the bathtub, Casey Jones, Union Scab, etc..
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:46 AM on November 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

I might also share for the scary bits our refrain: "It's going to be okay, because this is That Kind of Book." It seems to help the 7 year old in our house through the stressful bits.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:32 PM on November 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

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