Audiobooks for 5 year old on a loooong car trip

We are driving cross country this summer with my almost-5 year old daughter. Last time we did this, we relied on a huge car nap to shave off some time for her, but she is done with naps. We don't use any sort of electronic media (iPads, movies), so I am hoping to find some audiobooks to play that will hold her interest (bonus if they hold mine as well!). I imagine she could listen for somewhere around 30 minutes or so at a clip.

She loves non-fiction (books about the seasons, the way things work, etc.), as well as stories about animals, and the natural world in general. No princess stories or the like.

Anyone have some good recommendations that could help get us through some of the 3,000+ miles there?! Thank you.

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

I have family up and down the 101 so I know exactly what you're talking about! I also don't use screen time in the car. My 5 year old son really likes Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat and other stories audiobook and The Magic Tree House audiobooks. My husband also says he likes The Berenstain Bears and Paddington Bear audiobooks. I hope this helps!

Try the Magic Tree House Series.  They are based on factual historic events, but around the fantasy world of time travel through a kid's eye.  They go on forever...

Tons of kids books are available on CD, but here are some recs that a parent can enjoy too.

There's an audio book of Charlotte's Web read by EB White that is wonderful. My daughter was enthralled by it at that age. On our last car trip, she (we) also got really into an audio book we found online of The Secret Garden. (She's 7 now, though. But her 5yo brother liked it too!)

I absolutely LOVE the audio books of the Harry Potter series. The reader, Jim Dale, is phenomenal and does different character voices that are fantastic. Not sure your 5yo would be ready for Harry Potter - mine wasn't, but we have friends whose kids were ready at that age, so maybe?

Have a fun trip!


I was a nanny for 3 boys from ages 3-9 and we did a lot of driving. To keep them from fighting and becoming bored I played audiobooks that we got from the San Francisco public library. We didn't listen to any non fiction, but these were a hit with them-

Little House on the Prairie series

Charlie and the Chocolate Factoty

Island of the Blue Dolphines

Stink and Judy Moody series 

Magic Tree House series

good luck!

It has been a while [ my daughter is 18] but she loved it when she had the book and the cd. She could look at the book , turn the pages and hear the story.  Oakland Public library was a great resource.  Also we had lots of kids music, Raffi, Smithsonian folk music and other kid songs.  Go to  children's librarian for other recomendations.  We also had a bags of other entertainments- coloring materials, tanagrams, etc to alternate. Good luck. I can be fun. Kathleen

The Magic Tree House. It's a series - many books & audio books. You will both love it.

As a dyslexic kid with a dyslexic sister, I loved audio books as a child. My toddler is not old enough yet, so my recommendations will be dated. But we loved listening to Joel Ben Izzy. He had a lot of Jewish and multicultural folk tales. I loved all his voices, his storytelling cadence, and his humor. The stories are short enough that they are easily followed, and each collection is fun enough to hold attention.

I also had Narnia and Treasure Island on tape, although those are much longer and depend on your daughter's language and attention... they could also be a bit scary.

Other favorites included Jim Weiss (American Tall Tales, Greek Myths, Arthurian Legends), Jim O'Callahan's Raspberries!, and (especially if she likes music) the Magic Flute.

I highly recommend perusing the Berkeley library's collection of books on cd and digital audio downloads. They have some classics and newer stuff... Amelia Bedelia...Winnie the pooh.... Roald Dahl.

Good luck!


So I don't have kids but got really into audiobooks in my last job (lots of mindless busy work).  The Redwall series is a great series about animals on adventure. There are about 12 books now but the Audible versions have a cast of actors reading the stories. The first book is Redwall about an abby run by mice.  Another recommendation but this might be better for an older child is Watership down. It is the story of a band of rabbits that sets out to find a new home. It's fairly adventurous with some challenges they face on the way.  It ends with a battle between the hero rabbits and a war-lord rabbit that gets pretty gorey.

Best of luck on your trip! 

I get audio books for my kids using the Overdrive app on an iPad (that kids only use for audiobooks on car rides). Overdrive lets you connect with libraries (I belong to Berkeley, Alameda Co, and San Francisco, the last of which you just have to be a CA-resident to get a card and has good selection) and borrow e-books and audio books for 21 days.

Our kids loved the Little House On the Prairie audio books when they were small. Reading them aloud didn't work for some reason- they were too slow - but as audio books they were excellent. My 16 year old son recently commented that he remembered them quite fondly. 

Good luck!

We loved listening to Beverly Cleary books on cd/ tape.  They usually have a large variety at the public library.  The Mouse on the Motorcycle was a favorite.  Plus, all the Ramona books. 

We have always enjoyed listening to books on CD when traveling.   One of our favorites is Charlotte's Web -- the version we got from the library had E.B. White reading the book, he is of course the author of the book.   It was wonderful.    If you are interested in borrowing books-on-CDs from your library, ask the librarian for other recommendations.   Happy listening!

I highly recommend Sparkle Stories ( They are original stories and really great, even my husband and I like them. You can get a monthly membership or buy individual stories, most we have listened to are 20-30 minutes long, and there are many series. Our almost 5yo particularly loves the stories about Martin and Sylvia. Good luck!

What about the James Herriott books [the vet in the Yorkshire Dales]?  All Things Bright and Beautiful, etc.  There might be a few episodes not entirely appropriate for 5-year-old, but they're pretty tame in general. 

We are avid audiobook listeners and have been since my daughter was small (she's 14 now).  FWIW, the Berkeley library has a very large selection of books on CD (which I borrowed and loaded into and MP3 player).  My daugther's taste ran more to fantasy than non-fiction, but in case this helps at all, the following are ones I remember being good:

The Cat Who Wanted to Go Home by Jill Tomlinson (there are several of these)

The Magic Treehouse series.  They get repetitive for adults after awhile, but kids usually love them.

The Judy Moody books by Megan McDonald

The Clementine books by Sara Pennypacker

The Bunnicula books by James Howe (all the ones narrated by Victor Garber)

The Wind in the Willows 

The Chronicles of Narnia (make sure you get the more recent ones narrated by iconic British actors, Michael York, Lynn Redgrave, Kenneth Branagh, Patrick Stewart, etc.)

There's a whole Classical Kids series that's fantastic -- Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Mr. Bach Comes to Call, etc.

The Wind Boy by Ethel Cook Eliot is terrific

The Cricket in Times Square

We liked the Ballet Stories series by Jenny Agutter

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo is terrific.  Also The Tale of Despereaux.

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

Anything by Roald Dahl

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford

Audiofile Magazine is a pretty reliable source of reviews for more recent stuff.  They usually do a summer reading roundup.  Here's the most recent award winners (you can listen to clips, too): and the listings for Earphones Award winners:

Enjoy your drive!  :-)

Much of my work is devoted to helping kids spend less time with screens so I support your efforts.  We like the Sing and Read Storybook and we have 4 of them, they are really short, they are older and harder to get now. Our kids have outgrown them. If you want to contact me through my website I could try to get them to you.  

Have you tried the Magic Treehouse series? There are 50 books, so that would hold you over for awhile.

My daughter also loves the Sparkle Storeis podcast (very gentle content wise). 

The audiobook of Flora and Ulysses was a hit with my 6 year old on a recent 10 hour drive.  We also read Harry Potter aloud (although I've heard the audiobooks are good as well).  Check out the library for audiobooks!

the Magic Treehouse series has worked well for our 4 year old for the last year. It incorporates historical characters with time traveling kids. There are also some great podcasts on science + general information that she likes -- we started with "But Why" from Vermont public radio, but we've expanded to a bunch of other ones.

Usborne Farmyard Tales (book + CD) and/or the Clementine books by Sara Pennypacker.   Also consider CDs of wonderful children's music by Melita Silberstein and her band, Octopretzel:  (CDs of the Muppets making music are fun, too!)

We traveled up and down 101 with Heidi (even the abridged version made the adults in the car cry), Ginger Pye, the little house books read by Cherry Jones. The fudge books read by Judy Blume. The Clementine Books.

U are in luck...anything by Jay O ' Callahan , such as Earth Stories, the Red Ball, are delightful....Story Crafters and Joel Ben Izzy, Odds Bodkin  are also great ...enjoy! They are all wonderful story tellers!

We have listened to so many audiobooks in the car! You didn't mention what format you are looking for but Public Libraries still have audiobooks on cd's. When my daughter was 5-7 we listened to this fiction:

where the mountain meets the moon, Grimm's fairy tales, Hans Christian Anderson, mrs piggle-wiggle, charlottes web, stories by Joel Ben kid has never enjoyed audio non-fiction but has listened for hours to the above. Good luck and safe travels.

I have the perfect set of audio books for you - written and narrated by Jim Weiss, Greathall Productions. Amazon is carrying them now and there are other sites you can purchase them from too. The stories really range in topic, lots of history, tall tales, holiday themed...a real variety of stories. They are all really well written, and Jim Weiss is a fantastic reader. Lots of humor too. There are some oriented towards younger listeners and others toward older. My son grew up listening to the CD’s (from age 4 to 14). I purchased them because my son hated the car. When he listened to these CD’s he was completely spellbound. And I always really enjoyed them too. Not your typical annoying child fare. We have given them as gifts and everyone always loves them!

Hello. Our daughter has the same interests. She loves the Magic School Bus audio books about exactly the kind of topics you mention. She can follow along in the actual book, if you happen to have it. They might be a little advanced for an almost-5-year old, but they are fun and our daughter learned a lot, which makes her happy. The other thing we've relied on is science pod casts for kids. We download them (but for this you need a computer or iPad, or something) and then she can listen in the car. The one we love is called Brains On, and there are others. Good luck with the trip!

Any of the Julia Donaldson audio books are great!

Our 5-year-old, who is also into science and not generally, super-interested in music, loves the "music stories" from the Magic Maestro: Eats up miles on long trips and we the parents enjoy them as well.

From the grown-ups' point of view, Peter and the Wolf is probably the best music. Kid likes Tortoise and the Hare the best. Sorcerer's Apprentice, Juanita the Spanish Lobster, Mike Mulligan, Swan Lake are all pretty good, too.