Discover how to find the best online story-time for your children.

Gasping for a screenless activity for your children without leaving the house? With school’s out, libraries shut, weather wet and parents stretched, online audio stories are a saving grace. We all know reading aloud to children improves reading, writing, concentration and will inspire a lifelong love of literacy. Yet, what happens when parents are tight on time?

A host of actors, authors, and even a Duchess have taken to recording children stories and posting them online, most currently available for free. Ditch the scratched CDs of yesteryear; all hail the YouTube storytelling, children’s podcasts and toddler-proof interactive speakers. Here is a list of our favourite lockdown listening platforms for little people. Play these stories while the children are having breakfast, playing Lego, in the bath or at bedtime.

Audible Stories

Small victories. For as long as schools remain closed, Amazon-owned Audible is offering an extensive range of free stories for children to stream via their laptop, phone, desktop or tablet. Usually, these audiobooks are only available with a monthly subscription. The books are divided into six categories: Literary Classics, Teen, Tween, Elementary and Littlest Listeners. Listen out to favourites such as The Velveteen Rabbit, The Owl and the Pussycat, Jane Eyre and Grimm’s Fairy Stories. Stream these gems while they’re free.

Storyline Online

Need a little oomph at bedtime story-time? Invite Oprah Winfrey or Kevin Costner to be a night-time narrator. Such A-listers have been reading aloud their favourite children’s stories on the Emmy-nominated children’s literacy site Storyline Online. This award-winning programme is created by the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists Foundation. At the end of each story, the stars explain what they love most about each tale. Storyline Online receives over 100 million views annually from children all over the world.

Storytime with Fergie and Friends

It takes a (virtual) village to keep children engaged at home during lockdown, as parents well know. When you can’t rope in real-life help, make do with what’s online. In the first lockdown, The Duchess of York started reading children’s stories on her YouTube channel Storytime with Fergie and Friends. Every day since last April, she has released a new video at 4pm. It’s free to watch the videos that include her, or a well-connected friend reading a traditional children’s story or giving a fun cooking tutorial such as grape hedgehogs.

The Tails from the Zoo

The zoo is shut because of the pandemic but this January, the keepers at London Zoos and ZSL Whipsnade launched a series of virtual bedtime stories to keep their animals in the minds of children during lockdown. Find the stories on their Facebook page. ‘With our gates currently closed to the public – but life going on behind the scenes caring for our animals, the zookeepers have found a great way to bring our zoos to our youngest supporters, – and hopefully give parents up and down the country a little break at bedtime, too!’ says James Wren, ZSL’s director of engagement and fundraising.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls podcast

Know the book? But want someone else to read it to your children? The bestselling book about extraordinary women Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls has been turned into a podcast series. Available on Soundcloud, the stories are read by, and are about incredible women. For example, listen to Greta Thunberg’s story read by Jameela Jamil.


The beauty of a Toniebox lies in its simplicity. Three-year-olds, armed with podgy fingers and short attention spans, independently operate the interactive smart speaker and listen to audio-stories of their choice. By placing miniature colourful toy figures (called Tonies) on top of the little box, the child will unlock the right audio files so the box can download them from the Toniecloud. Once downloaded, they can play it anywhere without a Wi-Fi connection. There are no complicated controls or confusing displays. Many classic stories are available including The Gruffalo, The Lion King and The Jungle Book.

Annabel Jack
February 2021

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Annabel Jack

Contributing Editor

Annabel is a regular contributor to The GWG, with a taste for finest in food, fashion and interiors.