Make your own live radio play

If you are looking for a fun and creative activity to do with your kids (or grandkids) during the long winter evenings, think about making a homemade radio play together. You can use the experience of seeing It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play as a starting point.

Whether you use an old tape recorder or software like Apple’s GarageBand, making your own radio play is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

1) As a family, decide what story you want to tell. You can choose a story that exists or make up a new one choosing a genre that peaks the interest of your young producers. Mysteries, fairy tales and tall tales are great source material (and ripe with possibilities for sound effects too).

Once you have a story in mind, have your kids create a script. It doesn’t need to be very long; it just needs to have a beginning, middle and an end. Write the script without worrying too much about the sound at first.

Tip: Don’t forget to point out that radio plays are all about sound. Since the audience can’t see what’s being conveyed, everything must be communicated through sound and dialogue.

2. Once the script is completed, have your kids pick out where sound can enhance the story. Find items around the house that can be used to create sound effects. According to Jonathan Crowe, who has designed sound for many contemporary audio drama series, “the house is a gold mine” for interesting sound effects solutions. Doors, chairs, a gravel walk, tools, kitchen utensils – so many things within your reach can make the sounds you need.

Make a game of experimenting with sounds. Guide your kids on a hunt to discover what sounds the things around you can make and figure out how they could be used in your radio play to create atmosphere.

Try it yourself: DIY sound effects

Fire: Crumple cellophane or wax paper.

Footsteps: Hold two shoes and tap the heels together, then tap the toes. Try using different kinds of shoes on different surfaces. For instance, walking in cat litter sounds like walking on gravel or snow.

Horse hooves: Try two halves of a coconut shell or two wooden bowls.

Buzzing insect: Just like homemade kazoos – wrap wax paper around a comb tightly, then hum with your lips just barely on the paper.

Kiss: Smooch your arm!

Thunder: Shake a large piece of sheet metal.

Bells: Tap large metal pot lids while holding them by the handle.
Whooshing: Swoop a thin stick through the air.

Creaking: Old chairs work well.

Bird’s wings flapping: Wave a pair of gloves up and down.

Courtesy of

3. Rehearse and record! Set up a recording device (or your computer) to record rehearsals just in case there is a take that your kids really like. Once you and your radio performers are satisfied with the results, you can copy and share with friends and family. If you’ve recorded it digitally, you can make CDs, create a podcast feed on iTunes or upload to a social media site like SoundCloud.

There are many resources online and a couple of quick searches will provide you and your kids with enough ideas to start a serial. Until next time...