By Noelle, Librarian Extraordinaire
If you have kids, you’ve probably been through a few stages of music. Maybe you were sucked into that unclear research about how playing Mozart makes your baby smarter. Then, you might have been subjected to listening to the Wiggles, that Australian children’s band that bring in millions every year. God forbid, you may have had to listen to a few Barney cds, or perhaps gotten to listen to the dulcet screeching tones of Elmo. But now your preschooler has outgrown those, thankfully. Or you are hoping to steer him or her to ANYthing else, and you are thinking, what is next?
Fear Not Moms and Dads, Kids Music Can Actually Be Enjoyable
Sure, maybe a few of you have been sucked into the Imagination Movers and their show on TV. Some of you may be enduring the latest artists that Disney or Nickelodeon are pandering–Miranda Cosgrove, Victoria Justice, Big Time Rush, and so on. And some others may have been letting your kids fall under the spell of Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift.
But what you may not know is that there are plenty of artists out there who write creative, fun, melodic, memorable music for children and that indeed, you have a choice!
Who are these musicians? Here’s a primer of a few names you would do well to introduce to your children for not only their sakes, but your own.
1. Pete Seeger. Yes, you may well know the name of this granddaddy of folk music. He is pretty much the living end to classic folk tunes for children, mixed in with wonderful storytelling. Some of his material is original, some are unearthed tunes from the lore of long ago. Either way, you have a master enriching the lives of everyone who hears him. “Foolish Frog” and “Abiyoyo” are story-songs that I use on a regular basis.
2. Ella Jenkins. If Peter Seeger is the granddaddy, Ella is the grandmother of children’s music. She has made many a record of multicultural songs long before anyone else was thinking about it and bringing her music to the masses. I dare you to not get This-a-Way That-a-Way stuck in your head.
3. Laurie Berkner. Okay, she is a gimme. Many of you may have seen her on something like Noggin. But I give her a mention because she does a great job on her records of covering old songs often in a fresh style as well as mixing in catchy new tunes. Whaddaya Think of That? Is my personal favorite record of hers. I also have a thing for Victor Vito. Who doesn’t like a gal who writes a song using names from Seinfeld characters? (That would be Doodlebugs, if you are wondering)
4. Dan Zanes. This New Hampshire-based artist does a great job of having some tunes you can really groove to with a bluesy beat. Parents will be tapping their toes and forgetting they are listening to music for kids. House Party and Catch That Train! are good bets.
5. Bill Harley. If your kids like having their funny bones tickled, pick up anything by Bill Harley. His records mix stories and songs and funny stuff seamlessly and he has a ton of options. And oh yes, he just happens to be a Grammy winner. One More Time is a good “best of” to try out.
6. Greg & Steve. This Parent’s Choice award winning duo has done a superb job with making music set to a contemporary beat and that deal with everything from learning colors and numbers to cooperation. Kids in Motion is a classic just waiting for your kids to move along to. I dare you to try the song The Body Rock!
7. They Might Be Giants. Some parents may remember this group and many of their quirky hit songs from days of yore. But they decided to go on out and make some music for kids, and dang, it is good fun stuff with catchy beats and clever lyrics. Quirky fits kids to a T, and so does this band’s offerings such as No! and Here Come the ABCs.
8. Steve Blunt. Steve blends different musical styles from swing to ska to rock and creates fabulous melodic tunes with entertaining lyrics. His music is both kid-friendly and adult-friendly. He also does a swell live show. One of my favorite releases is Outta School. And I’m crazy about dancing to the Hip-Hop Kangaroo.
9. Jim Gill. Jim’s arrangements are spare and simple, but his songs are all about having some simple fun right along with the music. The whole point is for you and your kids to make up your activities or rhymes and extend the songs. He’s a self-taught musician who started writing songs to work with kids with all kinds of disabilities. I use his song List of Dances in my story times often. Even his album titles are great, like Jim Gill Makes It Noisy in Boise, Idaho.
10. Jessica Harper. Jessica does a fabulous job of making music with rhythms that are infused with jazz and reggae beats. So if you are tired of the same old stuff, listen to some sophisticated yet kid-appealing music from this artist. Her record 40 Winks is great if you need something to unwind your kids—and yourself.
Hunting Down the Elusive Artist…
Right, you say, but where do I find these people? I have never even heard of half of them! Well, a great place to go is CDBaby.com, where many a musician has their music available for sale. In fact, if you like any kind of indie (short for independent) music, you can usually find it on CDBaby. Amazon and iTunes also usually have music by these artists. Or, simply go to your local library. Many of your children’s departments will sport a music section that features many of these wonderful artists and you can try them out for free.
And don’t forget, that while I have highlighted many great artists for you to explore, don’t be afraid of playing some of your favorite music for your children. Children can be exposed to all different types of music, whether it be jazz, classical, rock or gospel–play them your favorite song and let them see how wonderful music can be.
I’m Not Going to Go to All This Trouble Without a Good Reason, So Here’s Why Music is So Important
Music naturally can teach a sense of rhythm and breaks words into syllables, which is an important piece of information children need to learn how to read. So not only is music fun, but it is rooted in early literacy skills that have been determined will set your child up for a successful reading and school career.
It also can be used as cues to teach or to transition. I used “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles whenever I wanted my truculent preschooler to hold my hand to cross the street. Teaching your child to stop when a rhythm stops can prevent a toddler from running out in front of a car. For example, play a beat on a drum, a tambourine, a pot or pan, a table, a book and play the game that when the “drum goes stop!” they have to freeze. Once that is ingrained in their heads, you can yell “And the drum goes stop!” as your toddler is about to run into the parking lot and watch your child freeze!
Time to put away the toys and the kids won’t have any of it? Simply launch into a verse of “Clean up, clean up, time to clean up” (set to whatever tune you make up) and watch your kids transition into that mode. Even when they get older they’ll still start cleaning up if just to get you to stop singing that stupid song.
Why Great Music Doesn’t Mean You Have to Spend a Fortune
As a last note, yes, the big names tour the country, and you can bring your fidgety 4 year old to a concert hall with a few thousand other fidgety kids for a show for the contents of your wallet. Even better, your kid will probably not even remember the concert in a year. But your local library, county fair, or school also will regularly bring local musicians in for free or very reasonably priced performances. Quality children’s music is in your reach with very little effort. You can also seek out music classes with such great national programs as Kindermusik and Music Together which have their own sets of songs and wonderful interactive music programs.
So instead of putting on those headphones to drown out the sound of Elmo, let the music play!
|Noelle has been a children’s librarian for over 15 years. She’s also been a student teacher, worked as an online account manager, worked in a pet shop and as a supermarket checkout clerk, and as a dishwasher and fry cook. She is the proud mom of a beautiful daughter. You can read more of Noelle’s book reviews at Rave Reviews Log
Noelle can be reached at “Noelle @ DadDoes.Com”
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