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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Guest Post: Music For Kids, Big & Small

Have something to say? Anyone can submit a guest post to Modern Mormon Men. Just send us an email with your post, a post title and a paragraph of introduction (on yourself).

Jared Jones currently makes his home in San Antonio, Texas with his brilliant doctor wife, five-going-on-45 year-old daughter, and five month-old son (who is, of course, advanced for his age). When he is not working, churching or family-ing, Jared enjoys watching super hero cartoons and many other mindless but entertaining television shows. You can read Jared's first guest post here.

When satellite radio came out I thought “Who would ever pay for radio?” At the time, I normally only listened to a few stations in the car, and most of the time it was the news on NPR. Several years ago, however, we bought a car that came with a temporary subscription to satellite radio. I thought I would just try it for a little while and then learn to again live without it.

I was hooked.

I loved the Broadway station, the coffeehouse station (should I call it the hot chocolate station?) and the top 40s station. There was great variety and I listened to more music because there weren’t any commercials or drive time host tomfoolery. My favorite station quickly became Kids Place Live (XM Radio channel 78). The station plays a huge range of music for kids of all ages. I learned that there was a whole world of music out there beyond The Wheels on the Bus and John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.

Now to be fair, “grown-up” music works for kids just fine too. I have a friend whose son loves a song by Pink, and my five year-old daughter enjoys Taylor Swift, Adele and many others. Most of the time if a song has a memorable melody and a catchy beat kids will like it, and it’s fun when your kids like the same music you like. I have found, though, that even the most unsuspecting song can have some words I would rather not have repeated—so just be prepared or really read your lyrics before you introduce something new into the mix.

In fact, a lot of “grown-up” groups have created albums or singles of kids songs. The Barenaked Ladies have a great album called Snacktime, and there are quite a few compilation albums including For the Kids (Cake, Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan and more) and Mary Had a Little Amp (Maroon 5, Dixie Chicks, Madonna, Indigo Girls and more). Grown-up groups singing kids songs have a couple of benefits—you know the songs are clean, and you get to hear artists you already like.

When it comes to kids music by kid-focused artists you really aren’t limited to the traditional tuneful tracks that make your ears bleed after a single listening. If you like country, reggae, pop or rock, chances are you can find an artist making music specifically for kids in that genre. I am not a huge hip-hop fan, but I really enjoy some of the “kid hop” tracks by Secret Agent 23 Skiddoo (Gotta Be Me is one.)

Here are a few of my other favorite artists and songs.

Justin Roberts: He’s grammy nominated and quite prolific. I find his songs really capture the essence of what it means to be a kid. The melodies and rhythms are fun and engaging. I think the tracks Sleepover Land and Snow Day on his Jungle Gym album are awesome.

Jonathan Coulton: I don’t know a lot about his other music, but I love the song The Princess Who Saved Herself. Don't get me wrong, I love Disney and I love Disney Princesses (that came out wrong), but it’s nice to reinforce to my daughter that she can have a great life independent of any other person.

Scribble Monster: While my wife was deployed in Iraq I heard The Song of Life on satellite radio. We had just moved to San Antonio a few months before she left and this song put everything in perspective for me. I put a slide show together with some photos from our move and sent it to my wife overseas for her birthday. There. Were. Tears. Okay they were mine while I was putting the montage together, but I still love this song even if it is a little sappy.

There are too many other artists to mention, but here are a few quick honorable mentions: Laurie Berkner (Mouse in My Toolbox), Caspar Babypants (Butterfly Driving A Truck), Lunch Money (A Cookie As Big As My Head) and Gustafer Yellowgold (Wisconsin Poncho—I don’t get it, but my daughter loves it).

Thankfully, in the day of the InterWebs you don’t really need a satellite radio to find and sample some great music. Zooglobble is an informative blog that focuses on “kids music worth airing.” The author is a musician and has been writing and reviewing kids music since 2002. I first heard his reviews when he was featured on NPR (yes, I listen to NPR ... a lot ... but not as much since I got satellite radio). There are other blogs out there, but I keep heading back to Zooglobble—probably because it was the first one I found. Many of the artists also play full-length videos and songs for free on their websites for a limited time so you can see what you like.

So there you have it MMM readers—fun music for you to listen to with your kids. What do you like to listen to?

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