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Is There Any Children’s Music That You Actually Like? (Plus, a video!)

Kaspar’s taken to dancing lately (check out this video to see where it all began). It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. I danced a lot while I was pregnant— our circle of friends has a thing for throwing dance parties… or other kinds of parties/holiday dinners/movie nights that inevitably evolve into dance parties—so I’m glad to see some rhythm made it through the DNA transfer. This penchant for dancing has coincided with a new and ardent distaste for diaper changes, too, so there’s basically been tons of naked baby butt-wagging happening in our house over the past several weeks. It’s amazing. It’s exactly the stuff those ‘I’m-so-psyched-to-be-your-mom’ moments are made of.

With that in mind, I noticed the shelves of children’s music CDs at the library the other day (read: Kaspar single-handedly un-shelved about two hundred children’s CDs at the library the other day), and thought while thumbing through them (read: attempting to re-shelve them, alphabetically) that perhaps I should expose him to some of whatever’s out there that’s been made specifically for kids. Aaron and Kaspar get down to an obscure hip-hop or electronic music soundtrack while I’m at work, and I bust out 70s rock whenever I’m on duty, but I figured that while he’s small and developing his tastes, the little man might want to try shakin’ it to some Raffi. Right? Kids are into that stuff, right? Raffi’s the only children’s musician I actually know of, and he’s been around since I was little. This was one of those ‘I’m-a-first-time-mom-and-obviously-out-of-the-loop-on-this” moments, so I borrowed a few of the not-so-annoying looking albums that day, and brought them home for our musical edification.

I was pleasantly surprised by what these albums yielded. I’ll admit here and now that, save for one or two really schmaltzy songs, I am actually enjoying an album called Country Loves Raffi, which features country musicians performing their own renditions of Raffi’s most popular songs, more than I ever could have imagined I would. It’s good stuff! And, having become a mom and moved from New York to Texas in this past year, I think it’s fitting that I like it. Jack Johnson’s Curious George album is also pretty mom-friendly. I randomly chose a Sarah Lee Guthrie CD, too, because she comes from a promising blood-line, and I wasn’t disappointed. I promptly copied these CDs into our iTunes library as the optimistic beginning of a growing collection of children’s music that’s actually good, and returned to the library a few days later hungry for more. Unfortunately, going in search of good children’s music without real direction left me kind of marooned. I’m sure some of those albums I went looking through are good, but, lost in a sea of “silly” (read: stupid) band, album and song titles, and brightly colored, “goofy” (read: lame) album art, I honestly don’t know where to start.

Of course there’s always trial and error to fall back on. But, we have to be a little careful on that front. I once brought home a baby sign language DVD that played an hour straight of a woman in front of a flashing bright green-screen, lip-synching baby songs to the most piercing, terrible recordings I’ve perhaps ever heard. Kaspar loved it. We’ve luckily since discovered the Wonder Pets series, and thus survived and moved on from that god-awful experience, but we learned our lesson: Our baby’s tastes are broad… and he has a particular soft spot for cheesy media. It’s imperative that we pre-select to some degree.

That’s where you come in. We’re working on two music projects right now. First, we’re looking for children’s music—musicians, albums, songs—that actually sound good. We want to stock that iTunes file right on up so we can just set it to random, with quality-assured confidence, for Kaspar’s first birthday party (which is a brunch for babies and parents alike). I think it’s really cool that some well-liked non-children’s musicians have made children’s albums; which do you like best? What about children’s music proper? I know I can’t handle The Wiggles (would rather take a pencil to the eye), but there are surely some kid-oriented bands out there that make music that's interesting and fun for the whole family.

The other project is a bedtime playlist that I’m building for Kaspar, something he can fall asleep to but that isn’t necessarily made up of typical lullabies (though those are okay, too). All genres and music styles are welcome—as long as they’re soothing, and genuinely enjoyable. I’ve got The Beatles’  “Blackbird” on there, some Sigur Ros, Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World”… What else can I add? Have you created your own bedtime playlists for your kids? What have you included, and what can you suggest?

Looking forward to your ideas, and to building up a collection of children’s music that rocks (and bedtime music that lilts, with an edge). Let the music-recommendation sharing begin!