Kids Music (that doesn’t suck)

Music for children that appeals to everyone!

You know what’s awful? Music for kids. I don’t know why the majority of musicians (and I use the term loosely) find it necessary to record crap that only someone on an acid trip would listen to. The whole point of children’s music is to either get them to stop crying, go to sleep (or both) and not make you drive into oncoming highway traffic to make the cute-puke-ditties stop. After all, kids love music so why have them listen to garbage?

Thankfully, there are a few exceptions to this horrible rule, so pick up these tracks to help get your please-stop-crying-in-rush-hour-traffic groove on.

1) For the Kids This is a compilation by artists like Cake, Sarah McLachlan and Wilco that cover familiar tunes for kids but in a palatable way. A portion of the proceeds also goes to charity and there’s a For the Kids 2 and 3. Can’t go wrong, Mamma.

 

2) Jazz for Kids Really this is just taking some toe tappin’ jazz music that kids would enjoy while making you feel a little more human (pronounced Hue-mOn) and still part of the adult world in the process. What’s more grown-up than jazz for godsake?

3) Snack Time – Barenaked Ladies A collection of 24 original children’s songs that are singable and clever – I used to listen to it when the kids weren’t in the car so that’s saying something. I also now know what a frenulum is and I’m dying to whip that Cliff Claven knowledge out at a dinner party but then I remembered that I don’t go to dinner parties anymore.

4) Singable Songs For The Very Young: Great With A Peanut-Butter Sandwich – Raffi Okay some may argue that Raffi falls into the shit camp but then I would have to punch them in the face. I grew up with Raffi so there’s a place of sweet nostalgia that comes along with his kind, gentle music. Even if you disagree with me, you have to admit that the man has really stood the test of time and he never hits those crazy shrill notes so you have to give him props.

5) Hippo in the Bathtub – Anne Murray I love Anne Murray because she has a low singing voice and I have a low singing voice (more in a drunk old-lady lounge lizard way than man way) so I really dig this album. I also grew up listening to it so I knew all the songs. Even if you don’t share her husky man-voice (am I selling this or what?) the album has such a nice, calming feel to it that you’re kids can’t help but fall asleep.

6) Curious George Soundtrack – Jack Jonhson Personally, I hated this movie. It sucked. I love the soundtrack though. Jack Jonhson is soothing and smooth and I don’t care if people think he’s a sell-out, I still love him and I love this album.

7) Rockabye Baby Led Zeppelin I almost hate buying these Rockabye Baby albums because I’m so pissed that I didn’t think of doing this myself (the fact that I have no musical training or ability is moot). This series takes hit songs from bands like U2, AC/DC and The Beatles, just to name a few, and set them to lullaby music. Your baby thinks it’s listening to a soothing lullaby while you’re able to reminisce about the time you were 17 and got high in your friend’s basement while rocking out to Whole Lotta Love. Good times.

8) Name Your Tune These guys are cool because they take your run-of-the-mill tunes and put your child’s name into the song and we’re not talking “La,la,la,la,la,la,la,la, TIMMY la,la,la,la,”. If they don’t have your child’s name they actually record it – and well too. The only thing I worry about is my kid wondering why the hell his name isn’t incorporated into every song once he hits pre-school. Life lesson. Sorry, buddy. Mommy thought it was neat.

9) Bergin and Melissa These guys seem to be relatively new on the kids music scene so just remember that you read about them here first. Their songs are upbeat and catchy and they sing harmony which is like ear crack to me. I LOVE the fact that I can sing along with them and it actually sounds close to the real song. My kids love it. I knowingly listened to this album in the car without the kids one time. Now there’s a plug.

10) They Might Be Giants Ah, a flicker of hip in my minivan world. They are smart, educational and catchy. My husband, in particular, likes this band. Probably for the same reason I like Bergin and Melissa, he can sing along easily without feeling like an idiot.

11) Bobs and Lolo A harmonizing duo from Canada, these gals deliver great music sprinkled with a little repetition that kids love. None of it is annoying so you don’t want to frisbee the CD out the car window screaming “enough of this shit!” (like I want to do with Thomas the Train. Fuck that tank engine). They have the occasional obscure Canadian reference in there about preserving the sturgeon and provincial birds. I LOVE it.

12) Dan Zanes People were appalled when I didn’t have him on the original list. I had heard of him and saw him on many “Cool CD” lists but had never owned any of his music. Well, his accolades are well deserved because his calm, soothing music is just plain great. His crazy-ass hair alone would get be buying his CD.

13) Terrible Twos I found these guys from a comment below and I love them. They are one of those hip bands that just happen to make music that appeals to kids.

14) Okee Dokee Brothers I am pretty sure that I would make an ass of myself at one of their concerts by trampling a bunch or four-year olds while rushing the stage. Can I just say that there are not enough banjos in music today?! These Grammy winners are cute, smart and create very catchy music. Yet another CD I listen to in the car when my kids aren’t
there.


Any other recos?

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127 Comments

  • Thanks for the list! Also check out Sugar Free All Stars, an organ and drum duo from Oklahoma City. Sounds crazy but their songs are so fun! They have several albums on Spotify.

  • I’m in love with Justin Roberts…Particularly the "Meltdown" album…I find myself singing "Get Me Some Glasses" and "Cartwheels & Somersaults" quite often!

  • Snack Time is on constant repeat in my car (and in my head, coincidentally). I’m hoping we get more CDs for my son’s upcoming birthday. Gotta change it up a little bit!

  • Tom Chapin! Harry Chapin’s brother. He has great songs about helping the planet, kids songs to classical music (Bleak House), and just some fun, silly songs. I listened as a kid, older kid and now I’m trying to find more of his songs to play for my son. I was one that found Raffi’s songs annoying and adults can definitely listen to this without getting bored or wanting to pull their hair out!

  • There’s an album of Metallica songs made classical without lyrics for soothing a baby to sleep. My husband LOVES it!

  • There is a New Zealand artist called Anika Moa who has just released her second album of children’s songs. They are called Songs for Bubbas and my toddler loves listening to it. The songs are are sung in English, te reo maori or a mix of both. She’s got a voice that is pure magic! Look for it on spotify if you’re overseas.

  • You should totally check out Elizabeth Mitchell’s "You Are My Little Bird." She has other albums, but this is by far my favorite kids music for my little 5 month girl. Such sweet songs and super calm and happy. The kid voices on there are just awesome too, not high pitched weirdo voices like in so many kid songs.

  • Laurie Berkner definitely! I loved all her songs and I still try to play them for my almost 7 year old – but no, she prefers Taylor Swift.

  • I’ll put in another vote for Frances England and about the 20th for Caspar Babypants! Also 23 Skidoo has some fun songs that I don’t mind listening to.

  • Irish traditional music for kids by The Speks! They set nursery rhymes to genuinely top quality irish traditional music and it won’t drive you round the bend. Check them out on thespeks.com

  • My favourite kids album is "See!" by Holly Throsby – an indie Australian artist. It is great to listen to (even when the kids aren’t around).

  • Thank you for this list and your hilarious commentary. You forgot my favorite though (and my kids’ favorite): Caspar Babypants, AKA Chris Ballew, AKA the lead singer from the Presidents of the United States of America, AKA a band whose early recordings all sounded like kids music already (billions of peaches, little blue dunebuggy, etc.). Caspar Babypants has a hipster mom following in Seattle; if you can’t find their/ his albums near you, try online.

  • Great list! I can’t wait to check some of these out! I would have to recommend you check out Barry Louis Polisar. His songs are absolutely absurd ("My Brother Threw Up on My Stuffed Toy Bunny"), but my sister and I loved then when we were growing up. I just played it for my husband the other day, and we couldn’t stop laughing.

  • My fave is Belly Button by Heather Bishop. I loved it as a kid, and as an adult I feel like it’s kind of dark, but in a good education way…. I love singing to it in the car.

  • Kimya Dawson -Alphabutt

    Love love love her catchy work…
    with/without kids, I dont care, she makes me smile and Gosh-Darnit I need that!

  • Another good one is "Free to Be You and Me" by Marlo Thomas. It's way old, but it's really got a fantastic message for the kids, the music isn't too shabby, and it's even got a young Michael Jackson singing a song called "We Don't Have to Change at All" which always makes me crack up like nobody's business.

  • I can't believe Laurie Berkner didn't make it to your list!!! Her music is the best! "Under A Shady Tree" is my fav. Also, for all you Dead-Head or Phish Phans out there, Ben Rudnick and Friends is awesome! "A Frog Named Sam" is their latest and greatest.

    We loooove Snack Time. And Dan Zanes. 🙂

  • Don't forget about The Terrible Twos "If You Ever See An Owl"! My husband and I listen to it with and without our daughter!

  • I love They Might Be Giants' kid cds. They have several and all of them are great.

    Their first two albums for kids were NO! and Bed, Bed, Bed (which is a cd that comes in a book).

    Their more recent ones are Here Come the ABC's, Here Come the 123's and Here Comes Science. All of these also come with dvds with music videos for each song.

    I've gotten all of these cds/dvds for my nieces and nephew. I even have my own copies because the songs are just so darn catchy.

  • Also be sure to check out "Mommy Says No!" by the Asylum Street Spankers; anything by the Imagination Movers (Disney); "The Bottle Let Me Down" by various; or the Okee Dokee Brothers.

  • Sadly, I am one of those arsehole Moms that have exclaimed "My baby loves music!" I even called her musical once. *Hanging head in shame*.

    However, thank you for this post! I’m always looking for new CDs to play in the car, especially when I’ve had "Peek-a-boo, I love you" stuck in my head for 3 days in a row.

    PS: I grew up with Anne Murray’s Hippo in the Bathtub record (yes, record) too. LOVED it!

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