Kid-friendly music that won’t make your earballs bleed

It’s hard to find music for children that you won’t hate listening to, and sometimes your children hate your music. Here’s some stuff that may provide a nice cheerful medium.

Photo by: ericsoco

It’s that time of year again, or so they tell me–the time of year when you’re in charge of the carpool…and the jammin’ car tunes, at least, if you’re lucky. If you’re in the market for some music written for kids that won’t make you lose your mind, look no further than these artists. Well, look further too, but these are a great place to start.

Kids’ Music That Doesn’t Suck

Ms. Cacie

“The Mommies on the Bus Smash the Patriarchy” and “Yes Means Yes!” are just two song titles by Ms. Cacie, whose recent Kickstarter to fund a progressive feminist music album for children was fully funded in 13 days. Ms. Cacie writes “songs about consent, ableism, anxiety, non-binary gender, dinosaurs, robots, and more!” YES YES YES!

Caspar Babypants

I’ll be honest, I was iffy on Babypants at first. Another version of “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Great! But I’d heard such good things that I delved a little deeper into the Babypants backlog, and found such delights as Pretty Crabby and Googly Eyes. A whole song about googly eyes! BUT THEN, I realized the video “My Flea Has Dogs” is by this guy, and I was sold! I’d found that video before I ever had a kid and was deeply and utterly amused before I even had a tiny human to entertain. I might not listen to him on repeat, but if you need a good chuckle-worthy song in your mix, give him a chance.

Melvil Dewey, International Library Hip Hop Superstar

For people in the library world, the fact that Scotter Hayes (aka Melvil Dewey) was an American Library Association “Mover & Shaker” is a big deal. If you’re not in the library world though, here’s another reason to pay attention to Dewey: he has a song called Book Clubbin’ (PDF). Here’s a sample:

When library closes, the party begins
The DJ sets up and gets the speakers bumping
Clock strikes midnight, 12 AM
The Book Club is officially open.
Roll to the Book Club, walk in the door
Get my read on and I hit the dance floor
Got a book I love so I put that thang up
It’s an Eric Carle so I Grouchy Ladybug.
Grouchy Ladybug, Grouchy Ladybug
People in the crowd just can’t get enough.
They say do tha Very Hungry Caterpilla
I say nah . . . I got one betta for ya.
I can Wild Rumpus, Where The Wild Things Are
I can do the Wild Rumpus like a supastar
So I Wild Rumpus Wild Rumpus Wild Rumpus
This kinda stuff only happens when you book clubbin’!

I’m not gonna lie, I sometimes drive to work singing, “IT’S A SUPER DUPER LIBRARY DANCE PARTY!”

Okay, that one might drive you a little crazy. But it’s better than Frozen for the bazillionth time, right? RIGHT?

Elizabeth Mitchell

Mitchen’s song “Little Bird, Little Bird” might sound familiar to fans of Futurama. It’s cool enough to have been featured in an episode! All of Mitchell’s songs are simple and sweet without crossing the line into saccharine territory. And she’s legit–Mitchell is a Smithsonian Folkways Recordings artist.

But what if you just can’t stand the idea of specific kid-created content? You want your adult music! I bring you…

“Adult” Music Kids Won’t Hate Maybe Probably

Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band

Their tagline is “We are from the Spacefuture” so yep. You want big, bold, and brassy? Look no further. It’s like No BS Brass!, but…well, from the Spacefuture. I don’t think any other band has boldly asked the question “Why Am I Always Stepping On Glockenspiels”. And while I hate to be That Guy, seeing them live is an incomparable experience.

My personal favorite:

Live with some impromptu dancing:

Florence and the Machine

Okay, so singing about building coffins might not sound like the delightful tune you want kids humming to themselves…but listen to her BELT. If you need something a little loud and FEELINGS-heavy, FatM might be the rumbling, rolling sound you need. This kid proves it:

Angélique Kidjo

Kidjo is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, so while her music isn’t going to be found on the shelf next to Raffi, you can feel good about supporting her! I love me some world music, but I’ll admit some of it might be a bit yawn-worthy for kids…but not Kidjo! If you’re looking for upbeat, dance-worthy tunes, Kidjo is a great choice.

Kaki King

You might be saying, “But Hayley, I want rolling music AND I want to listen to music that makes my kids perk up when they hear it repeated during one of NPR’s music interludes!” I’m here to tell you Kaki King is the right choice for your drive. Just listen to “Great Round Burn” and tell me you couldn’t all jam out and float along together to this. And wait until you get to 1:15.

The Punch Brothers

I’m pretty sure my daughter’s favorite song is “Julep” on their newest album, The Phosphorescent Blues. It has what’s known as “pizzicato,” that is, music that contains plucking (Kaki King has this, too). “Julep” is a song that pulls me under every time, but the whole album seems to be a big backseat hit with my daughter. And it’s true–heaven’s a julep on the porch. If we’re raising Southern children here in RVA, that’s not the worst bit of lyrical truth to pass down.

Got a favorite playlist for the carpool? Share it here!

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Hayley DeRoche

Hayley DeRoche is a librarian with a penchant for cardigans and corduroys. Luckily, her professional life revolves more around technology & information than fashion.

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