The Best Children’s Music
Best for Teaching Your Kids a Little Something New
Stefan Shepherd, the man behind the children’s-music site zooglobble.com, sorted through hundreds of CDs to find the most entertaining. Then kids of all ages (whose feedback consisted of dancing and head bobbing) narrowed down the list. Shepherd, a father of two, explains what makes these discs so appealing.
¡Nueva York!, by Dan Zanes and Friends
Zanes is the godfather of the children’s-music renaissance. He became popular with his unique take on folk songs and sea chanteys, plus the occasional original track. He hits a high note with this lively collection of Latino songs, recorded in New York. Your family probably won’t become fluent in Spanish by listening to the album, but they will learn many different types of songs and the stories behind them. More important, this disc is fun to listen to ($17, amazon.com).
You might also like: Here Come the 123s, by They Might Be Giants ($12, amazon.com).
Best for Introducing Your Kids to a Band You Love
Snacktime!, by Barenaked Ladies
These playful Canadians try their hand at a children’s album, and it is excellent. They deconstruct the alphabet song (“Crazy ABCs”) and, with “Allergies,” deliver the best tune about, yes, allergies. (OK, so the list of songs about allergies is pretty short.) This music makes you wonder why the group, whose humor has always been one of its strengths, didn’t record a children’s CD sooner ($12, amazon.com).
You might also like: Jerzy the Giant, by the Terrible Twos, a.k.a. the New Amsterdams ($13, amazon.com).
Best for Getting Rowdy Kids to Chill Out for 30 Minutes
Family Tree, by Frances England
England, whose debut CD was recorded as a preschool fund-raiser, has a truly original sound, marrying lo-fi indie rock with simple lyrics that speak to both preschoolers and young grade-schoolers. On her second album, she picks up the tempo and beefs up the arrangements a bit, but it’s still a good CD for quieter times. And the packaging and cover art by England are gorgeous ($14, amazon.com).
You might also like: You Are My Little Bird, by Elizabeth Mitchell ($11, amazon.com).
Best for Driving the Kids to Soccer Practice or Going on a Road Trip
Tabby Road, by Recess Monkey
This Seattle band is composed of three elementary-school teachers who, as you might expect from the album title, have a bit of a Beatles fixation. And the CD sounds as if the Fab Four or the Kinks had recorded tracks about birthday parties, pets, and monsters under the bed. The topics on this disc are child-focused, but the music will definitely hook parents, too ($15, amazon.com).
You might also like: Silly Reflection, by Lunch Money ($11, amazon.com).
Best for Curling up in Bed (or in the Crib) at the End of the Day
Rockabye Baby!: Lullaby Renditions of AC/DC
The Rockabye Baby series takes classic songs from more than 20 artists, including Metallica, Nirvana, and Coldplay, and turns them into lullabies. The series could have been a case of “nifty idea, poor execution,” but the AC/DC disc shows its strengths. Stripped of all lyrics, the gentle arrangements turn kid-inappropriate songs, such as “You Shook Me All Night Long,” into palatable naptime music ($15, amazon.com).
You might also like: Dressed Up for the Party & Other Tales, by Keith Munslow ($21.50, amazon.com).