Bringing Up Baby, As Music Lovers Might

Sing baby.

My NPR Music Notes newsletter today contained an interesting article on music and kids that completely resonated with me. Entitled Bringing Up Baby, As Music Lovers Might, it speaks to the careful diligence new parents, who are passionate about music, take when selecting the music their child will listen to.  

Being a music snob, I always found children’s music to be trite and belittling. Why do we have to dumb down music for children?  Just because they’re tiny and unable to speak, doesn’t mean they can’t comprehend what’s going on around them. Turns out I was right about that. Babies can recognize surprisingly complex rhythms and are sensitive to the differences between consonant and dissonant music. 

Hell bent on eliminating Barney and anything remotely like it in our household, I created my own child-friendly music program for my little guy, Judah – which has turned into a bit of a rock history overview in the process.  James Brown, The Flaming Lips and Cut Copy were early favorites. Now he asks for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs,  The Duke Spirit and The Raconteurs by name.  And I swell with pride every time he does so.

I know I’m going to catch flack from all you kid haters for this, but here’s the video that solidified my theory on kids and music – that they don’t need to be fed music through a purple dinosaur in order to connect with it. Here’s Judah, not even 2 years old, channeling the Grandfather of Soul himself. (He still uses our T.P. holder as a microphone to this day.)

5 thoughts on “Bringing Up Baby, As Music Lovers Might

  1. Amen! We’ve taken the same basic approach — expose our kids to what we like and let’s see what happens.

    Except in our case, we’re archiving for both our kids every year our favorite music for the year and will be giving the kids the music when they’re sixteen or so. In some feeble attempt to let our kids know we weren’t always dorks. Well, that’s debatable even today.

    That said, our kids (2.5 years and 9 months) are listening to Hold Steady right now. And Owen, our eldest, asks for the “Click, Click, Click” Song (Bishop Allen) and the “Pretty Girl Song” (Stars) from, in fact, his 1 year-old mix.

    So, we’re with you. Screw the nay-sayers (they’re probably not even parents to begin with :P).


  2. remarkable stage presence. great energy.
    so rad.

    we too are anti-kid-music. H is just now starting to respond to music as entertainment – he is digging The Beatles Rubber Soul and Bishop Allen as well. But, has always, always, always been able to fall asleep to Blood On The Wall. We usually only need the emergency sleeping-music if we’re in the car and he’s over tired. But, it works every time – he can go from a complete meltdown to passed out in about 2 songs.

  3. Rubber Soul…that’s a classic. I have yet to introduce Judah to the Beatles. Bishop Allen is definitely kid friendly – all happy and pop-y. Luckily he’s a good sleeper and I don’t need the emergency sleep CD!

  4. The other similar point that I’m always making to my wife is that plenty of “grown-up” music sounds like kids music anyway. I mean, ‘Yellow Submarine?’ ‘Rockin’ Robin?’ Those are basically nursery rhymes. And I would much rather have Bobby Day stuck in my head than ‘Wheels On The Bus’ or ‘The Peanut Butter Song.’

    On a semi-related note, the only way I can get my son to sit still for diaper changes is to sing Chuck Berry’s ‘My Ding-A-Ling.’ Turns out the kid not only likes music, but has a sense of humor too…

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