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A Kid’s Playlist

A few weeks ago, my family took a road trip — about two hours, but long enough that I knew I couldn’t take The Wiggles and Kidz Bop! for an extended period of time. So I decided to put my iPod into action and created a playlist designed to entertain, enlighten and educate my kids on good music.

When my first daughter was born, I had visions of playing U2, the Beatles and R.E.M. to her, wanting to fill her mind only with high-quality music, thereby shaping her musical evolution. In reality, though, I discovered that kids like simple, bouncy music that makes them happy. The fact that most of my music falls into this category was not lost on me. It was slightly worrisome. As for shoegaze, goth and punk, my kids don’t really get it, and for good reason.

What to Put on Your Kids’ Playlist

Going through my music collection, I noticed four trends emerging from the choices I picked:

  • Show tunes. Children gravitate toward soundtracks and show tunes from kid-friendly musicals. As a result, I have choices from Annie, Frozen, The Sound of Music and Singin’ in the Rain.
  • The 1950s and 1960s. I’ve always thought that most 50s and early 60s music were like prehistoric times — the same bass line, same harmonies and simplistic lyrics. That formula, though, seems ideal for young kids. “Da Doo Ron Ron,” The Supremes, and other girl groups are all on the playlist. If it wouldn’t have driven me crazy, I’m sure they would have loved “Yakety Yak” and “Purple People Eater.”
  • 1980s songs. More my influence than any of the others. I did notice some simplicity and melody among some of the more novel songs of that decade — “Mickey,” “Come on Eileen” and “Our House” made the cut. I think “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” would have done well, too.
  • Ringo. The Beatles tried to find simple songs for him to sing — he didn’t have the most melodic voice — and it showed on my playlist.

A Sample Kids Playlist

Here’s the playlist for kids that I came up with:

  • “Maybe” (Annie)
  • “The Hard-Knock Life” (Annie)
  • “Tomorrow” (Annie)
  • “Come On Eileen” – Dexys Midnight Runners
  • “Stop! In The Name of Love” – The Supremes
  • “ABC” – The Jackson Five
  • “Yellow Submarine” – The Beatles
  • “Octopus’ Garden” – The Beatles
  • “You’re Sixteen” – Ringo Starr
  • “Breakout” – Swing Out Sister
  • “Friday I’m in Love” – The Cure (I’m starting them on Goth light)
  • I Found Love” – The Free Design
  • “Singin’ in the Rain”
  • “Good Morning” (Singin’ in the Rain)
  • “Do-Re-Mi” (The Sound of Music)
  • “The Sound of Music” (The Sound of Music)
  • “My Favorite Things” (The Sound of Music)
  • “That Thing You Do!” – The Wonders
  • “Mickey” – Toni Basil
  • “Our House” – Madness
  • “Da Doo Ron Ron” – The Crystals
  • “Lollipop” – The Chordettes
  • “Dancing Queen” – ABBA
  • “Our Lips Are Sealed” – The Go-Gos

Some songs are sticking better than others. My 6-year-old has “Come On Eileen” on a loop on her Barbie iPod, and I’m pretty sure that she can’t understand the lyrics to the chorus (“With you in that dress, my thoughts I confess, verge on dirty.” Before I saw the lyrics I thought the last line was “vuhdge uh duh tuh”). She and her younger sister both like “Lollipop,” especially — you guessed it — the part where you stick your finger in your mouth to make the pop sound.

There have been a few surprises, too. She really likes “Stop! In the Name of Love,” which I debated on whether to include. And the “Dancing Queen” worm has yet to invade her brain, which surprises me. In fact, thanks to the endless commercials, the one ABBA song she is singing around the house is “Mamma Mia.”

On a side note, my 3-year-old wonders why Madness’ house is in the middle of the street and whether the cars will hurt the house. As a result, I feel validated in my decision not to include “The Safety Dance.” (“Daddy, why don’t his friends dance? Why aren’t they his friends any more if they don’t dance? Is it safe to dance?”)

It’s been such a success, I’ve created a nighttime CD for them as well. But that’s for another day.

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Peter Lee

6 Comments

  1. Always a good subject…

    My kids (5 and 3) do indeed love anything by the Coasters – they work great on a kids playlist if you can take it. Some Elvis works well too (“Jailhouse Rock” comes to mind). My son loves Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock n Roll”, Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, and Bryan Adams “Kids Wanna Rock” (notice the pattern here?). There is also a classic 80s song by Was (Not Was) called “Walk The Dinosaur” that the kids love to dance to. Paul Westerberg did a soundtrack for the kids movie “Open Season” that ain’t too bad either. Unfortunately, now that he has started kindergarten, he’s singing stuff like “Who let the dogs out” (sigh).

  2. What, no Yaz on that playlist? Or did that copy of Upstairs at Eric’s belong to Brian?

  3. You don’t tell us whether the kids dug your scene!

    Anyway, I’ve noticed that kids ALWAYS enjoy “Since Yesterday” by Strawberry Switchblade. If you don’t have it (or know it), it’s on my blog. And I think a bit of Sweet always works, if only for the humour. Poppa Joe, Little Willie and all that, plus “It’s, it’s Ballroom Blitz…” and “…they just haven’t got a clue WHAT do to” from Blockbuster. And the Monkee’s “Daydream Believer” has fine singalong properties.

  4. I just had a boy who is now 7 months old. My music is not all that bouncy but right now he tends to enjoy hearing me play, so maybe if we all keep tradition and put the best quality music in their ears, it will translate eventually.

  5. Great ideas! 7 yo girl is getting the 4g ipod shuffle from Santa and I have tasked Dad with creating the playlist. After his first attempt, featuring Bjork and a variety of obscure guitar-rocky tunes, I have been looking for advice just like this. In fact, you reminded me that my kids LOVE Motown! Thanks!

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