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Grown-Up Music for Kids

Music recommendations for kids and adults alike

As writer and musician Rani Arbo was putting the finishing touches on an article she wrote, describing her effort to introduce her 2 1/2-year-old son, Quinn, to music by taking him to Kindermusik and Music Together beginners' classes, she offered up a list of accompanying tips: "5 Ways to Fill Your Home with Music."

We had to know: What music does Rani play at home for her son? "Quinn's favorite grown-up CD is Oliver Mtukudzi's Tuku Music, on Putumayo," she reports. "Mtukudzi is a big star in Zimbabwe, but he's an incredibly humble, generous, and socially conscious musician (my husband and I saw him live in our pre-Quinn days). Even though we can't understand most of what he says, his smile just comes right through the CD. Plus, there's nothing like a great Zimbabwean band to make you stop doing dishes and dance."

Here are some other households' favorite grown-up records:

The Rolling Stones: Tattoo You (Virgin) and the Beatles: Revolver (Capitol). My husband has demonstrated Mick's strut often enough that as soon as "Start Me Up" comes on, Lila, age 5, and Stella, 2, start finger-wagging their way around the living room. Inadvertently dragging our kids into the decades-old debate about which British Invasion band is superior, we also love to listen to the Beatles — sometimes in unusual contexts. Chris sings the girls "Yellow Submarine" as a lullaby. — Naomi Shulman, Research Editor

Pizzicato Five: Made In USA (Matador). I play this album when I'm teaching yoga to a roomful of bouncy toddlers. It's amazing how aware they are of their own breath — and disco-esque moves — after we've been shimmying to "Twiggy Twiggy/Twiggy vs. James Bond."— Lexi Walters, Senior Editor

Ricky Martin: Ricky Martin (Sony). It's not exactly the latest hit song for us adults, but my 7-year-old niece and 9-year-old nephew still go crazy (louca, in our family's native Portuguese) dancing when "Livin' La Vida Loca" comes on.— Laura Gomes, Assistant Managing Editor

Fred Eaglesmith: Lipstick Lies & Gasoline (Razor & Tie). His song "105" ("I like to drive at a hunnert and five") is the first one my boys demand when we get in the car. Charley, age 3, says, "I want hundred five!" What's the appeal? "It's fast," says Henry, 6. "He plays it with an electric guitar — cool! I like that it goes fast, and I like that certain voice." Fred is cool, but who would have guessed that his rough-and-tumble voice would be such a draw? "I like to listen to it anytime I'm in the car," adds Henry. "But you shouldn't really drive at a hundred and five."— Nathaniel Reade, Senior Editor

W. A. Mozart: Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), with Sir Charles Mackerras conducting the Scottish Chamber Orchestra & Chorus (Telarc), and Bruce Springsteen: We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (Sony). The soundtrack to our children's day depends entirely on which parent is at home. My classical musician wife enchants them with Mozart's sweetest opera, its adult-sized arias beefing up a story that's endearing for young listeners. But when Daddy is at the stereo, it's roll over, Amadeus, and tell Pete Seeger the news. Springsteen breathes fire into the iconic old folkie's favorite gospel, blues, and folk songs, with a rootsy ensemble taking me and my kids on a joyful, sing-along ride on the backroads of American musical heritage.— Jeff Wagenheim, Senior Editor

Ella Fitzgerald: The Cole Porter Songbook, Volume One (Polygram) and Alison Krauss: Too Late to Cry (Rounder). When our girls were little they'd ask for "that grandma lady" for dinner music, which meant Ella. And Alison's music had been playing in our house ever since our eldest was born: Too Late to Cry and later Now That I've Found You: A Collection. Now, at age 14, Madeline has Alison loaded onto her iPod and is still singing along to her songs... in the privacy of her room.— Trisha Thompson, Executive Editor

R.E.M., Lifes Rich Pageant (Capitol) and Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers: The Modern Lovers (Rhino). My kids love R.E.M., especially the song where they sing, "I am Superman..." — my son has a great love for the Man of Steel, as evidenced by his bedroom full of Superman drawings, a poster, a costume, and more. My kids also like most anything we play them by Jonathan Richman, particularly "Roadrunner" and the other fun songs from this earliest Modern Lovers album.— Ann Hallock, Creative Director

Talking Heads: Speaking in Tongues (Warner Bros.). Okay, maybe "Burning Down the House" doesn't deliver the fire-safety message parents should be aiming for, but it's good for shaking the hips. My girls also used to love dancing to Jonathan Richman — "Buzz Buzz Buzz" and "Ice Cream Man" — but now that they're 11 and 13, they just think he's weird.— Martha Jenkins, Associate Editor

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CeReality: 5 Families, 5 Stories, 1 Critical Meal

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