In our house music is very important. As I type this right now X-Ray Spex is blasting through a speaker while my husband is putting the dishes away (yes, he is awesome like that) and the kids are reading next to me. There are a lot of instruments in our house as well. My husband is a drummer. I started in the orchestra in grade school and later dabbled in piano and bass. My 11-year-old is in his second year playing the upright bass and my 6 yr old…well she just likes to dance.
When the kids were little we tried to share some of our favorite bands with them but they still were drawn to Kidz Bop and the Wiggles. Nooooo! We had to find a way to introduce them to musicians that could still appeal to their kid side while exposing them to a world beyond cheesy covers by sugared-up tweens and ones that wouldn’t drive us nuts. While I still encourage parents to play all kinds of music all the time (my kids were early lovers of Queen), here is my roundup of kid-focused bands that both kids and parents can enjoy together. Visit iTunes, Spotify, or better yet, hit up your local library and check these out.
We have been big Imagination Movers fans since we first discovered them in a decade ago. They were four dads from New Orleans who got together to start a kid-friendly band. Early on they were picked up by Disney and ended up with a tv show on Disney Junior. Sadly, the show is no longer on but they are still playing and touring together. They write all originals that are catchy and sound great. Parents will note nods to everything from the Beastie Boys to Elvis Costello with influences spanning reggae to new wave. If you have a chance to take your kiddos to see them I would encourage it. Their live show is a good time for all. And if you are lucky enough to find their old Disney show, binge watch that asap! The concept is all about using creativity to solve problems while teaching lessons about kindness, facing fears, and more. Honestly, they have too many songs that I think are awesome to single out just one or two.
The Seattle based Not-Its have roots in tons of indie and punk bands including Velocity Girl, Harvey Danger, Action Patrol to name just a few. Starting in 2008 this group of friends got together to create a band that would give kids their first ‘rock experience’. Dubbed “Kindie Rock Pioneers”, the Not-Its have 7 albums and have played all over the country including the kids’ stage at Lollapalooza. Their music is infectious and parents will be singing right along with their kids. Because of the distance, we’ve only seen them live a few times but I’ve known Tom, the bass player for a few decades now and can attest to his overall awesomeness as a musician and a person. Overall, these are just really great people who make pretty fun, rockin’ music for parents and kids alike. “Freeze Tag” and “Mathematics” are older songs but still two of my favorites.
I think most parents know of Laurie Berkner so this may not be a surprise on this list. Her music is a little different than the other groups in this roundup as she leans more towards a folksy vibe. There is no mistaking that her songs are for kids but they are fun to listen to nonetheless. She continues to play live with her band and has plenty of videos and albums you can check out from your local library. “Moon Moon Moon” is one of my favorite songs and is one I still sing as a lullaby to my 6-year-old from time to time.
While the only act on this list to not bill themselves as a band for kids, the unconventional indie duo has released five children’s albums since 2005. They Might Be Giants’ songs have the same experimental sound that their other albums utilize but with lyrics aimed towards the kid-friendly crowd. Their release “Here Come the 123s” won a 2009 Grammy for Best Musical Album for Children and even landed in the top 10 on Amazon’s overall music bestsellers. I’ve been a fan of They Might Be Giants since I was a teen so sharing them with my kids was a no brainer. We quite enjoy “Clap Your Hands”.
Yes, Phineas & Ferb isn’t a band but an animated TV show. However, it is heavily centered around music and quite frankly… the music is pretty great. From a guitar-heavy theme song written and performed by band Bowling for Soup, the show is essentially a musical with songs that vary in genre and tone. As for all the other songs, its a collaborative process. The show co-creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh work out ideas for songs and send rough demos to composer Danny Jacobs for polishing along with the voice actors signing. Jacobs, a long time session musician has served as guitarist for tons of top musicians including Tower of Power, George Micahel, and Chaka Kahn. You can find a variety of songs from the TV series as well as a few of their TV movie specials online or at your local library. Personally, our favorites include the soundtrack to “Phineas & Ferb: Across the Second Dimension” and “Phineas & Ferb: Holiday Favorites”.