I used to hate kids. Now that I have two of them, I'm OK admitting that. In my 20s, I went around swearing I would never spawn — instead, I'd travel the world wild and free without ever having to change a nappy, listen to Barney songs, or pick up half-chewed Oreos from the floor.
Photo: Paramount Pictures
Alas, I had to eat my words. (I ate those Oreos off the floor, too — no use wasting them.) I have a two-year-old and a six-year-old; I love them to pieces, and I'd do anything for them. I've changed nappies from every angle — standing up, sitting down, in a car, on a boat… you get the picture. I've cleaned projectile vomit off the teacup ride at Disneyland. I've fought off other kids for the last bag of gummy bears.
There's a lot of bubbly, cheery music geared toward babies out there, but this melody was composed using the power of science.
But as a music journalist, one who prided herself on watching four concerts a week, every week, for a decade, one thing I still refuse to do is listen to mind-numbing Barney songs with my kids. Through careful coercion and thoughtful curation, we can say that we successfully escaped the curse of unbearable kids music in the minivan. Here's how to do it yourself.*
Capitalise on Their Malleable Youth
The trick to moulding your kid's musical taste is getting to them early. From the time your kid is born until they're about five years old, everything you do is wonderful and the best. Take that time to teach them that Bob Marley is greater than gummy bears and that Leonard Cohen writes good bedtime stories.
Let Your Kids Own the Songs
When my son was about three, I made a playlist of songs that we, his parents, loved, and that he reacted positively to. Songs that were easy to mimic, catchy as hell, and had no explicit lyrics were automatic ins. There was no 'NSync on that list, but a lot of Michael Jackson. We would sing along to the songs together, watch videos on YouTube, and take turns playing DJ in the car. He built his own memories around songs (he called the Talking Heads' "Crosseyed and Painless" his skateboarding song). Whenever he heard a song he liked, he'd ask us to put it on his list. Today his playlist can also double as a soundtrack for any millennial festivity involving wine — it includes MJ, The White Stripes, The Weeknd and Black Sabbath.
Hype the Artists You Love
My son loves Jack White for the same reasons I do — he writes great songs and looks cool. After he saw the White Stripes video for "The Hardest Button to Button", he wanted to dress up only in red and white. Who was I to say no?
Listen to Fun Kids' Music, Too
The Rockabye Baby series creates lullabies out of popular hits by recreating them in soothing marimba melodies. The TV series Yo Gabba Gabba! also has a great soundtrack. They Might Be Giants has educational albums (they will tell you what a shooting star really is — in song form!) for kids that are phenomenal. And some kid's songs — that are on the Barney spectrum — are a trip. They're especially good for making up new lyrics with your kids. Raffi's "Bananaphone" is hilarious. Bryant Oden's "Duck Song" is an earworm, but a good one.
Don't Be Shy About Watching Live Music With Your Kids
All-ages daytime concerts are bread and butter — especially if the shows are in a park, or an open field, so you can walk around once the kids get fidgety. Nighttime shows? Do those, too. Will you get looks for having a preschooler at the FYF Fest? Inevitably, yes. But I always get more smiles than glares by the time evening is over. (Don't forget the ear protectors, though.)
Introduce Jack Black
The movie School of Rock gave my kids an early appreciation of Black Sabbath and AC/DC — and a desire to learn guitar. My son can play the intro riff to "Ironman" because of that movie, and it's not just because Black is so visibly passionate about rock music (although that's the big draw to me). To my kids, nothing is cooler than seeing other little ones play instruments in a band. ("Cello, it's a bass!")
*One caveat: These tips do have an expiration date. Once your kid hits kindergarten, he'll listen to Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber exclusively like all the rest of his snivelly school friends. Still, whenever Daft Punk comes on the radio you can always say, "Remember when you were three years old and you loved this song?"