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Kids Music In The Car: Tune-in or tune-out?

You have little ears in your car, but you are the one driving.  What’s on the radio?  Kid Music or Not-Kid Music?  The Mavens of Motherhood weigh in on the topic and give some kid-approved favorites.



I don’t do kid music (Save for those ‘Rockabye Baby’ CDs that turned some of my favorite 90’s alt punk bands into soothing instrumental lullabies. My personal faves: Nirvana and Pearl Jam). Don’t get me wrong, I’ll sing along to every song that damn purple dinosaur belts out while we are watching Saturday morning cartoons, but I refuse to put a CD in my car that is filled with ‘Wheels on the Bus’ and ‘Old McDonald’ sung in the high falsettos of pre-pubescent children. Nope. No thanks.

My son listens to what I listen to, which is a little bit of everything (with the exception of Country-pop). I prefer lyrical music sung by radical female musicians; which means we listen to a lot of Indigo Girls, Adele, Tori Amos, and Regina Spektor. I also like to cycle in classic Broadway show tunes, Appalachian hymnals (it’s a quirk), blue grass music and some Justin Timberlake/Robin Thicke (don’t judge me). While my tastes are fairly eclectic, ‘L’ definitely has a preference. After sampling my music for the past few years, my almost-5 year old now decidedly leans toward show-stopping Broadway show tunes. His absolute favorites are ‘One’ from A Chorus Line and ‘Roxie’ from Chicago. I stocked an old iPhone with some classics and he will sit in his room with headphones on, coloring and grooving. Every time I hear him whisper-sing ‘Roooooxie’ or belt out ‘Sheeeeeee’s theeeeee oooooooooonnne’ I’m in hysterics.

I’m not sure what it is about the music that pulls him in; the brassy horns, the sshhhk sshhhk of a high hat, that big band sound or growly female belters, but I approve his choice. It’s a great education in some pretty amazing music and it’s way cooler than a singing dinosaur.

L’s favorites:


Music is essential to our family, and Anabelle is in love with it. She loves to dance, play her instruments (mainly various drums, a keyboard, and penny whistle), and sing. I can vividly remember her kicking and moving to “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega when she was still in utereo. We wanted to be sure to listen to a lot of kids music with her (Laurie Berkner, Justin Roberts, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, etc.) and she loves it.  She also has a serious passion for electronic music. XM’s channel BPM is one of her favorites. She loves Armin Van Buuren, Rusko, Calvin Harris, and Ferry Corsten and many, many more.

We also wanted to be sure to expose her to all different kinds of music as long as there were no sexual themes, bad language, and/or violence. She is also a big fan of Judy Garland, the Foo Fighters, Presidents Of The United States Of America (thanks to Casper Babypants), Macklemore, the Roots, and John Legend. She is just starting to get into belting out her favorite lyrics and it brings absolute joy to my heart.

Our family’s favorite band has got to be They Might Be Giants. Anabelle fell in love with them because of their children’s albums– but she loves all their music now (which makes me and my husband very happy). My personal favorite CD to listen to with her is Dar Williams, “The Beauty Of The Rain”. It has a song on there that played the first time I got to nurse her (and has been a part of lullaby mixes and quiet time ever since) called “The One Who Knows”.  She knows it is her special song, and likes to snuggle and hug whenever she hears it!

Anabelle’s special song:


Both.  I think the Yo-Gabba-Gabba CD’s are in ruins.  They were our favorites for so long.  Everyone could dig them.  Great messages, like “sometimes you win, sometimes you loose,” but mostly sung by regular bands.  In fact, it was YGG that introduced us to Chromeo.  (We love some dicso-funk-skate grooves in this house.)

Often, Madeleine will specifically ask for “kid music.”  These CD’s, while irritating sometimes, repeat songs she hears at school and on TV–the songs everybody knows and can sing along to.  I don’t mind (though the Wow-Wow-Wubzy CD went “missing” and will never be found. ever.)  “Mommy music,” as Madeleine calls it, often has too many inappropriate themes in it.  I love all kinds of music, but it is challenging for me to find songs I wouldn’t mind her singing a long to.  For example, listening to the regular old radio, at 2 in the afternoon, she started singing the Jessie J song that starts, “I’m feelin’ sexy and free.”  You are not.  Back in goes the kid CD.  Even sugary pop songs sound wrong when sung by a four year old. Worse is when she asks questions, “Why does that lady keep saying she crashes her car in a bridge?” or “What means ‘hot lover’?”  Yikes.  Once, she asked about her favorite (at the time) song Rumor Has It, “Mommy, whose Ruma?” Nothing gets past her.

Honestly, Madeleine might be one of those people who isn’t “in” to music.  This seems impossible for me to fathom, and maybe it is too soon to judge, but she has always been super picky with music in the car.  Now, DANCE parties.  That is a different story.  Turn it up to 11!!

Right now, the CD’s I can get away with are “oldies.” Songs they would play on the radio before they started having to bleep lyrics…back…back in time. The Coasters are her favorite.  Doo Wop.  Personally, I’m fine with a square for a daughter. I can also sneak in some Madonna, Smiths, Heart, or Stevie Nicks if she’s distracted.  She asks me not to sing, but she is not the boss of me.

Madeleine’s (all time) favorite:


Here’s some music we can all get behind, in the car or for the kid inside all of us:  Music for Kids and Grown-Ups.  

(I dare you not to get the clean up song stuck in your head.) 


  1. Lindsay /

    Funny story – I was just looking over everyone’s POV and clicked play on the “Roxie” video. Guess who comes running from his room? ‘L’, screaming, “ROOOOOXIE! ROOOOXIE!” Then he had to sit on my lap and watch the video – did I mention he’s way into jazz hands?

    And I do have to agree on Yo Gabba Gabba, Jennette (I forgot about them!). While I don’t own the CD, that would probably be the only one I would allow in my car. I love all the indie bands that they collaborate with.

    • Jennette Cronk /

      Show tunes are great for kids and jazz hands help get me through the day! Also, we love the Laurie Berkner CD that Rita suggests. It will get stuck in your head, but even picky Madeleine loves it. (Plus the shakey-egg song calls for maracas). Jazz hands!

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