It’s been a while since I shared my music picks and it’s time to play catch-up with a rundown of kids’ music on my Island radar. Get out your music player and get ready to do some Spring cleaning!
Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights – What A Zoo: We loved Joanie’s last album, so when she added animal-themed songs, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and a cover of “Froggie Went a Courtin,” we knew we were in for more of her trademark top-notch pop. We weren’t disappointed!
Moona Luna – Piñata Party: New York-based songwriter Sandra Velasquez’s bilingual kids’ project is sure to be part of our backyard summer soundtrack. This non-stop Latin-flavored album even features a cameo from Dan Zanes.
Putumayo Kids - Acoustic Dreamland: Yet another quality compilation from the Putumayo brand, this one under their “Dreamland” genre. Full of soothing acoustic lullabies from singer-songwriters both kindie (Frances England) and classic (Lucy Kaplansky), this one works for babies, kids and even restless adults.
Daddy A Go Go – Grandkid Rock: Satisfy your classic rock and kindie rock pallet with Daddy A Go Go’s all-ages friendly release. Sure, references to Backstreet Boys may be slightly outdated, but this is called Grandkid Rock after all.
Brady Rymer - Love Me For Who I Am: Brady’s latest album was made with the goal of creating a “deeper understanding and appreciation of children with autism and other related conditions.” A wonderful project idea filled with sweet and sophisticated pop/rock tunes like the title track, “Picky Eater,” “Bein’ With You” and Laurie Berkner duet “Soft Things.”
Jamie Broza – I Want A Dog: Broza had me chuckling from the first, title track on this album of pop/rock/Latin jazz tunes. I Want A Dog keeps its fast, funny pace with interspersed skits, interviews and pet sounds. As an added bonus, Jamie will donate 20% of profits to the North Shore Animal League America of New York.
Groove Kid Nation – The Wheels on The Bus: Dad Rodney Lee launched the LA-based Groove Kid Nation project as a clever way to introduce kids to instruments. Groove Kid takes traditional songs and infuses them with Lee’s own brand of retro soul & funk , all tied together with some subtle music education and original characters based on classic nursery rhymes.
The Boogers – Let’s Go: The Ramones of kid rock are back! They stick to the same formula of their last release, and that is a only a good thing. A mix of punk-pop originals and rock-hard remakes of classics like “London Bridge,” The Boogers are a true fist-pumping original.
The Billy Kelly Show – The Family Garden: Billy Kelly has a posse. One listen to his album and a visit to his website, and it is clear why. From his original songwriting to his sense of humor and sketches, Kelly is starting to build a kindie rock brand. His latest release features more original quirky pop confections that tickle the funny bone and please your more refined music tastes.
Ham & Burger – Pharm Phresh: Hip-hop for kids is usually a mixed bag, with some artists totally missing the mark. Ham & Burger have avoided the patronizing tone of other efforts by reworking old staples with a hip-hop funk twist. They know how to get the (birthday) party started, and even end up throwing in a few original tunes as well.
Luv Clowns! – Love Clowns: Whatever your stance is on clowns (scary/funny), this band clearly has a sense of humor and knows how to write an entertaining tune for the family. Based on a fictional bunch of rock-n-roll clowns, the album is part acid trip, part pop treat.
King Britt - Baby Loves Disco: The traveling dance party now has its own soundtrack. We are a beat-loving household, and this album filled the dance music gap in our kindie playlist. Despite a few demerits for the “We Are A Family” remake, this album is a total success. DJ King Britt serves up kid-friendly, dance-floor ready tunes including original tunes about ice cream and playground time, while crafting an irresistible take on the classic “Hey D.J.”
The Baby Grands – The Baby Grands II: Grand, indeed. Ben Rowell and Chuck Nash produce powerful pop, rock and country-tinged tunes for those magic minivan moments when the whole family is rocking out together. The Baby Grands were made for the “open road,” satisfying all members with their sound.
Jeremy Plays Guitar – Use Your Words: Jeremy Zmud and his band received “best of” status in 2010 from Daily Candy, People Magazine, and The LA Times for this sunshiny kindie pop release. Over the 14 tracks, the talented Jeremy Plays Guitar keeps it interesting with slight genre shifts and topics that will hit home (“Use Your Words,” “Your Turn, My Turn”). They even bring in the fabulous Madeleine Peyroux for the jazzy “Keep My Cool.”
Debbie and Friends – Story Songs & Sing Alongs! DVD: Debbie has finally compiled her charming animated videos together into one collection. Whenever we pop this new release in, out little one is glued to the screen as Debbie and the gang do to their animated, musical takes on classic stories like Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack & The Beanstalk. ‘Story Songs & Sing Alongs!’ is another great music DVD for your collection and excellent counter-programming for TV-wary parents.
The Pop! For Kids Project: Not an album (yet), but a blog, and a great one at that! The Pop! For Kids Project has indie pop artists from all around the world contributing songs aimed at children. All MP3s posted by curator Dennis Greeuw are created just for this project, and are free to download.
Admittedly, I did not get to spend too much time at Toy Fair. I was in attendance for the sister Engage event, so I only got a few hours to peruse the Toy Fair floor to seek out things that were of personal interest. Below are just a few of the items that caught my attention along the way. If you want a truly deeper dive, I recommend sources like Toy Directory or Out With The Kids. In the meantime, check out a handful of Nugget Island picks below.
Creativity for Kids’ Shrinky Dinks Fairy Garden
Maia recently discovered the joy of Shrinky Dinks. However, she usually discards them after they have done their shrinking thing. So, the idea of being able to use the ‘Dinks’ after baking and shrinking them caught my attention. Each Shrinky Dink turns into a little fairy that can be played with in a 3-D cardboard garden.
Creativity for Kids’ Playful Pets Nesting Dolls Kit
What is it about nesting dolls that appeals to kids of all ages? Add a DIY art twist, and they go beyond being simple novelty items. This Nesting Doll Kit lets kids paint and sticker their own wooden dolls using non-toxic, acrylic paint.
Curious Chef 6 Piece Fruit & Veggie Prep Kit / 16 Piece Cupcake and Decorating Kit
Sometimes Maia gets tired of playing kitchen, and wants the real thing. I was on the lookout for a company that makes safe, tangible, and cute-looking kitchen tools for kids. These ergonomically-correct kits offer both ends of the culinary spectrum. First off, they guarantee some fun with healthy fruit and veggie preparation. And, being realistic, there is also some sweet tooth-satisfying kitchen fun with a cupcake decorating kit.
Not only does this British company create a unique, safe bike that aims to teach children to ride at a young age, they create it with solid birch wood. This bike aims to be as easy on the eyes as it is to ride. Pictured is the Classic Series in natural color. Love those flames!
eebee’s Adventure Play mat & Activity Play House / Music and Sound DVD
We love eebee in our house. This dreadlocked puppet was a must-watch in Maia’s first few years, and we looked forward to introducing our newborn to this property some day. This brightly-colored, transformable mat/ playhouse will be the perfect place to do just that. Meanwhile, we will be sure to get our hands on the newest DVD in the eebee line, “Music and Sound.”
Pinkalicious Licensing Mania
Like many little girls, my daughter is quite smitten with the Pinkalicious properties. Walking into the Fundex booth, I was surprised by all of the card and board games being released under this property. A great way to get the little one excited about offline analog games, titles included licensed versions of Scrabble Jr. and UNO as well as original titles like “Pinkalicious Pinkarella Lunchbox Game.”
PPW Toys’ Wizard of Oz Mr. Potato Head Set
These classic childhood toys, as well as Toy Story stars, get the ‘Oz’ makeover with this new licensing deal. Part collectible toy, part child plaything, I have yet to make up my mind if the ‘Oz’ Potato Head Set will be a future “daddy collectible” or a gift for the kids.
Playmates Toys’ Michael Jackson 10″ Collector Figures
For those who have turned their youngsters on to MJ, here’s the chance to collect (and/or play) with the late King of Pop. Set for release in the Spring, the series includes “Beat It Michael,” “First Moonwalk Michael,” “Thriller Michael,” and the “Billie Jean Michael.” (Excuse my terrible photo, better ones here!)
AMAV’s Chocolate Coin Press
We could be getting our gelt on next Hanukkah thanks to this Chocolate Coin Press from AMAV/Diamant. I loved the idea of getting Maia involved in the process of making the gold-wrapped chocolate coins from scratch – all done using a small “mint” machine.
Dunecraft “Pirate’s Cove” / “Mermaid’s Growing Grotto”
I have been a long-time admirer of Dunecraft’s science-themed garden and plant kits. Their down-aged Pirate’s Cove and Mermaid’s Growing Grottos get kids in the growing dome game, with two plant kits targeting both genders.
Mezco’s DC Mez-Itz Wonder Woman
My daughter has gone Wonder Woman crazy so I was on the lookout for anything featuring this Amazonian princess. While many toys featured a sexed-up version of the superhero, this pint-sized designer toy was cute and collectible.
P’Kolino Safari Collection - Tree Table with Animal Chairs
This company makes beautiful products with an eye for modern design, and this wooden table set is no exception. This brightly colored set is made of solid wood and features chairs shaped like animal silhouettes.
P’Kolino Multi-Solution Owl Shape Puzzle
Another small sample of what this company can do with design. Check out their site and get ready to start your P’Kolino-only playroom.
Putumayo Coloring and Sticker Books
Our favorite world music label expands on their product line with a series of coloring and sticker books based on their trademark artwork. Each uniquely-illustrated set features the animals, instruments and people of that geographical location.
NECA Coraline Licensing
Another beloved property in our house, I was excited to see all the licensed toys being offered from NECA. Their “wall of Coraline” included items like a collectible lunchbox, throw pillow, and assorted PVC toys.
Disney Princess Squinkies
Disney Princess Squinkies bring together an evergreen property with the current collectible craze. Guaranteed to breathe extended life into the pencil topper trend, these new sets will come in packs themed around each princess.
Workman’s Wizard of Oz Scanimation: 10 Classic Scenes from Over the Rainbow
The creators of the “Scanimation” style books that were brought to life in best-sellers Gallop! and Swing! are journeying down the yellow brick road with this licensed edition. Iconic Scanimation scenes include Miss Gulch transforming into the witch, The Scarecrow doing his famous dance and the ruby slippers clicking together.
Workman’s Papertoy Monsters Book
Despite my lack of Origami talent, I am still obsessed with the papertoy trend – the Internet phenomenon that has some of the coolest designers creating DIY toys. This book brings together 25 papertoy designers from around the world to create Origami-style monster toys for kids to create at home.
Tonner 15” Disney Princess Dolls
At around $200 a piece, these dolls are not made for the hands of your young princess fan. But they are beautiful collectibles and are worth calling out for the adult fan. Maia loved looking at the pictures alone and promised “not to break them if we bought one.”
Tonner 22” Wonder Woman Doll
This showcase piece was wowing all who passed it in the aisle. At $350, this is for serious collectors and hardcore Wonder Woman fans. Regardless of price, Tonner’s attention to detail and quality cannot be denied.
RoomMates Decorative Peel & Stick Products
Peel and stick wall decals continue to replace wallpaper and posters as a popular way to liven up a child’s bedroom. RoomMates have wisely locked in the leading licenses, giving them the advantage in this crowded market. Brands and characters from Disney, DC, Marvel, Star Wars, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network are just some of the decals you can purchase. Plus, there’s this pretty cool Where the Wild Things Are set.
Batman x MIMOBOT USB Flash Drive Collection
Why buy a boring old Flash drive when you can get one in the shape of your favorite Batman character? Loaded with desktop wallpapers, icons, avatars, and screensavers, these storage drives come in the shape of Batman, Robin, Catwoman, or The Joker.
Summer is upon us, and with it comes fresh inspiration to add new music to your mix. Here are a few well-timed family music albums to consider adding to your summer plans.
For your backyard BBQ:
Party time at your place? There’s a reason Roy Handy and the Moonshot have an exclamation point at then end of each song. This project from musical dad Gerry Stanek is not stop rock ‘n roll fun with song titles like “Socks Are Overrated!!,” “Space Kitty!!” and “Pancakes!!” Album highlight “Crayon Man!!” is a kindie rock classic that will have the little ones jumping up and down manically on that rented moon bounce or backyard trampoline. Debut album (I’m Gonna Be) Your Best Friend is a must for your all-ages summer day celebration.
Roy Handy and the Moonshot on Facebook
For your Sunday drive:
Does your Sunday usually involve a drive to the beach? Or perhaps just hopping in the car and seeing where the day takes you? Putumayo’s newest CD, Rock & Roll Playground, will help avoid any music battles. The king of curators have put together a fine and diverse mix for the little ones that includes everything from Rhythm Child’s Cajun-flavored “Oh Susanna” to Rosie Flores & the Pine Valley Cosmonauts’ bluesy-rock “This Little Girl’s Gone Rockin’” to the power pop of Roger Day’s “Dream Big!” Help fight backseat boredom and bickering with the included booklet about the history of rock ‘n roll and the songs on the album. Unfortunately, this album won’t be able to solve those backseat middle space turf wars.
Rock & Roll Playground on Putumayo Kids Official Site
For your Sunday morning drive:
For those whose Sunday morning involves a trip to Church, Butterflyfish’s Ladybug may make excellent musical accompaniment for the drive. A progressive and non-preachy effort from Boston-area musicians Matthew Myer Boulton, Elizabeth Myer Boulton, and Zoë Krohne, this roots-style Americana music mixes spiritual (“What Jonah Learned Inside the Whale”) and non spiritual (“Lemonade”) songs. The band writes their own material while creating fresh, rootsy interpretations of well known praise songs.
Butterflyfish Official Site
For the REALLY LONG Drive:
If your drive is more than a quick trek to the local watering hole, perhaps you want to consider the album Green Golly & Her Golden Flute by Flute Sweet & Tickletoon. This album mixes storytelling and music in an update of the Rapunzel story. Flute Sweet & Tickletoon (aka Barbara Siesel and Keith Torgan) act out their own interpretation while mixing in music from well known composers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Siesel’s flute playing is a great way to school the kiddos on classical music without them realizing it. And storytime is always an imaginative time killer.
Flute Sweet & Tickletoon Official Site
For kid-safe tailgating:
Nothing makes better tailgating music than good old classic rock ‘n roll. StarFish is the type of band made to blast from car speakers and high-power stereo systems. These guys have burst on the kindie scene with kid-safe fist-pumping rock tunes like “Here Comes Trouble,” and “Air Guitar.” (And yes, you may even recognize a few classic rock riffs in those tunes). Sure to appeal to a wide demographic of grandparents, parents and the little ones, the tunes from new CD Enter Sandbox! are made for live performances. This Maplewood, NJ quintet is on the road this summer, bringing their new stadium-style kindie rock to the mini-masses.
StarFish Official Site
For warm summer nights on the patio (or in the nursery):
I never thought it would be possible that an album could function as a both lullaby album for the little one and a late night/backyard chilling out album for my wife and me. American Laundromat Records have pulled it off though with their charity compilation album, Sing Me To Sleep – Indie Lullabies. The compilation rounds up some of my personal favorites like Tanya Donelly, Dean & Britta, The Real Tuesday Weld, Sigur Rós, Trespassers William, and Stars, to raise money for The Valerie Fund. This album mixes wondrous renditions of childhood favorites (“Rainbow Connection,”Pure Imagination,” “Edelweiss”) modern classics (“Boys Of Summer,” “The Sounds Of Silence,” “Cloudbusting”) and traditional tunes (“You Are My Sunshine,” “Dream A Little Dream Of Me”). What better way to lure the little one to sleep or read a book by candlelight than with the fine-tuned tastes of American Laundromat?
Sing Me to Sleep on Facebook
For the staycation:
Plans to stay home this summer? Take a virtual trip to the moon with what is surely one of my favorite albums of the year – Recess Monkey’s Final Funktier. Their new funk and electronic-infused album is a bold success from start to finish. From opening tracks “Liftoff” and personal album fave “Moonboots” to hip-hop infused “Beat-Box-a-Robot” and the riotous groove of “Sunglasses,” the album is pure otherworldly pop pleasure. Who needs a trip to the shore/cabin/lake when Recess Monkey can rock you into outer space and back in just over a half an hour?
Recess Monkey Official Site
Just click on the links above and check out some of these albums for any sort of musical summer celebration!