Review-a-Day August!

I thought I'd try something new here at Kids' Music That Rocks: a short CD review every day during August. Now, maybe I'm biting off more than I can chew, but I'm going to look at it as a way to exercise my writing chops. Just don't get all "I told ya so" towards the end of August when I start posting single-word reviews like "Great!" or "Existential."

Three Little Cajun Pigs

We really enjoyed this one the other night. It's by Mike Artell. The three little Cajun pigs, Trosclair, Thibodeaux, and Ulysse, move out and build their own houses in the heart of the swamp. They better watch out when ol' Claude the gator comes along. Based on the original Three Little Pigs, you'll love the rhymes and Cajun twists of this book!

Lisa Loeb live @ Bartos Forum, NYPL!

Last Wednesday I attended Library Journal's first annual Publisher Presentation Day, an opportunity for twelve children's and adult publishing houses to show off some of their new titles for the fall.

Highlighting the day for me, though, was a short performance by Lisa Loeb to kick off the festivities that morning. She was promoting her Camp Lisa CD, and who better to get a quick preview than the librarians of The New York Public, Queensborough Public, and Brooklyn Public Library systems who might possibly purchase her album for their circulating collections.

Loeb played "Best Friend," "Peanut Butter and Jelly" (that's her smashing the peanuts in the photo above), and "Going Away" from Camp Lisa, and her 1994 hit, "Stay," which sounded a thousand times better this day as a solo performance than the original Reality Bites soundtrack tune. I think tweens would really dig her delivery, personality, and stage patter, and Camp Lisa seems perfect for that crowd, as well.

Friday Free-for-All # 17

Brian Vogan, Little Songs

Get familiar with the name Brian Vogan, folks, 'cause this dude's gonna hit big time! On one of the best kids' music debuts I've heard in a while, Seattleite Vogan and band present family-friendly folk and rock tunes about the seasons, Valentine's Day, the ABCs, and pumpkins. Make sure to check out the rockin' "Firefighter," the worthy-of-early-Sesame Street "The Listening Song," the prog rock/doo-wop epic "Chess," and THE perfect kids' TV show theme song, "Say Hello." Bound to be near the top of 2008's "Best Of" lists everywhere!

Dawnie's, Dancing in the Schoolyard

If your little ones like the dance pop of, say, Kelly Clarkson, then they'll dig Dawne Allyne's third CD for kids, Dancing in the Schoolyard. Lots of guitars and dance grooves accompany tunes about dancing, spiders, dancing, hopping, dancing, fishing, and ... more dancing! New Jersey-based Allyne is involved in the bluesy, rootsy music scene in the Northeast, and you can hear it in her tunes for kids. An album full of movement songs for kids who like to shimmy and shake.

Yummy Play Time

Here's a fun way to work on your child's language, fine motor, and creativity all at the same time!

Peanut Butter Play Dough


1 -18 oz. jar of creamy peanut butter

6 -tablespoons of honey

3/4 cup non-fat dry milk

Mix the ingredients together, using varying amounts of dry milk for desired consistencies. Knead with fingers to form the desired shapes. You can decorate your creation with other foods like M&Ms raisins, or nuts for added fun! The best part is that you can eat your creations for a healthy snack.


I know there is a lot of concern and talk about autism these days. The number of diagnosed cases has greatly increased in recent history. I was doing some reading on the subject today and found what I thought to be a pretty thorough description. I decided you might like to read it as well.

Autism is a developmental disability that causes problems with social skills and communication. Autism can be mild or severe. It is different for every person. Autism is also known as autism spectrum disorders.

What are some signs or symptoms of autism?
Children with autism may have problems with movement, communication, social skills, and reacting to the world around them. Not all behaviors will exist in every child. A diagnosis should be made by the child's doctor or other professional with experience in working with children with autism.

  • Problems learning to crawl, walk, or run
  • Problems using their hands to pick up small things or write (for older children)
  • Clumsiness
  • Problems controlling arms, legs, or mouth muscles to do things they want to do (apraxia)


  • Not speaking or very limited speech
  • Loss of words the child was previously able to say
  • Difficulty expressing basic wants and needs
  • Poor vocabulary development
  • Problems following directions or finding objects that are named
  • Repeating what is said (echolalia)
  • Problems answering questions
  • Speech that sounds different (e.g., "robotic" speech or speech that is high-pitched)
Social skills:

  • Poor eye contact with people or objects
  • Poor play skills
  • Being overly focused on a topic or objects that interest them
  • Problems making friends
  • Crying, becoming angry, giggling, or laughing for no known reason or at the wrong time
  • Disliking being touched or held
Reacting to the world around them:

  • Rocking, hand flapping or other movements (self-stimulating movements)
  • Not paying attention to things the child sees or hears
  • Problems dealing with changes in routine
  • Using objects in unusual ways
  • Unusual attachments to objects
  • No fear of real dangers
  • Being either very sensitive or not sensitive enough to touch, light, or sounds (e.g., disliking loud sounds or only responding when sounds are very loud; also called a sensory integration disorder)
  • Feeding difficulties (accepting only select foods, refusing certain food textures)
You should keep in mind that this list is meant as a reference only. If you child has only a couple of the items on the list, it is unlikely that your child has autism. A pediatrician, neurologist, or other appropriate professional should be consulted for an accurate diagnosis.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Factory Tested Kindie Rock

Just so's ya know, music is factory tested here at the Kids' Music That Rocks Laboratories. Here's our little Steamboat diggin' The Terrible Twos' Jerzy the Giant ...

Baby Talk

I love watching young children. They amaze me, especially the babies. There are so many skills that they acquire in the their first year. They go from little bundles that cry, eat, sleep, and make LOTS of dirty diapers to crawling, walking, running, babbling, finger-feeeding bundles of energy. I am convinced I could never learn that much in a year!

In as little as the first three months, you may notice that your baby already recognizes your voice and quiets or smiles when they see or hear you. By 4-6 months, your baby is likely noticing sounds and visually tracking the direction of the sound. He will have a variety of sounds that he can make, including some consonant sounds like p, b, or m.

Somewhere around their first birthday you will see that they have progressed to playing peek-a-boo, responding to simple requests such as "come here" or "hand me the cup", and will even begin speaking their first words.

In order to help with this amazing progression, try some of these suggestions:

  • Play finger plays and other games with your child, such as itsy bitsy spider and patty cake

  • Talk, talk, talk to your child

  • Reinforce your babies attempts at communication by mimicking their sounds and maintaining eye contact

  • Play around with animal sounds

***The Terrible Twos***

Anyone familiar with The Terrible Twos' 2007 debut If You Ever See an Owl ... , or, for that matter, The New Amsterdam's body of work, will immediately recognize the breezy, laid-back, and ridiculously catchy sound of the Twos' sophomore kids' album, Jerzy the Giant. If it's possible, Giant is even better than Owl, and for several reasons: this time 'round, Matt Pryor and crew make the pop songs poppier, the quirky tunes quirkier, and the singalongs even more singalongier.

Yer not gonna find many better pop tunes than "Old Man Miller," "Big Baby J," "Olly Olly Oxen Free," the title tune, and "Playground," no matter what genre you're listening to. And it's to the Twos' credit that they saved these great songs for their kids' album, rather than developing the tunes for an Amsterdams release.

Dig the wonderfully oddball songs "Great Big Poop" and "Consonants," the former being essentially a drum solo accompanied by the chant "great big poop, tiny, tiny poop;" the latter a shuffle celebrating the sometimes overlooked non-vowels in the alphabet. Remember "A Rake, A Broom, A Mop, A Shovel" from If You Ever See an Owl... ? That song and "Consonants" put the Twos on par with They Might Be Giants in the "it's so simple, but no one thought of it yet" quirky tunes for kids category (see TMBG's "I Am Not Your Broom").

Get to bouncing around the room with "Jump Jump Jump," a perfect tune for live concert audience participation. And check out Pryor's endearing tributes to his own kids: the superpop tunes "Big Baby J" and "Jerzy the Giant," the harmony-heavy "Elliott Oooh," and the self-explanatory "Lily Names Everything Sandy." Then chill to the sweet ballads "Say Say Anything," where a dad assures his kid he can find comfort confiding in a parent; "Amelia Minor," with lyrics written around the names of the chords used in the song; and the beautiful closing lullaby "Whispering the Melody."

It's interesting to see the differences in leader Matt Pryor's tunes and drummer Bill Belzer's two songs, "Archibald McCallister" and "Playground." Belzer uses a much more linear writing style, where Pryor's lyrics concentrate on feelings and kids' internal thought processes. But much like the Beatles' later albums, when George Harrison contributed a couple of songs, they fit right in with the sound while remaining distinctly Harrisonesque. Belzer's tunes compliment Giant as a whole while keeping their individual personalities.

Another must-have from The Terrible Twos! Buy Jerzy the Giant for your baby, toddler, preschooler, elementary student, middle schooler, teenager, college student, post-grad, young professional, parent, grandparent, and great grandparent. They'll love ya for it!

Why Kindermusik?

I was doing a little research today and found this interesting article. It talks about the effect that a mother's responsiveness and use of resources has on her child's cognitive development. In the study, mothers with greater social and economic resources were found to be more supportive parents than those with fewer resources, which in turn affected young children's cognitive performance. Conversely, children's cognitive performance also influenced mothers' supportiveness, which included displaying more warmth and sensitivity, and encouraging more cognitive stimulation. This was true even among low-income families. Findings are from the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Study, which included 2,089 low-income mothers and their children.

I think the key is exposing your child to activities that will stimulate their development and also enhance the bond between you and your child. In our Kindermusik classes, you can enjoy some great one-on-one time with your child while engaging in expert led activities developed specifically with your child's growth in mind. It is truly an opportunity to give your children something that will last forever.

See ya'll this fall

We are now enrolling for our fall classes at Delightful Sounds. I am so excited about the variety of classes and class times we are able to offer this semester! I hope that you will plan to join us. You can view the schedule by clicking here. If you do not live in the Brandon, Florida area and would like to find the Kindermusik program closest to you, you can do so by clicking here.

Friday Free-for-All # 16

Music Together, Family Favorites

The title is a perfect description, as standards like "Biddy, Biddy," "John the Rabbit," "Palo, Palo," and "I've Been Working on the Railroad" are performed along with originals written by Kenneth Guilmartin and Lili Levinowitz. This Princeton-based organization promotes interactive music fun for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and their families, and Family Favorites is a great way to see and hear what they're all about. Make sure to check out "Stick Tune," a very simple song that's impossible not to dance to, featuring Yvette Glover, dancer Savion Glover's mom. A super collection of tunes for the home and the preschool classroom.

Leeny and Steve, Be Nice

Gloucester, MA, duo Ilene Altman and Steve Equi play and sing everything on Be Nice, and their simple, clean production keeps the performances low-key and intimate. They use Pop, Rock, R&B, Reggae, Doo-Wop, Tin Pan Alley, and Country styles on songs about friends, grammar, playgrounds, dictionaries, and kids' neverending questions about life. And dig "Know What the Nos Are," a Queen-like tune about all the things kids aren't supposed to do, that sounds like a junior "Bohemian Rhapsody;" and "Sometimes I Just Need a Hug," a sweet ballad that could have been cowritten with James Taylor, Carole King, and Paul Simon.

Rock Daddy Rock, Silly Short Songs for Silly Short People

Chris Bihuniak may be the hardest working man in kindie rock: The co-creator of Teacher and the Rockbots and The Blankies just released his first solo album under the moniker Rock Daddy Rock after writing seven CDs worth of music with Bryan Mace over the past three years. Leawood, KS, resident Bihuniak takes a break from the education rock of his last two projects to bring us songs (most definitely inspired by his four young sons) about boogers, warts, burping, messy rooms, and farting. Your 6 to 9 year olds are gonna think this CD is heeeeelarious! And "Dirty Nails" is a seriously rockin' tune!

Beautiful Boundaries

As I am typing this, one of my children is having some "thinking time". Being a parent, I am constantly having to remind my children of the boundaries that we have established at our house. Some days, it feels like that is all I do over and over, and honestly it begins to wear a bit thin! Rules are important for establishing safety guidelines as well as learning proper behavior and social boundaries. But you should also consider your boundaries as a way to reaffirm your love for your child. It's easy to lose sight of that when you are disciplining your child for coloring their bedroom wall or yanking their sisters hair AGAIN. It doesn't feel like a token of your love, but the underlying element is that you care enough to be concerned over your child's safety or behavior. Subconsciously, your child picks up on this and feels your love. So the next time you find your child retesting those boundaries over and over, hang in there and remember that your consistent response is just one more way to say, "I love you."

growing green!

I decided to plant a butterfly garden here at my house. I have lots of butterfly plants to enjoy at the studio. Our Kinder-Gardeners have really enjoyed exploring the variety of plants, caterpillars, and butterflies we have there. They have also been able to do some planting of their own to take home. Here's a fun project for making plant people that you can try together at home.

Materials Needed:
Old panty hose, any color
Grass seed
Soilless potting mix
Shallow dish
Craft supplies (e.g., pompoms, felt, chenille craft sticks, wiggle eyes)
Craft glue

1. Cut a 6- to 8-inch-long piece of panty hose. If your piece does not include a toe, then knot one end of the hose and turn it inside out. It will end up looking like a little bag.
2. Scoop 2 to 3 teaspoons of grass seed into the closed "bag." Fill the rest of the hose with potting mix and tie the hose closed. Use your hands to gently manipulate the ball into a head shape.
3. Place the head in a shallow dish with the grass seed end facing up. Use craft pieces such as wiggle eyes, buttons, pompom balls, felt, and chenille sticks to make eyes, nose, mouth, and arms. Attach with craft glue.
4. After glue has dried, carefully water your new plant person until the soil is thoroughly moist and place in a warm location. Check daily to make sure soil stays moist. If it dries out quickly you can keep a reservoir of water in your dish. Within 3 to 5 days your plant person will begin to grow hair!
Once the hair is established you can give him/her a hair cut, or just let it grow and see how long it will get. If you have time and supplies, make a whole family of plant people!

Courtesy the National Gardening Association's Kids Gardening Web site.

Pokey Pup Super Summer Giveaways!

Come one, come all to The Pokey Pup Super Summer of Giveaways Contest Extravaganza-palooza!! Bryan Townsend and the rest of the folks over at Pokey Pup, a favorite online site for everything that is hip in the Children's Music world, have announced a great series of kids' music giveaways, including prize packs, free music, and autographed CDs.

The first round included autographed Frances England CDs, and the current drawing is for a chance to win one of three Here Come the 123s CD/DVDs by They Might Be Giants. Future giveaways include a Gustafer Yellowgold prize pack, autographed Recess Monkey CDs, autographed Jellydots CDs, and ... well, you'll just have to tune in to find out!

Hop on over to The Pokey Pup and see what they have to offer, and enter for your chance to win. And drop Bryan a line thanking him for continuing to offer The Pokey Pup's eclectic, interesting, and entertaining selection of music for kids and their families!

Friday Free-for-All # 15

Karen Potje, Can't Help But Love You, Baby

Ontario native Karen Potje performs her jazzy pop with a sprinkle of sophisticated country. No surprise, because Potje's background includes a stint in Texas digging local country & western music while performing with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Potje's lyrical, witty tunes for and about children are inspired by her own kids, and backed by an all star collection of Montreal musicians, including Rob Fahie, Philip Hornsey, Joshua Lebofsky, and Jordan Officer.

The Hobo Nickels, Cooper County

Americana from Denver, CO. All the songs describe sights around fictional Cooper County, like ""The Kearney Barn," "The Picket Fence in Pilot Knob," and "The Excelsior Springs Water Tower." One of the catchiest and funniest is "The Weaubleau Well," which hilariously describes what can be found at the bottom of said well. Lots of accordion, ukulele, harmonica, kazoo, guitar, and upright bass ... and fun!

Jonathan Sprout, More American Heroes

Kids' music veteran Jonathan Sprout follows up 1996's American Heroes with this second collection of musical biographies. Flawless production and an Adult Contemporary style (think Phil Collins or Lionel Ritchie) help describe the lives of historical luminaries from Sojourner Truth to Neil Armstrong. Perfect for 3rd - 5th-Grade classrooms, where students can pick apart Sprout's detailed lyrics and use them in conjunction with textbook info. This resident of Morrisville, PA, has scheduled the release of a third American Heroes CD for sometime in 2008.

Universal Music Family series

Here's a pretty cool series from Universal, featuring original songs by original artists. Now, I'm not sure I would include ABC's "The Look of Love" (from Totally '80s for Kids) on a children's compilation, or what exactly makes The Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" (from Songs for the Car) suitable for a road trip CD. But the series does include one of the most fun Christmas compilations ever, and you can't beat an album of Ella Fitzgerald gems for kids!

Table for two

I've talked a lot lately about what it means to be "in the moment" with your children. I have always believed strongly in this, but I suppose the number of deaths in my family recently has made me see the importance of this more keenly than before. As I was reading It Takes Two to Talk the other day, I ran across the three "A"s to being a responsive parent.

  • Allow your child to lead

  • Adapt what your doing in order to share in the moment

  • Add language and experience to the activity

These are so simple, yet I have to think about them often. My busy day often wants to dictate the type or length of the activity I do with my children. Don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying we are bad parents if we don't drop everything and play all day. What I am saying is that when I spend time playing with my children, I should have the freedom to wholeheartedly immerse myself in whatever it is that they are interested in without feeling guilty about it. As I let them lead in the activity, we are working on social, emotional, language, and a host of other skills. What better way to teach them friendship, than to lead by my example? It doesn't have to be a huge project. It might be reading a book together or going for a walk. Whatever it is, enjoy every minute of it!

***The Jellydots***

I love to connect everything musical to the Beatles, thus the following analogy: Doug Snyder's first CD as The Jellydots could be considered his A Hard Day's Night, and his latest, Changing Skies, his Revolver.

Snyder's 2006 debut, "Hey You Kids!", is giddy to the point of, well, if you had a vinyl copy the needle would laugh itself off the record. The lyrics and music on Changing Skies, though, aren't afraid to explore and express deeper, even darker, feelings. People grow up. Kids grow up. Little fans of "Hey You Kids!" aged a couple of years since that release, and Doug's songs have matured accordingly.

Sure, there are tunes like "Sunshine" (a rock and roll ode to the sun's healing rays) and "San Diego" (a fuzz bass-powered suggestion to make a new start in a new town) that are reminiscent of the Jellydots' first disc. But dig the message behind "Mountain" (taking chances in life) and the wry humor and in-jokes of "Art School Girl." And I love the incomprehensible lyrics of the superpoppy "Solo Echo" (about a lost alien?).

"Big Swingset" recalls fond memories of a favorite piece of playground equipment, while the Radiohead-like grind of "Sad Robot" tells a truly sad tale of a forgotten and out-of-commission robot who longs to contact the stars or even his Uncle Voyager, knowing that he's probably gonna be pulled apart and used to make a coffee table or a "high-tech ottoman."

The final five tunes on Changing Skies beautifully describe the emotional push and pull of loneliness, lost friendships, and enduring love. From the complete adoration of "Beautiful as You" to the sadness of "Remember Me," from the "have guitar will travel" melancholy of "Travelin' Man" to the soul mate sentiments of "When You were Born," to the gorgeous closing lullaby "Pretty Little Baby," the album is worth the last half alone.

Snyder stays at the top of the Kids' Music heap with Changing Skies by offering up a CD that everyone sitting around the stereo can dig, from preteens to grandparents. It's really cool that artists are thinking outside the "children's music" box; let's hope The Jellydots remain at the forefront of that movement.

Can You Hear Me Now?

I read this quote the other day and really liked it. I think it speaks of being "in the moment" with your children and being able to truly share your thoughts and feelings together. I constantly marvel at the things they think of and are able to communicate to me.

"For a child to talk, he must have: something to say, the opportunity to say it, and the encouragement and satisfaction to make the effort worthwhile."

-It Takes Two To Talk

Family Time

It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stuff when raising a family. There's so much to do! Yet, one of the most important and, in my opinion, the most fun is being in the moment with your children. It's playing with them and getting caught up in their fun. It not only shows them that they are important to you, but also gives them a great opportunity to share with you verbally and emotionally. My youngest daughter and I had a chance to do just that while on vacation. We attended a street festival where there was live bluegrass music and square dancing. I have never really square danced before. They were happy to show us, and we had a great time together. Daddy and my older daughter watched from the "safety" of the crowd. I guess they were happy to share in their own moment snapping pictures! :-) Have you shared any great moments lately?

Carroll Park Kids' Concert Series in Brooklyn

The summer fun continues in Carroll Park! Check out the schedule for July and August:

Wednesday, July 9 @ 4:00pm - Lloyd Miller (of the Deedle Deedle Dees) & the Brooklyn Phone Book
Lloyd Miller, from The Deedle Deedle Dees, a Brooklyn-based rock band for kids (and parents too), is well known to Brooklyn neighborhood families from his popular appearances at the Tea Lounge. The Brooklyn Phonebook is Lloyd Miller's back-up band of local kids.

Wednesday, July 23 @ 4:00pm - Randy Kaplan
Randy Kaplan is a Brooklyn-based songwriter known for his incisive lyrics and songs that blend American roots, folk, alternative, and pop. Randy has released six CDs, the most recent being the children's record Five Cent Piece. The CD features classics like "Over the Rainbow" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want", and original songs too. Kaplan has been praised and recommended by New York Magazine, TONY Kids, Cookie Magazine, Parenting Magazine, and others.

Wednesday, August 6 @ 4:00pm - Uncle Rock
Uncle Rock is singer-songwriter, actor, teacher, former globe-trotting bassist, and erstwhile stay-at-home dad Robert Burke Warren. His "Rock Of All Ages" songs, featured on three critically acclaimed CDs, draw inspiration from Maurice Sendak, Woody Guthrie, Shel Silverstein and the Beatles, to name a few. HeĆ¢€™s also a featured artist on Sirius Satellite Radio's channel 116 Kids Stuff. Uncle Rock is an interactive, joyous, adult-friendly musical experience.

Wednesday, August 20 @ 4:00pm - Bari Koral Family Band
Award winning singer/songwriter Bari Koral has joined forces with some of the best players on the downtown NYC music scene to bring you the Bari Koral Family Band — rock songs for kids that parents dig. "Dad's New Car," from their highly acclaimed debut CD, is a Children's Music Award Finalist and "A Day at the Beach" spent 4 months on XM KIDS' top 10 list.

You can check out photos of the series' first concert, Audra Rox, at this link. Thanks to Lynn Melnick for all the info!