What kind of music do you listen to with your children?

Growing up on a farm in a rural corner of the Pacific Northwest, we didn’t have cable TV. There wasn’t much to watch so the television was rarely turned on. The stereo, by contrast, was always on and music was a big part of my childhood. I still remember dancing with my mom in the living room to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ when it was just released and Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ (I was just 4). I also remember singing at the top of our lungs to Broadway musical soundtracks like Les Miserables and West Side Story. And of course we knew every single word to the Grease soundtrack too. We listened to all sorts of music as a family — from Spanish guitar to Broadway musicals, country western to ‘golden oldies’.

Music was a big part of our family road trips as well. My mom enjoyed playing the same songs or albums on the same legs of annual journeys – like the 10-hour trek to Sun Valley, Idaho. These songs reminded us of years past and built anticipation for the adventure to come. To this day these songs still transport me back to childhood travels and fond memories of family holidays. That is something I love about music—its ability to trigger feelings and recollections from deep within our memory banks.

During our year of travel the six of us have spent nearly all of our time together, and mostly in small spaces – cars, campervans, apartments, etc. While a world of entertainment is available to us at the swipe of a smartphone today, we chose, like my family, to mostly opt for the aural variety. This year we’ve listened to lots of children’s music and enjoyed many children’s audio books, but there were, of course, times when we just wanted to listen to grown-up music. So we did… and truthfully, our kids enjoyed it just as much as we did.

I’ve had several conversations with other mothers about the music they listen to with their children. One of my friends said she will only play her music for her kids if it’s not racy and there are no swear words. Another friend (not naming names! ☺) has a 7-year-old daughter who has memorised the words to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s ‘Baby Got Back’. Clearly she’s not worried about innuendo. Ha!

Michael and I also listen to music that has the odd swear word or sexual innuendo, but mostly this seems to go right over our kids’ heads. Even when they do notice, they know what’s appropriate or inappropriate and have yet to repeat a bad word. One of our favourite artists of the past few years has been Tom Odell. Ivy always requests his albums and the boys like him too. His new album was played on repeat as we drove through Europe this summer.

I thought it would be fun to list some of the adult artists/bands we enjoy as a family. Here are some favourites:

1. Tom Odell
2. George Ezra
3. Passenger
4. Gabrielle Aplin
5. Michael Kiwanuka
6. The National
7. Birdy
8. The Vaccines
9. Ryan Adams
10. Jake Bugg
11. Mathew Perryman Jones
12. Lorde
13. Lana Del Rey
14. Adele
15. Vampire Weekend

So tell me, what kind of music do you listen to with your kids? Do you limit what you listen to when your kids are around? Any favourite artists?

Courtney x


Comments (30)

September 1, 2016

We listen to EVERYTHING with our little girl. She is so creative and loves to dance. I feel that the occasional ‘naughty’ word is worth the amount of good that music is instilling in her. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t jam to NWA with Rafaela in the room but honesty I want her to understand different forms of music and the different cultures that contribute them. Music is a beautiful thing!

x Shay

September 1, 2016

BBC Radio 6 is always on in the car. It’s so varied – one minute you’ll hear the National and the next, it could be a folk group from the USA! It amazes me how often my daughter will ask to turn the music up when she hears a song that she likes. It’s a digital channel so you should be able to hear it wherever you guys settle :o)

September 1, 2016

My Kids and husband LOVE RAP, I enjoy watching them singing every single word. So we listen a lot to RAP, Pop, Hip Hop a bit of classic and I like to play opera, but never to kids music. My 2 years old is a fan of mama mia, and her favourite is honey honey . As we are french in london, we play music from both countries as it is part of the culture.

September 1, 2016

ps: and for all bad words in RAp, the kids sing “bip” instead of them, so funny !

Sarah Lightfoot
September 1, 2016

Every year we would head off to Cornwall to camp for 3 weeks and my dad would play Beach Boys for the duration, hearing it can transport me back to those carefree days. I did the same when my boys were little and we took them down to Cornwall & they now say the same. It reminds them of the beaches, ice creams and laid back days

September 1, 2016

my girls love katy perry and shakira. they want them on repeat! 🙂

Sophie Childs
September 1, 2016

My eldest girl absolutely loved We Will Rock You when she was a toddler! Now she enjoys listening to anything by Bob Marley and jazz music. My youngest girl loves Bob Marley, too!

Christopher Brown
September 1, 2016

Our favourites include Catapilt by Jack Savoretti (cheese), Half the World away by Aurora, Let it go by James Bay, Reapers by Muse (believe it or not), All of me by John Legend, Wordy Rappinghood by the Tom Tom Club. Check them out and let me know.

September 1, 2016

We have been listening to Darius Rucker wagon wheel on repeat all summer(!!!!) but we listen to a lot of old Rolling Stones, Early Tina turner, blues , but also Taylor swift, Katy perry and Justin bieber on the hot 100 station. We love a wide variety. I love Ryan Adams too!!!! Good topic! Just yesterday we put on Sonos Janet Jackson followed by missy Elliot supa fly. It’s all good. X

September 1, 2016

We’re in our 40s. OMG, no idea of that list you wrote above. I knew 3 people I think. lol feeling my age. So..our playlist is new wave 80s music!! And Coldplay too 🙂

September 1, 2016

My kids chose Billy Joel, James Taylor and the Beatles as recent karaoke picks, so I guess their parents’ taste in music is rubbing off! They also love Broadway show tunes from Annie, Wicked, Hamilton, In the Heights and Oklahoma to name a few!

September 1, 2016

We are lawyers, so we already swear way too much. I can’t exactly hide that sort of stuff from my kids (who like to repeat naughty words way too much). We listen to a mix. I love the Bird and the Bee’s cover of Hall and Oates–so perfect, and my kids love it, too. But mostly they listen to a lot of jazz and standards, and we get a kick when they can pick out “Hey, is that Frank?” Or “It’s Ella!”

September 1, 2016

My girls know every lyric of Lorde’s first album ( we’re kiwis so it would be rude not to!) anything by Adele is a big hit, 80s Madonna, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder and Bic Runga…My husband now knows every word Taylor Swift has ever penned and he’s not embarrassed to admit her knows the lyrics to the entire Frozen soundtrack. Great post and I will be researching some of the bands above as I too must be old/out of touch or both! Lots of love Adamos, looking forward to sharing spaghetti a la campervan again before too long xxx

September 1, 2016

This post is very timely for me. When the children (now 6 & 8) were little, I mostly had children’s music or classical on. However, last year my son started to express strong views about his preferred radio stations (in response to I know not what – marketing? comments of his peers at school?) and wants to listen to commercial rock/pop stations. Whilst I like quite a number of the songs (can’t stand much of the chat!), there are quite a few popular songs which go well beyond innuendo with regards to both drug use and racy stuff and it really bothers me that, whether they are fully absorbing the meaning or not, they are getting the message that both drug use and a fixation with sex and being sexy is normal. Maybe I’m overthinking it. Or maybe I should just put my foot down and veto the preference. Or maybe I need to spend more time promoting better alternatives. Its one of the many small but (for me) significant dilemmas in raising children! Anyway, it was nice to read other views, and to get some suggestions on alternatives which might appeal to us both!

Becky Brown
September 2, 2016

We love music as a family and are always putting our own playlists on in the car. We have two young boys and on their playlist (which is heavily influenced by us!) is a wide range of music by artists such as Pharrell, First Aid Kit, Boney M, Blur and Crosby, Stills and Nash. We live in France where inappropriate language is often heard in songs on the radio, but at the moment it seems to go over their heads. I think it’s great for kids to develop thir own musical tastes and I love seeing which songs our boys like. One is very into beat heavy tunes and the other likes a good melody but they both love tracks they can dance to!

September 2, 2016

Oh old music! We love it. I am 29 but it always made the days feel better with golden oldies. Or soundtracks like dirty dancing. My kids are still young so they don’t understand the words But sometimes i like to listen to some rock and they protest a little. To loud i guess. Most days just music to dance on and feel relaxed.

September 2, 2016

Great post! We listen to everything too. My 10 yr old son is a fan of reading history, particularly US history and is fairly obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack. I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of rap, but it’s a great soundtrack. We took a long drive this summer up to Quebec City and we listened to the whole thing from start to finish. It was mesmerizing and a fantastic way to listen to a story during a long lovely drive through countryside. Highly recommend! 🙂

September 3, 2016

We’re a French/German family in France and both my husband and I are big fans of Marillion (that is actually how we met), so our 6 year old daughter is exposed to that quite a bit and seems to appreciate it… (She’s met the singer, so that helps… ;o) ) She herself is absolutely hooked on Anathema, she also likes Aha (“can you put on that group from when you a kid, mom”…) and Coldplay and Queen. She doesn’t really know any current pop or rock as we only listen to talk radio or our own playlists in the car. She does enjoy “Les Miserables” in French or German, and this Summer we took her to see “Starlight Express” in Germany together with some friends and all the kids fell in love with that.
We do not listen to an awful lot of children’s music because most of the time we tend to find it quite unbearable (even for the kids…), but there is one *fantastic* singer in France, his name is Aldebert, who used to do music for adults but has been doing albums for kids mostly these past few years, if your kids speak French, his albums (and live shows!) are definitely worth buying/going to!

September 3, 2016

Do you have a Spotify playlist you could share with us?

September 3, 2016

I have an 8, 7 and 3 year-old. We listen to a a wide range of genres – from classical to rap and everything in-between. I LOVE your favorites, listening to Passenger as I type. I adore having a house/car full of music and dancing, I actually think that it is important. I find that I tend to be stricter than most about everything else, so it’s refreshing to find an area where I am actually more carefree than other parents! Every day we are doing our best every day to instill positive core values in our children, I really don’t think music is going to mess things up. 🙂

Isadora g
September 3, 2016

The Beatles, in my life and here comes the sun are faves. Oldies and classics Fleetwood Mac oh! too many to list. Music is magic. We are very uncool, not familiar with modern music as much but we do like Adele, Wildfire- fight song, Jean Simone -Cups Meghan trainor ect, we’re trying to catch up. Nothing beats the classics Rosemary clooney and Sinatra.

September 4, 2016

thanks for sharing… i didnt know most of them, and they are really nice…
we listen all kind of music….
we love Jack johnson / bob marley / Jason Mraz / Ismael kamakawiwo /bruno mars / adele / Nora jones and we have a big big list.. we have also lots of argentinean music artist
Im not a very known music’s person but i love to hear music even more when it remember my chidhood ( also i have lots of songs i used to hear when i was young, and i dont remember the artist … but when i hear i fell so good….

from argentina. .

September 5, 2016

I love listening to the Beatles and David Bowie, my 4-year old daughter loves the same. (And she loves K3 too:’) )My 6-year old son only wants to listen to classical music; Bach, Monti, Mendelssohn.. Etc. He plays the Violin and we went to lots of concerts. Music is very important to him. I love the fact that he has this passion and hope it stays that way!

September 6, 2016

I try to expose my children to a range of music, to make them familiar with the classic hits and to instill a love for classical music. So far that mix is working out well. The “Free to be… you and me” and “Free to be… a family” CDs are favourites in our home. Each dinner time my children are allowed to choose a song each on Spotify. One of my children always chooses songs she knows, but the other goes wild. So we have listend to some interesting music. We have also searched Spotify for songs called their names which is fun (check out “Half in love with Elizabeth”). We also listen to quite a bit of German music for children, because some of it is very good. I am not too keen on explicit songs as my children find them scary.

September 22, 2016

We really love Beatenberg. They are a bit of a Cape Town surfer indie vibe but chilled and easy to listen to. Worth a try xx

Tuhin Hasan
October 7, 2016

We have been listening all kinds of music together like rock, pop, jazz, etc. We also love to listen to oldies music through oldies radio apps. She starts dancing when there is 70s, 80s or 90s songs. I am wonder how she reacts to the oldies songs.

October 7, 2016

Courtney! I seriously recommend you listen to Tinpan Orange. They are an upcoming band from Australia and they are incredible! I really think you will love them. xox

Courtney in London
October 8, 2016

Oh thanks for the tip! We’ll check them out! x

Michelle Jonker
July 1, 2018

Coldplay and Kings of Convenience has always been at the top of our list. And lately we started listening to Bill Bryson’s audiobooks when we’re on a roadtrip. He’s an excellent travel writer.

July 2, 2018

Hi Courtney! What a fabulous list and I love your mam’s idea of using certain albums for specific routes! Love it! I will check some not so we’ll known (to me) music on your list and check them out with my boys. They equally love listening to music and dancing in the living room and making fun of my terrible dance moves😂
I do have to add that we also include classical music in our repertoire of music we listen to – from soft classic (fi the four seasons of vivaldi) to a bit more heavy (part of) symphonies or soloists. Thank you for your list and ideas! Xkim

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