Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf

Possibly the one thing that imprinted a love for classical music for the rest of my life was an album I owned as a kid and absolutely loved. That album was Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’. My album was in Dutch, of course, and narrated by Henk van Ulsen. I recently got my children the modern take on it (narrated by Paul de Leeuw), and they love it too, although they still find it a little scary so they will only listen to it sitting safely on my lap!
In 1936, Prokofiev was commissioned to write a new musical symphony for children, with the intent to introduce school-going children to classical music. He composed the tale about Peter and the Wolf in just four days! The concept is simple: Each character in the story has a particular instrument and a musical theme, and it is thus very easy for a child to distinguish the different instruments. (more…)

Really Rosie and the Nutshell Library

If there is one thing out there that can instantly transport me back to being a young child, it’s the soundtrack to “Really Rosie”. Carol King’s bell-bottomed clad voice is forever burned into my memory bank and for those of you who remember the songs “Eating chicken soup with rice”, “One was Johnny” and “Pierre” I urge you to share them with the next generation. I recently purchased the soundtrack on Itunes and also picked up this boxed book set called “The Nutshell Library” so I could share the 1970’s magic with my girls. Maurice Sendak (The Night Kitchen, Where the Wild Things Are, etc;)  really was a creative genius and there is a reason his stories have stood the test of time — I love that these sweet little books are not only wonderful stories, but you can sing them! Download the soundtrack on itunes.

-Dina

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Car sing-a-long
Fee Kruse

Natalie Merchant — Leave Your Sleep

I discovered Natalie Merchant’s new album, Leave Your Sleep, on the Small Magazine blog recently and ordered it immediately. I’ve always been a fan of Natalie Merchant, but when I heard that the lyrics on her new album were interpreted from 19th and 20th century poems and nursery rhymes, I was sucked in.

This new album is a celebration of childhood and motherhood influenced by her relationship with her own daughter and her desire to share the power of poetry and speech with her.  It brings to life the old nursery rhymes and their traditional stories in such a beautiful, wonderful way.

It’s currently playing (on repeat) on my stereo — I love it.  But if you need further convincing, you can hear snippets of each song on her website.

-Courtney

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

My Little Paris
WIN a maxi-micro scooter!

They Might be Geniuses

Do you remember the band “They Might be Giants”? The quirky two-man band who turned out some of the most creative and wacked-out music in the ’80s and ’90s? Well they have recently channeled their intellectual energies into making kid’s music and I must say, they have churned out some of the most engaging music I have heard in a long time. Right now they have three CD/DVDs out and I am working my way through the set. So far we are obsessed with Here Comes Science, and we just started dabbling in Here Come the 1,2,3s. Like I said before I am a huge fan of music that we can all enjoy together and I especially like this series because each of the songs has its own video. Tell me Roy G. Biv is not the catchiest song ever! Seriously – listen to it a few times and it will haunt you throughout the day. We also totally dig the song High Five. This is the kind of stuff that I feel good about them watching on TV — over and over again.

Here Comes Science is available from the Babyccino Kids Bookshop (US and UK).

-Dina

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

MAC my day!
One More Egg

Relax(ed) Kids

relax kidsMy daughter really loves audio books — she curls up on the floor in front of the speaker behind the couch and patiently listens to the story. So cute, and much more calming than television.
I strongly believe that reading a book (or listening to an audio book) enhances creativity and imagination more than watching television. In fact, even though we do have a television for watching the occasional DVD, we don’t have a cable connection in the house and I’m pretty sure we don’t miss much.
In an effort to bring more peace and calm to our household after dinnertime, I’m currently testing out a fairytales relaxation CD from Relax Kids.  (My son especially needs to unwind; last night we caught him making a complex puzzle in his room 45 minutes after we put him to bed!)
The CDs from Relax Kids are meant to help children relax with the aid of meditative stories and soothing music, believing that a calm and confident child will have an easier time falling asleep. The CDs can also be helpful for over-active or anxious children, or for kids with specific problems like bed-wetting or nightmares. You can listen to an intro of each CD on the website, and you’ll get the gist.
Even though my kids need to get used to it still, their mama gets so super relaxed I’m sure it must eventually rub off on them! There are specific themes available, we have ‘Up, up and away‘ but I’m also very intrigued by the Princess and Superheroes CDs.

xxx Esther

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Koka Mama
Ikea hacking

Dan Zanes and Friends

sidanI love this man.  I love his hair.  I love his music.  My husband should seriously watch his back.

Dan Zanes sings quintessential, feel good, “family” music — each song more unique and catchy than the next.   He used to be the front man for a band called the Del Fuegos and what I love is that his music is diverse, international and really appeals to parents and kids alike.  My girls are obsessed with him.

While I had my requisite Wiggles phase, just like the rest of the world, I just got so tired of the silly songs and the turtlenecks and that ridiculous “Fruit Salad” song.   Dan Zanes songs prove that kid-friendly music doesn’t have to be about gumdrops and unicorns.  We sing along to him in the car all the time…. even when it’s not in the CD player (scary!).   We also love watching the DVD which is basically the band, playing their instruments and having a good time.  I suggest starting with his first DVD of songs if you are interested in hearing more.   I don’t know what it is about this guy, might just be the hair, but I love that he has my girls singing when they watch him.

-Dina

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Stroller Organiser
Ice skating in Amsterdam

Car sing-a-long

FamilyOutinginOldCar1900We are doing quite a lot of driving this summer which is not really the most exciting thing for kids to do. Sooner or later on every drive my eldest daughter informs us that she needs to vomit! She is mostly crying wolf and is only just bored, but it is always a great way of getting my attention. I have now figured out that the best way of testing if she is really feeling a bit crock or not is by getting her to sing. My reasoning behind this is that a person who is about to vomit does not feel like singing…

So now there is a lot of singing going on in our car (most of my friends would freak at this notion, as I cannot sing for the life of me) and this is our repertoire: ‘Old Macdonald’, ‘Yellow Submarine’, ‘Molly Malone’, the first verse of ‘Lemon Tree’ by Peter, Paul and Mary. We also mix in a bit of ‘No No No’ by Destinys Child, prompted by the 16-month-old as that is the only song she knows the words to, literally.  Now, I am interested, what do other families sing? Any suggestions on how to expand our repertoire?

We have another 6-hour journey ahead of us soon and I do not know how often I will be able to deal with  these old faithfuls…

- Emilie

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Kid’s digital camera

Vintage children’s music

Vintage Children’s FavouritesThere’s something about vintage children’s music that is so refreshing.   Perhaps it’s the innocence of the songs or the slightly quirky melodies, or even the charming old accents of the artists who sang them.  Or maybe, more simply, it’s just nice to get a break from ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ and ‘Old Macdonald’.

We have the Vintage Children’s Favourites CD in our car right now and it is so much fun to listen to and sing along.  The songs date from the ’20s to the ’50s, and while some of them I recognized, many of them were new to me.  But I have to admit that after only a few days I was singing along to all of them.

Like Emilie mentioned, I’m totally into the retro-revival these days!

-Courtney

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

A time and a place…
When it rains in the summertime

Les Chansons et les Comptines

jeanette.jpgHere in France a lot of the songs the children sing have been around for generations. It’s quite cute actually — my daughter is now singing songs that my grandmother sang with me, which have been hidden somewhere in a forgotten part of my brain and which I am now remembering.

So I have picked up a couple of CDs and we listen to them loads and have a bit of a dance-off (though the CDs we have are fun, I have not as of yet found a CD that is outstanding and that I could recommend). I was being a bit slow on the uptake and it is only after a while that I started to tune in and realise that some of the songs are not really politically correct in the world of 2009… (more…)

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Babycook hits the States!
Vondeltuin
Imps & Elfs

Animal Party, goodybag idea

Animal TunesAnother cute idea from the animal-themed party…

Mo created ‘Animal tunes’ CDs for all the goodybags.  She burned a random mix of animal-themed kiddie songs (‘Bear Necessities” from The Jungle Book, “Animal Crackers”, “When I See an Elephant Fly” from Dumbo, “No More Monkeys”, etc.) onto CDs.  She then put the CDs into cardboard cases (which she got from Muji), and stuck cute labels on the outside.  Each child got to take home his own ‘Animal Tunes’ disc.

Such a great goodybag idea.  We’re loving the new tunes!

-Courtney

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Tapete iron-on fun!
You know you’re a mom when…

Rock music for your baby?

Babies Go MusicOkay, I’ll admit it.  As far as music goes, I’m stuck in the ’70s and ’80s.  If I turned on MTV today, there’s no way I would recognize even one single artist.  My radio is tuned to the ‘mellow magic’ music station where I listen to songs by Madonna, Elton John, Queen, The Beatles, and even (please don’t judge me) Lionel Richie!!  (My husband will die of embarrassment when he finds out I’ve just made public this ‘weakness’ of mine!)

If you’re a fellow ‘mellow’ music lover, or even if you prefer newer, edgier artists like Cold Play, U2, or Aerosmith,  you’ll be happy to know you can pass your (excellent) music taste on to your babies and kids! The Babies Go line of CDs offers a large range of popular artists in melodic reinterpretations which are perfect for babies.  You’ll recognize the music (and if you’re like me, will be singing to the tunes), and your baby will love the soothing melodies.

Check out the full range of Babies Go artists here.  Babies Go is an American company, but they do ship internationally.

-Courtney

ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:

Help!
Ghost light

Swan Lake

swan lakeOK, not only did I spend a couple of days in Paris with my girlfriends and without children (I know, we’ve told you about this already so I won’t rub it in any further), but ALSO my husband came over for my 35th birthday and treated me to a romantic evening out (in Paris), which included seeing Swan Lake in Théâtre du Châtelet, danced by the Australian National Ballet!

Hmmm… I know…

Seeing the ballet was especially nice because a few weeks ago my 3-year-old daughter started ballet lessons, and she’s has been obsessed by everything ballet ever since (we brought her the program of the show back, and she loves it)!
We have been watching her favourite DVD of the moment ‘Swan Lake by Prima Princessa‘ over and over again, so I knew the story of prince Siegfried, his lovely Odette and the nasty Baroness of Rothbart nearly by heart!

(more…)

Maracas for tiny hands

maracas.jpgEsther and I met In London when we were still pregnant with our first ones. When I went on maternity leave we started to meet more often for shopping trips, with the very good excuse of taking walks to keep mobile with our big bellies!  It was during one of these afternoons that we bought the first toys for our still unborn babies: these little, colourful maracas from Pylones.
They make wonderful rattles for tiny babies; they are easy to grasp, have funny animal prints in very bold colours and are filled with tiny beads which make a soft maraca sound. Our kids loved them immediately and so did those who received them as gifts.
I am really attached to this toy, possibly because it was one of the first toys (out of zillions) I bought for my babies, but also because Esther and I discovered it together making it one of the first “good finds”. (more…)

Familiar melodies

sigikid sheepI’ve read that an unborn baby seems to be able to listen to a melody through his mother’s belly, and after he’s born he will recognize that familiar melody and feel more at home in his new surroundings.
I decided to experiment with my last baby, and religiously held the Sigikid musical toy my mother-in-law gave me when I was about 7 months pregnant to my belly before going to sleep. My husband was looking at me as if I was insane — which I probably was, given the hormonal overload in my pregnant body!

I never knew for sure if that familiar melody made my son feel more comfortable after he was born, but he did grow very attached to his toy.
I always bring his music toy with me when we’re traveling, and the music (Mozart’s wiegenlied, in our case) always calms him down when he’s upset about new, strange surroundings.

Available in different cute models through Amazon UK or US

xxx Esther

Cash in the car

cash.jpgCar journeys are a trial for the whole family. I still remember sitting in the back of the car, being completely bored and knowing that there were still 7 hours of journey ahead of us… To make matters worse my mother had a policy against a tape player in the car as she thought it hindered us talking to each other.

I have no such ideas; I think that sometimes the less conversation between kids (otherwise known as fights) the better. But my thing is: how many times can I listen to Incy Wincy Spider sung with a falsetto voice?

My solution is the The Johnny Cash Children’s Album — great songs for the whole family to listen to and I am hoping I am subtly influencing my kids in their taste in music. How great would it be if, at the age of 14, my daughters don’t decide to be goths, but are in to country music just because of all the long childhood car rides around Europe!

- Emilie

Bedtime with The Beatles

Jason Falkner: “Bedtime with the Beatles”Did you have a giant-sized Beatles poster in your bedroom as a child? Do you know the words to all the Beatles songs by heart? Which Beatle did you want to marry?

Okay, seriously… The Beatles weren’t even close to being ‘my generation’ and I was still completely obsessed with them. And now I live in London and drive down Abbey Road almost daily, and my heart still pitter-patters when I pass the famous road crossing!

So… I really don’t need to explain why I love Jason Falkner’s Bedtime With the Beatles. But what I should say is that I’ve had this CD since my first son was a baby (thanks, Shawn!) and it is still part of our night-time routine! The music is soothing and relaxing; it is perfect for bedtime. Much more fun than all those traditional lullabies. And at least you’ll enjoy singing the words in your head as you’re rocking your little one to bed…

-Courtney