Guest post: "Pop music will lift you - and your child - up"
Introducing children to music can be about more than endless renditions of Wind the Bobbin Up, says Jude Rogers, author of Pop! For kids
Journalist and broadcaster
Posted on: Wed 03-Feb-16 14:37:50
(78 comments )
Just before tea most days, you'll find me back in the 1980s, feeling like I'm twirling in a pink puffball dress, my T-bars clomping to shiny synthesisers and big, doofy drums. My hands stretch down to two chubby little paws, and a little boy in dungarees smiles daftly at his mum.
This is my favourite time of day. I connect my iPad up to the speakers, and turn Spotify on. A few bursts of Wheels On The Bus and the theme tune to Postman Pat's Special Delivery Service later, and 21-month-old Evan is subjected to his daily pop disco.
The best thing about having kids, in my opinion? Being able to act like a kid again.
It was while I was pregnant, watching all my friend enjoying music with their little ones, and while Evan was tiny, that I got thinking about how we want to share music with our children. While every other hour seemed dedicated to bum-wiping, burping and bibs, listening to pop songs on the radio became a comfort and a tonic that reminded me of the wider world.
In my brightly-coloured book for pre-school children, Pop!, I write about how pop music is a liberating, life-giving thing. It's also incredible to sing, dance and dress up - to identify with songs that teach us about the world, and to explore our identities through interesting, flamboyant pop stars, such as David Bowie, Madonna, the Pet Shop Boys and Kylie.
We begin this sharing of music at baby singing classes, of course. I've done them all and could happily never hear Wind The Bobbin Up again. But sharing our own favourite songs is a very different thing. As someone who writes about music for broadsheets and women's magazines, and has DJ'd several times at the brilliant Big Fish Little Fish mini-raves, I'm a pop geek, that's true – but I also know when us parents have to give our kids room. So here are my tips for introducing your little people to pop.
Don't worry about curating highbrow choices. Yes, we live in a world where Bach to Baby concerts and the like introduce our kids to high culture, and we grew up making uber-cool mixtapes or playlists for our friends. Children work rather differently.
- Don't worry about curating highbrow choices. Yes, we live in a world where Bach to Baby concerts and the like introduce our kids to high culture, and we grew up making uber-cool mixtapes or playlists for our friends. Children work rather differently. I found this out in my late teens, after making my much younger brother a tape that had Joy Division and Leonard Cohen on it (the poor boy returned his Smurfs' album tout-suite). There's just as much nourishment to be found in the sound of a man singing "awopbopaloobop awopbamboom!", so start with bouncy pop hits full of silly lyrics, noises and voices. There's Little Richard's Tutti Frutti, Millie's My Boy Lollipop ("you make my soul go...GIDDYUP!"), Hot Butter's Popcorn (lots of funny bleeps), and Trio's Da Da Da (the gobbledygook title speaks for itself). Serious nerd parents, take note: this also introduces them to rock and roll, reggae, '70s electronica, and '80s German pop.
- If your children are into specific things, play songs you like that share their subjects. For instance, my friend's son Sam was obsessed with trains as a toddler. He quickly got similarly obsessed with Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express quickly, and later enjoyed Kraftwerk's The Robots – he found the band's robotic voices funny, and the melody perky. Ta-da! He spent all his downtime wanting to watch their videos on YouTube. A nice break from Thomas for his parents, certainly.
- Don't limit what you play. Evan's dad likes weirder, electronic music, which he still played while on dad duty when Evan was little – some of it not unlike the white noise that used to blare over our son's cot. That's a sound Evan still likes, so your kids' tastes might surprise you. His latest favourite to cheekily stick his tongue out to? Lazarus by David Bowie. Me neither.
- Remember that being a good parent is about being happy yourself, too. If you've had a rubbish day at work, and playing Neneh Cherry's Buffalo Stance out loud would make things better after the nursery run – it always makes things better – then do. (Evan responded to this one with a twirl.)
- But also don't be sad if your children don't like everything you play. They'll like what they like, whether that be the Postman Pat theme (God forbid) or whatever's high in the charts (I've already heard myself shouting "That's not music!" at the telly like my mother did). My playlist (which you can find here) contains a selection of songs that inspired Pop!, as well as tracks from the stars nodded to in it, and it's full of songs I've enjoyed alone, as well as with little ones. Let it inspire your own. Then grab a moment in the day, pump up the volume, grab those paws. Whatever happens, I guarantee pop will lift you up.
By Jude Rogers
It's OK. I prefer Scarlatti, and have been playing a lot of Rameau today.
My 14mo loves to dance while I play 14th century folk music on my flute, and we run dramatically around the furniture to Bach.
Pop music is fine for some but it makes me feel saddened to listen to it.
I hate pop.
At work the radio is constantly tuned in to radio one, or Magic or some other noise.
The lyrics are dire, the tunes are idiotic, you can hardly call it music.
I feel the same about stuff from the 60s to today, so it's not a 'modern day stuff us crap' thing.
We have Classic FM on if the radio is on, the children (5-12) play various instruments, and listen to Minecraft music on Spotify, but pop music doesn't really feature in this house.
I have been subjecting myself to Shostakovich this last week for uni while my children have been scooting round the kitchen to Ghostbusters.
I know which I'd prefer.
We like pop in our house. One of the weirdest (in a good way) things for me is listening to songs that I loved when I was a child/teenager again now with my own child and watching her enjoy them too! Steps, S Club 7, all sorts of happy rubbish. Cheesier the better!
I like any music except techno. I play a lot of Florence and the machine which my 13 month old has to put up with!
I think one of the things that MADE pop a liberating and life giving thing was that it was a space my parents did not occupy. I grew up in a pretty musical household but it was all classical, discovering pop for myself gave me a journey that was mine and only mine.
I'm not saying we should avoid giving it to them, believe me I am, just don't be disappointed when they find skateboarding or something their uplifting thing.
BTW my tip would be festivals (no idea if you cover that in your book). The live thing has given my kids more love of music than any amount of recordings will.
Short songs, always in 4/4 with a backbeat, rarely minor, never just instrumental, breathy whiny voices more often than not. Tends to irritate me with its sheer uniformity. I suppose it's meant to be like that though and there is some effective stuff.
DS (3) loves The Monkees and The Beatles, and we've listened to loads of Kraftwerk, Motown, Reggae (he likes Desmond Dekker) and my 90s stuff. I'm a music teacher so he listens to me playing Bach Partitas, too! Variety is the spice of life.
Lots of unnecessary snobbery about pop music; Paul McCartney was a Stockhausen fan who incorporated Musique Concrète techniques into his production. Nothing's as straightforward as it seems in pop.
Not sure I'd want to eat a four course meal every day!
I love this - my son has just started really letting me know his musical preferences. At bedtime I lie on his bed and we listen to stuff on my phone. It's so lovely!
Some of you guys have a pretty narrow definition of pop! I take it to mean popular music from the 1950s onwards really, encompassing loads of variations - hip-hop, electronica, indie, metal, funk, soul, blah blah... It's all good! Also, there surely must be loads of crossover within composition etc between 'popular' music and so-called 'real' classical music? I don't really get how anyone can believe that musical archetypes sit in isolation. There is as much beauty and craft in an ABBA song (full of those minor keys, btw) as there is in Debussy.
My son digs the Beatles, the latest Chemical Brothers single, the Charlie and Lola theme tune and Top Cat. Who knows if he'll even care about music when he grows up, but for now I'm going to really enjoy these moments when I have them!
Yeah, but isn't the first bit of Band Of The Run cool?!
We never have nursery rhymes on as I find them boring and just didn't bother with them.
My three year old listens to, likes, knows the words to and requests by name:
Some European hip hop
A pretty random mix but she knows what she likes and I enjoy the fact that she loves music.
I don't get the snobbery either. I've spent a lifetime exploring pop music and I've only scratched the surface. My kids and I love pop music and I'm looking forward to them introducing me to stuff instead of vice versa. I probably won't get it . Listen to a single Stevie Wonder track and then tell me it doesn't have as much depth as a classical piece ...
My son has autism and loves music so much, he loves all sorts! He is a huge Wiggles fan and that has soundtracked our life for the last 5 years. But he enjoys all sorts of grown up music too, pop, rock, classical, reggae and also he has a particularly thing about worship music!
He likes particular sound loops and makes me play a small section over again and again. One of his favourites is some random raga tune called 'my money' I think, he will listen to it over and over on loop. Other favourites are Cat Stephens, particularly Moonshadow and certain Beethoven pieces. I play him lots of David Bowie, Queen, Johnny Cash and reggae he likes it all.
What I really meant to say is music is definitely hugely uplifting for both of us and often invigorates us physically too when we have a boogie when we are tired and lethargic.
Love this. My dc are a bit older and they love loads of different pop music that we've played them over the years.
Sleepless poorly nights were spent with me singing Beatles songs to them.
I've never moved on from pop really certainly not into classical or opera. Pop holds so many memories for me and sharing pop music with my children has meant sharing those stories too.
They're not quite at the age where I make them cringe and so we've had some lovely chats about happy times with friends, many of whom are still in our lives and early days with their daddy when we partied all night!
Oh yes and I totally agree there's nowt better than a kitchen boogie.
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