At Evangeline’s first Christmas, she received a 2 disc Nursery Rhyme and Lullaby CD set. We had a lot of traveling to do so we turned on the CD’s in the car. After 3 songs, we rolled down the window, pitched the CD out screaming “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!” The speed and pitch were all sped up. It wasn’t even cute like The Chipmunks; It was just one awful, frantic, shrill song after another. The baby was not calmed at all.
It was then, after having been parents for a mere 3 months, that we decided. Our kids would never have obnoxious entertainment.
At first we were afraid our kids would be doomed to a sheltered life of Prairie Home Companion and they would grow up to be withered old souls who never had fun. Surprisingly though, we’ve found a wealth of un-obnoxious entertainment for our kids. We’ve only been at it for 5 years, but here’s what we’ve found that entertain the kids without annoying parents!
Every time I take the kids to the doctor and have to sit in the waiting room watching The Disney Channel, I make a donation to The Corporation of Public Broadcasting. PBS Kids is a favorite in our house. Sure Peg + Cat has random freaking out screams, the Daniel Tiger re-mix songs make you roll your eyes and seriously Martin Short, The Cat in the Hat doesn’t have to be *that* excited about everything. But still, the shows on PBS Kids are overall mellow, fun and educational in a non-banal kind of way. We like Curious George and Dinosaur Train; Evangeline has announced she has out-grown Daniel Tiger, but she likes Arthur and Odd Squad.
Our kids like to dance; the girls especially like to play balleranias. Come to find out, most music is kid-appropriate without having to be marketed to kids. We listen to classical music, ballets and operas, folk music, 1920’s Jass, Musicals and Irish ballads. The kids love them. We don’t have to listen to Kidz Bop 254 we listen to Alison Krauss. We don’t need Angelina Ballerina, we have straight-up Tchaikovsky. Our kids are not only being entertained, but they’re also being exposed to a variety of *real* music. No, they don’t know who wrote the concertio they’re listening to, what a concertio is or why Etta James is such a big deal, but they’re hearing it all. And they’re enjoying it. And so are we. This has also been a great way to introduce them to bits of our culture and where we come from — Swamp Pop, Irish ballads, the crooners and Bluegrass.
Wee Sing Songs
Least you think we don’t allow any kid-specific music, we’ve come to enjoy Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes and Lullabies. It was recommended in a homeschooling curriculum we were looking through. We were both reticent to buy another nursery rhymes CD. I still get headaches thinking about that first CD. But we’ve been delightfully surprised. The songs are a part of a greater narrative which adds a level of entertainment. They are sung mostly by children, but it’s like human children singing songs that were meat to be sung by real people. The kids enjoy the story and even “head on down the coast road” when they’re playing at home. We mostly listen to this in the car and it’s perfect.
Peter and The Wolf
Along that same line, we all like listening to Peter and the Wolf (narrated by Patrick Stewart). I was given a copy of it when I started playing the oboe in junior high. It’s wonderful. Patrick Stewart tells the story of Peter and the Wolf. Each character is given a little fanfare played by a different instrument of the orchestra. The bird is an airy flute, the hunters are the kettle drums etc. Patrick Stewart will tell a line of the story and then it is acted out by the orchestra. He will say “One day Peter went walking in the woods” and then you hear a little fanfare from the strings. When the bird and the duck (oboe) argue, there’s a duet between the two. You get the idea. It’s a great way to introduce the kids to the idea of storytelling through music and to Patrick Stewart!
We are particular about movies. First we want to ensure that the overall message is a good one (sorry Disney’s The Little Mermaid). We also want the film to be beautiful. This led us, of course, to Hayao Miyazaki. We began watching his movies while we were in college and thoroughly enjoyed them. Now the kids do too. There are some elements that the kids aren’t used to (like spirits) but it allows for conversations about what we’re watching. Our favorites are Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.
The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea
Cartoon Saloon is another animation production company we’ve come to enjoy. They are based in Ireland and set out to tell real Irish folk tales with real Irish art styles. We watched The Secret of Kells before having kids and thought it was wonderful. Both The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea are beautiful. The acting is very well done (Brendan Gleeson anyone?) Like Miyazaki, there are elements of fairies and the supernatural. That is in part what makes them so great. It is great fodder for he imagination and at the same time gives the kids visually different styles of culture.
Have you ever noticed how stupid some toys are. It’s hard not to. And a lot of craft style toys and kits have sooooooooo many very teeny-tiny-choke-your-baby-stab-your-foot-pieces. Enter Kiwi Crates! I’ve posted about them before, but we still love them. It’s a monthly subscription box that comes with materials to make 2-3 themed crafts. They’re educational and fun! Evie doesn’t know they are educational, but she does know they are fun. They now have different boxes for older children. There are other subscription boxes that we haven’t tried, but are interested in, like the Little Passport boxes.
What we are finding is that you don’t really need to keep re-inventing the wheel. There are of course movies and music that aren’t child appropriate, but a great majority are. If you like it, you’re kids probably will to. And even if your kids like something, doesn’t mean the whole family has to be subjected to it.
Are you choosey about what your kids play with or watch? What are you favorite child’s entertainment that’s not obnoxious?