I’ll always remember Dennis Leary’s advice to parents on his 1997 album “Lock and Load”: Don’t buy the toys that make the noise! Of course he also acknowledged what happens next, the relatives buy the toys that make the noise, leave them at your house and then leave. But if you insist on getting something musical for your friends or family with babies this year, my wife and I have tested these out on our 16 month old and all will be appreciated:
The top recommendation is what my wife describes as “magical”. Under The Green Corn Moon on Silver Wave Records is a collection of Native American Lullabies that are as easy on parents as they are soothing to upset infants. We keep this CD loaded in the #DaddyVan at all times and it never fails to silence crying within seconds or inducing sleep within a song or two. If you’re reading this as a new parent who is a close personal friend of ours, *spoiler* this is probably what you’re getting for Christmas. After the fourth time this lulled our precious bundle of screams to sleep, my wife insisted we get a copy for everyone we know.
The ABCs of Rock by Melissa Duke Mooney is a great take on the typical ABC book. If you or your friends are parents like us who want to pass on a love of music broader than The Wiggles or Disney soundtracks, this will be a kind of time-delayed gratification. While in the short term it’s great you can entertain your friends with your toddler’s first sentence: “F is for Fleetwood Mac”, one day in high school they can also say “The Clash? I’ve known them since I was in diapers.”
The Mozart Effect by Don Campbell Inc is a series of classical suites, originally composed by Mozart as the name might imply, and curated into volumes around specific tempos or themes. We find Volume 2: Nighty Night and Volume 1: Playtime to Sleepytime especially useful when winding our toddler down to a dull roar. They are also available digitally and through streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify, so they are easily available on smart phones and tablets too.
We have received a handful of different musical instruments including push button bongos, a spinning ball guitar, and the traditional rainbow xylophone I think everyone had growing up. One thing we realized is that nothing electronic can teach rhythm, and rhythm is the foundation for being able to play any instrument well. The Melissa and Doug toys already come with a great reputation, and this Band in a Box musical instrument set includes a tambourine, cymbals, maracas, clacker, tone blocks, and a triangle; the musical building blocks of rhythm. I know for me, I enjoy hearing the variations of my baby’s own instrumentation over the repetitive loop of a circuit-board’s pushbutton response. It may all sound the same to those of you without children of your own, but do the parents in your life a favour this year and trust me on this one.
Finally, something for the parents themselves, though I know a few toddlers who specifically request his music. This season pick up the latest album by Nova Scotia’s Old Man Luedecke, “Domestic Eccentric” which includes the tearjerker song “The Early Days”. Every parent and grandparent who has ever heard this song has shed a tear, I’m sure. His storytelling is brilliant and the musicianship top notch. For a roadtrip, a family night in, as dinner music or around the fireplace, Old Man Luedecke’s songs always seem to fit the moment. As an example, I have included “The Early Days” below.
I hope these suggestions get your creative gift-giving juices flowing and I hope you enjoy the holidays with family and friends. They are what it’s all about, regardless of the presents!