If you celebrate Christmas, there’s a good chance that, like me, you’re in the throes of holiday shopping for the kids. And if, like me, you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, and have kids with January birthdays, then you understand how the whole gift thing can be… challenging, to say the least. Not only do my husband and I want to avoid spoiling our kids with an overload of presents, we also want to keep our house from turning into a vortex of electronic noises and gadgets and plastic pieces strewn everywhere.
My solution: books and CD’s. Both of my kids love a good story and groovy music. I love that reading and dancing (or even just listening) is something we can do together. And the fact that books and CD’s don’t come with a million hard-to-clean-up pieces is a huge plus for everyone. So, here are a few recommendations of some of our favorite books and CD’s, along with one on my own holiday shopping list, that your little ones (and you parents) might enjoy, too.
We acquired the newest addition to our kids’ music collection at Keller Williams’ recent concert in Falls Church. It was supposed to be one of their holiday gifts, but we were all so excited about the music we’d just heard that I ending up popping the disc into the CD player in the car on the way home from the concert. And it’s gotten tons of play since. The acoustic bluegrass/rock/funk tunes are enjoyable for children and adults. The lyrics are fun (what kid wouldn’t love singing, “Mama tooted?”) and imaginative, and the beats are interesting and groovy. And even though “Hula hoop to da loop” is often on repeat in my head, I have yet to feel the slightest bit of annoyance about it.
This story about a boy’s growing garden that beautifies a gloomy city is a regular in our bedtime story rotation. The illustrations are charming and the story is easy for young kids to follow. Even better, the messages about being green and how even one person can make a big difference are comprenhensible as well as a great conversation starter about those very topics.
If you frequent Boogie Babes or any toddler music performances in the area, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with The Singing Lizard. Liz DeRoche’s one-woman show is a local favorite, and not just with the kids. Her poppy, synthesized renditions of children’s classics as well as her original tunes have a definite 80’s vibe, and I mean that in a good way. If John Hughes had made a movie for toddlers, this music could be the soundtrack. Check out her new CD, AlphaBeat, on The Singing Lizard website. And if you like it, you can purchase one there, too.
I am convinced the authors saw Owen playing on the playground with one of his friends and wrote this book about them. But that’s not the only reason why I love it. It’s a wonderful story about friendship and compromise and inclusion, concepts that are so relevant to the pre- and gradeschool set. The illustrations are interesting, too; Owen is always re-examining the pictures and finding new, cool things in them. While we have this book and read it fairly regularly, I’ll still be purchasing more copies – as holiday and birthday gifts for friends.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about about They Might Be Giants and how their music resonates with a range of generations. I love their quirky sound and find that even their “adult” music is fun for kids, too. We don’t own this CD, but I’ve heard it numerous times and after watching a friend’s adorable two-year-old happily sing one of the songs along with his dad, I’m sold – a definite item for Sasha’s stocking.
We bought Owen this book for his first Christmas and haven’t stopped reading it since, even when it’s not holiday time. It’s now part of Sasha’s little library, but Owen still pops in for a listen now and then when we read it. So, you may already know said bear – it’s the same one of the well-known Bear Snores On, and the holiday version has the same impeccable rhyming and pleasant cadence as the original. Sometimes I think I actually like reading the book more than the kids like listening to it – there’s something gratifying about the easy flow of words and perfection of the rhymes. Best of all, the sweet story of animals sharing a lovely Christmas is a perfect bedtime read.