It’s always fun to gather up some great songs, and tuck them neatly into a playlist. Today I’m sharing a bunch of songs (new and previously released) that we’ve been jammin’ to. It’s been fun to revisit some “classics.”
As always, I recommend listening to the playlist in the following order and then mixing things up with a little “shuffle.” If you like what you hear, click on the links below the playlist and consider supporting these wonderful, independent artists.
Daylight – Dream Jam Band from the world of Nickhoo
Easy as 1,2,3 (Feat. Ellen Brackin Sevits) – Jamison Sevits from Get On Down!
Vroom – Todd McHatton from Super Audio Sunshine
Nose in a Book – The Not-Its! from Raise Your Hand
Monkeys Driving Cars – Billy Jonas and the Billy Jonas Band from Build It Back Again
Someday Some Morning Sometime – Little Miss Ann from Follow Me
Outside Sounds – Papa Crow from Full Moon, Full Moon
Jazzy – Kira Willey from How to be a Cloud
We Got The Bite – Gustafer Yellowgold from Gustafer Yellowgold’s Wisdom Tooth of Wisdom
Block House – The Pop Ups from Appetite for Construction
Food Songs – Alphabet Rockers from Go!
Everybody Dance – Josh and the Jamtones from Bear Hunt!
Food Calculator – Alphabet Rockers from Go!
Lines and Dots – Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band from A Potluck
Rad – Play Date from Imagination
Nicky Nicky Knock Knock – The Dream Jam Band from Kidzapalooza Volume One
Don’t Ask Me Why – The Whirlygigs from Greetings from Cloud 9
A Fresh Start – Lucy Kalantari from Pockets Full of Joy
The Snow is Falling Down – Josh and the Jamtones from Bear Hunt
Rattlesnakes – Walter Martin from We’re All Young Together
Not Too Young For A Song – Randy Kaplan from Jam on Rye
The Grammy’s will be here before we know it! In anticipation of this event, here is a playlist featuring the 2015 Grammy Nominees for Best Children’s Album thanks to Sugar Mountain PR. Get to know the nominees through the Artist’s links below.
1 Brady Rymer — Just Say Hi!
2 The Okee Dokee Brothers — Through the Woods
3 The Pop Ups — All These Shapes
4 Secret Agent 23 Skidoo — Imaginary Friend
5 HachetteAudio— I Am Malala (Young Readers) by Malala Yousafzai, Read by Neela Vaswani
NOTE: There will be a special benefit concert featuring these nominees on February 7, 2015 at 10:30am in Hollywood, CA. Check out this link for more information and tickets.Proceeds from the event will go to Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that provides under-served public school children with free music classes and new instruments.
Imagine you were sitting in a dimly lit cafe at a small round table with a single frosted votive flickering. The stage is but a shadow awaiting its wake up call.
Suddenly, a spotlight’s wide owl eye shines in the center of the curtain, the music strikes up, and out comes the brightest smile you’ve ever seen. Your heart is warmed and you feel your own smile widen as the lovely lady in front of you begins to sing.
Kalantari’s debut children’s EP, Pockets full of Joy, captures the spirit of the Roaring Twenties with 6 ukulele ditties that express the elation and humor found in parenting. Each song reflects an observation or emotion, both from the point of view of a parent and of a child, though the songs could easily stand on their own and be enjoyed with a loved one of any age.
Pockets Full of Joy opens with the title track, which expresses the enchantment you feel when you are around that special someone who melts (or swells) your heart with a smile or warm embrace.
“The Only Thing” enlivens the ecstatic effects of true love with heartfelt lyrics:
Celebrating life with you
Grateful for the things you do
Falling in your loving arms
Greeted by your graceful charm
I can’t imagine this life without your magic
And I’m the one you chose to woo
In “Wait and See” Kalantari balances out her feelings of adoration with a more contemplative song that daydreams into the future, pondering what the little person in her life will grow up to be. I find myself often wondering the same thing while also wanting to stop time and stay with my daughter, for as long as possible, suspended in our special moments together.
Once you become a parent, you are given a fresh sense of the world. So much of what you see is viewed through new lenses. Suddenly the canvas in front of you changes, a new painting appears, vivid and complex. The unexplainable love that one feels is not easily communicated, but Kalantari so beautifully channels what this new identity, new role, feels like. This expression is what I enjoy so much about the album.
Pockets Full of Joy is a wonderful keepsake for new parents, one that can be passed to child(ren) later on, and also be a treasure for you as you revisit those special moments every step of the way.
Check out Lucy Kalantari’s official site where you can download the album, sample songs and sing along with the lyrics. Or, visit her Joy Store where you can purchase a physical signed copy of the album.
Ben Rudnick and Friends revive a classic from their album Blast Off with a fresh new video featuring the beloved Sam the Frog and his new alien friend named Tripp. The two go on an excellent adventure that Pre-Kers and school-aged kids will enjoy as they imagine blowing balloons and eating snacks on the moon with their own extraterrestrial buddy.
What you will love about it: Outer Space is cool. Rockstar Aliens are cool, and Sam the Frog is cool. Grown-ups fond of The Grateful Dead will appreciate the musical similarities.
What you should know: “I Got a New Friend” was inspired by Ben Rudnick’s daughter and her experiences in the early years of preschool. Rudnick explains, “Before my daughter got into preschool she was shy and wouldn’t gravitate to other kids in the playground. After a week in this really great preschool, everyone was a potential friend. I also took off on that a little bit with what I think is as subtle as can be commentary on anyone can be a friend. Black, white, green, blue, aliens… we can all be friends regardless of color and all the rest. I grew up in NYC and had all kinds of friends. I genuinely WANT everyone to be friends. Why not!?!”
Behind the Scenes: The video for “I Got a New Friend” was created by Max Litvinov (aka kClogg), a Russian animation artist and illustrator who is actually based in Russia.” Thanks to the Internet, Rudnick and kClogg met through a serendipitous encounter which turned out to be a great success as kClogg’s work very much reflects the concept Rudnick was going for in this video.
Want to learn more? “I Got a New Friend” originally appeared on the 2004 release Blast Off and this video serves as a digital “grand reopening” in honor of the the fact that the single is now up on iTunes. The same “single” can be found in a bundle on CD Baby with two additional songs, including the studio version of “I Got A New Friend,” a version of “Rocket Ship Man,” and a live version of “I Got a New Friend” from Rudnick and Friends’ Live in Lexington disc. More information about both of those CDs is on the storefront page of the band’s official site.
Note: If you purchase from CD Baby you get 2 Bonus Songs: the live versions of “Rocket Ship Man” and “I Got a New Friend” from the Live in Lexington CD.
Boston-area residents can also check out Rudnick’s Family Works Initiative which provides opportunities for families to support specific charitable organizations in the Boston area.
Happy New Year! Are you guys back into the swing of things yet? For our family, getting back into a regular routine – getting up early, getting lunch and snack made and to school on time – has taken some extra strength and mind power from reserves that feel depleted. I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of rushing and catching up with very little downtime. Plus, getting into a cold car for the morning commute makes everyone just a little more tense and uncomfortable. Thankfully, there is a solution!
Shortly before the holidays, Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live (ch. 78) started airing Kira Willey’s “Backseat Yoga Breaks” every morning on The Absolutely Mindy Show (7-10 am ET). These short breaks air sporadically throughout the show and offer everyone a chance to relax and get focused. Thankfully, our commute is long enough for us to enjoy these little breaks (which are also somehow nicely timed with the heat kicking in).
Today I am so excited to deliver three NEW yoga breaks to you! These breaks are so easy and are presented in a fun way with language that kids will be able to relate to and even find playful. I especially love the idea of setting an intention and thinking positively about how we would like our day to go. Kira’s helpful prompts encourage thoughtful conversations, providing a nice pathway to connect with your kids. The car is usually so quiet in the morning as we listen to the radio and work on trying to wake up our faces. Listening to Kira’s gentle voice guide us through setting an intention has helped break the silence. It’s also given my daughter an opportunity to share what’s on her mind, and even seek advice on how to handle certain situations with friends at school. I love it!
Feel free to enjoy these little breaks whenever you need them throughout your day. I use them on my own as well since I am on the computer all day and tend to hold tension in my shoulders and neck.
1- BUNNY BREATH (helps focus/energizes)
Sit up tall, and bring your hands in front of you like bunny paws. Wiggle your bunny nose as you take quick little breaths in, (sniff, sniff, sniff!) and then let it all the way out. Once more, take some bunny breaths in (sniff, sniff, sniff!) and then let it all the way out. Do this a few more times if you like it! Bunny breaths give us energy, and can help us focus. Have a great day!
2 – HOW TO BE A CLOUD (calming/improves self-awareness)
Sit up tall, close your eyes, and imagine you’re outside on a warm day. Now imagine you’re a cloud in the sky. What kind of a cloud are you? Are you a fluffy white cloud, or a dark gray cloud? If you’re a storm cloud, you can let your angry raindrops just fall away. Maybe you’re a sparkly cloud, full of snowflakes. You can be any kind you want. Take a long breath in, let it all the way out, and open your eyes.
3 – SET AN INTENTION (positive thinking)
Close your eyes, think about how you’d like your day to go, and finish this sentence in your mind… “Today, I’m going to be… ” Maybe you finish it with “helpful,” or “friendly!”…There are lots of things we have to do that we don’t have a choice about, but we do have a choice about how we act. So you decide how to finish the sentence, and if you want to, tell your grownup about it. And have a great day!
More about Kira
Kira Willey is a nationally recognized musician and yoga teacher based in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. She is also the creator of Fireflies Musical Yoga for Kids. Kira is passionate about helping children learn relaxation techniques that also help strengthen their minds in a way that leads to better focus and concentration. Kira’s latest release, How To Be A Cloud, contains a full set of 13 songs followed by 9 tracks featuring yoga instruction, and is packaged with a booklet illustrating yoga poses. Kira is also the host of a new yoga-for-kids series of interstitial programs airing on selected PBS TV affiliates which you can check out here. In September 2014, she led sessions with hundreds of teachers at the National Kids Yoga Conference in Washington DC.
These backseat yoga breaks have become like apps for the body and mind. If you find yourself feeling anxious or in need of a brief reprieve, Kira’s got a yoga break for that. Need to reduce the tension in your shoulders, or perhaps, like me, you need a little assistance waking up your face? Kira’s got a yoga break for that, too! They truly are useful for all ages (see additional yoga breaks at the bottom of this post)!
Gentle Neck Stretch
Sit up nice and tall, and close your eyes. Gently shake your head like you’re saying no, and then nod your head like you’re saying yes. Slowly and gently let your head fall to the right. Now, bring it down and forward toward your chest, and roll it to the left side. Lean your head back just a little, as if you’re looking up toward the sky, but keep your eyes closed. Now, let’s roll the other way: gently lean your head to the left, roll it down to the front, and lean your head to the right side. Come back to center, take a long breath in, let it all the way out, and open your eyes.
Sit up tall, and pull your belly in. Squeeze your shoulders up toward your ears, take a big breath in, and let it out as you slowly drop your shoulders back down. Once more, squeeze your shoulders up toward your ears, take a breath in. Let it out as you slowly drop your shoulders back down. Do this a few more times if it feels good.
Full body squeeze
Let’s wake up our bodies by squeezing all of our muscles. Start with scrunching up your toes, then squeeze all the muscles in your legs, make your belly really strong, and squeeze the muscles in your arms. Make your hands into fists, scrunch up your face and squeeze your eyes shut. Take a breath in, and as you let it out, slowly let all those muscles go, and relax your whole body.
Wake Up Your Face <— YES, PLEASE! Kira is awesome!
Merry Christmas! Recently I had a chance to talk with Bob McGrath from Sesame Street! It was so special for me to hear to talk with someone who was a major part of my childhood, and continues to be as I watch current and classic Sesame Street videos with my own daughter.
Today’s post is Part 1 of a 2-part interview which seems like a perfect fit for this Christmas Eve day as it focuses on Christmas. One of Bob’s favorite episodes is “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street,” and we go into details on this special, the making of Bob’s Christmas Sing-Along, as well as how Bob celebrates this time of year with his Sesame Street family, as well as his own family.
No matter where you are, we wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that you can find some snuggle time by the fire as you delight in the gifts of tradition and family.
Kids Can Groove: Merry Christmas! Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. We have been listening to your Christmas album and reminiscing about classic episodes on Sesame Street. After 45 years of being on Sesame Street, are there Christmas traditions that you all partake in together?
Bob McGrath: I feel very fortunate that I’ve been with an incredible show like Sesame Street for 45 years. The cast really is a very very close family. Loretta Long (“Susan”), Caroll Spinney and I are the three originals. In the third year, Sonia Manzano (“Maria”) and Roscoe Orman (“Gordon”) came in at about the third or fourth year and we just became a really really close family. Most of us recently got together to do a Christmas show in a hospital in Manhattan. The hospital had a nice little studio that someone donated with video equipment, and they video taped our performances. We did about a thirty-forty minute show with songs and stories, and because many of the kids are contagious they had all the rooms wired with television sets so they all watched us in their rooms. [The kids] just get a tremendous kick out of seeing all of us talking to them and performing for them. We look forward to those kind of situations.
In the past couple of weeks, some of us did a couple of hour long interviews for Sirius Radio, and a benefit for children at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
Another wonderful event we had was in January 2013. Alan Muraoka (current owner of Mr. Hooper’s store), Alison O’Reilly (“Gina”), Pam Arciero (“Grundgetta,” Oscar the Grouch’s girlfriend), Leslie Carrara Rudolph (“Abby Cadabby”) and I did two events for the kids at Sandy Hook. One event was very large with dozens of folks from the Broadway theater, and a smaller one with a few muppets and cast. They were both very touching. After we entertained the kids, we received a letter from Mary Rose Kristopik, the Music Specialist thanking us.
KCG: What a wonderful gift for those children. Do you have a favorite episode on Sesame Street in relation to Christmas.
BM: My two most favorite specials were “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street” and “Goodbye Mr. Hooper.” Both were beautifully written and two of the best things we’ve done in 45 years.
People have told me that they have watched the Christmas Eve show every Christmas for 30 years. It really is beautifully
written, and the scene I found very touching was between Will Lee, who played Mr. Hooper, and Bert and Ernie. It was like a “Gift of the Magi” moment where Bert and Ernie wanted to trade in their most favorite possessions, which was Ernie’s rubber ducky and Bert’s paper clip collection, so they could buy something wonderful for the other person. Bert and Ernie brought their favorite possessions in separately to Mr. Hooper’s store and he looked them over and very tenderly said, “Are you sure you want to give these up?” With almost a terror in his eye Bert said, “Yes,” and the same thing happened with Ernie and his rubber ducky. Later on in the episode, Mr. Hooper surprised them both with Christmas presents containing their very favorite thing in the whole world. He gave Ernie his rubber ducky back, and gave Bert his paper clip collection back. Will’s playing of that scene was just incredibly well done. He was a wonderful, long-tine professional actor in New York City. So that was a really wonderful special.
In that same special I had an opportunity to sing a beautiful song, written by Sam Pottle and David Axlerod, called “Keep Christmas With You.” There is a really lovely surprise in the segment when I was singing and playing at the piano and Linda Bove (“Linda”) was in my studio with several children. As I stopped playing the piano, I turned around to hear the children singing “Keep Christmas With You,” and I realized Linda, who was deaf, had taught all the kids in the room the whole song in sign language. They were signing it as a Christmas present for me from Linda. It’s really beautiful, and I liked the song so much that it is the closing song on my Christmas sing-along, “Bob’s Christmas Sing-Along” CD, because the message is wonderful. You know you can keep the spirit of Christmas all year long not just on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. So that was a really special special and one of my favorite moments. Of course another one you can hardly even compare with is the “Goodbye Mr. Hooper show.” (Editor’s note: Goodbye Mr. Hooper will be explained in Part 2 of my interview with Bob).
KCG: It seems like this time of year is especially meaningful to you.
BM: Yes this time of the year has always been special, but seems to become even more so as the years go by, and the more grandchildren we are blessed to share this special day with. My wife, Ann, and I feel so grateful that we have been fortunate enough to grow older, be in good health, and see our children and our children’s children enjoy this holiday as we did years ago. Ann and I both came from a family of five, and have had the experience of a large family.
KCG: Are there any special traditions you practice with your own family each year?
BM: We celebrate Christmas on Christmas eve. I pick out a Christmas tree with my wife, and our grandchildren trim it on Christmas eve before dinner, which is fun to watch. Then, we have a big dinner early in the evening, and then the opening of presents. All afternoon and evening, we always have a fire going in the fireplace. We come prepared with gifts for our Secret Santa. Our immediate family is now 17 so the presents pile up quite high under and around the tree. I sit on the hearth with my Santa hat on, and the three younger grandchildren are my elf helpers. They bring the presents to me to name and then they deliver them to the right person. They feel very grown up with this job! I get such joy out of watching the three youngest grandchildren, who are now 9 and 10 years old, growing up, but are still “believers.” I recently received a copy of the letters the three youngest wrote to Santa. They are priceless.
For many years my daughters, and the older granddaughters, have gotten together and sung Christmas carols and played guitar for us. Years ago, they used the song sheets that came with Mitch’s LP. My wife and I now get a kick out of watching them all pull out their iPhones or iPads and download all the lyrics! A new world!
Christmas music is always playing. We’ll often have recordings from my earlier work with Mitch Miller & the Sing Along Gang on Mitch MIller’s Christmas Sing Along, some of my other favorite artists, and of course my Christmas Sing Along CD as well.
KCG: What are some of your favorite Christmas memories growing up?
BM: Many of my favorite Christmas memories date back many years ago to a farm in Illinois where I grew up with my parents, two brothers and two sisters. Christmas was a very special event for our family – Mass on Christmas eve, or early Christmas morning, and then presents for all. We always left cookies out for Santa, which of course were all gone except for a few crumbs on the plate.
One time my Dad pulled a great trick for us to see Christmas morning. We had a fence around the yard that was in need of repair, and so Dad went out after we were all in bed, and knocked a section down, and trampled the heavy snow where Santa landed. He was quite angry as he woke us up and told us that Santa and his reindeer wrecked his fence while landing the sleigh last night! I was the youngest of five, but that trick convinced my older siblings about Santa for many more years!
Years later, one of my favorite remembrances was a story I heard at an event I did for the NYC post office who threw a party for low income kids. All of Santa’s letters went to the main post office. The man running the event related one letter that was his favorite. He said this little boy asked Santa for a few toys, but said what he REALLY, REALLY WANTED, was a Pony. In a PS at the bottom of the letter, he said…”I will also need some “Grazing LAND.”
KCG: Can you tell us more about your Christmas Album and how you were inspired to create one?
BM: I had already recorded a CD for Babies, ”The Baby Record” with Katharine Smithrim which contains thirty-seven songs and activities for toddlers. I then created “Songs and Games For Toddlers,” (also with Katharine) which has about sixty classic songs on two CD’s for children, and “Sing Along With Bob (Vol I & Vol II).” Next, I created twelve of my favorite songs from Sesame Street, celebrating the first twenty-five years of Sesame Street, and honoring our two principal composers, Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss in “Bob’s Favorite Street Song” followed by “Sing Me A Story” (the first original set of songs)
However, I had never done a Christmas recording. The structure of my “Christmas Sing Along” recording was greatly influenced by my former boss Mitch Miller, who is mostly responsible for much of my career. He kept his recordings simple so that everyone could sing along with the 25 guys in his gang. There were no fancy melodic or rhythmic tricks, just all in simple keys that would fit most voices and encourage everyone to sing along.
I spent time researching dozens of Christmas LP’s from my favorite singers, and picked thirteen songs that I felt were the “Gold Standards.” I then added the song I sang on “Christmas Eve On Sesame Street,” “Keep Christmas With You,” as well as a song submitted by Ken Baron called “What A Great Christmas It Was,” bringing the total number of tracks to 15. Ken also wrote “You’re Face” for my CD, “Sing Me A Story.”
I asked Mike Renzi, Sesame Street’s music director, arranger and fantastic pianist to help me produce “Christmas Sing Along.”Mike and I spent several weeks planning what the feel of each song should be. I thought it would be fun for kids to hear many different styles of music played by the incredible musicians we worked with: Country, Caribbean, Stride, Pop, R&B, and more. Mike chose the Sesame Street band who have been playing together since the show’s inception, and for just about every major artist in the country for many, many years. They are some of New York’s finest studio musicians: Mike Renzi, Sesame Street’s musical director, pianist, and arranger (Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, and Woody Allen); Lou Marini, saxophone and flute (Blues Brothers and Saturday Night Live); James Saporito, drummer and percussionist (NY Pops, Broadway music composer, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, N.Y. Philharmonic, and Gladys Knight); Bobby Cranshaw, Jazz bassist (Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson); Jack Cavari, guitar (Alicia Keys, Frank Sinatra, and Aretha Franklin); and Buddy Williams, drums (Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder). My good friend Francisco Nunez was also kind enough to bring a few singers from his very talented Young People’s Chorus of New York City to the session. It was nothing short of thrilling to have all these guys together playing their hearts out on this recording – sheer joy!
Below you will find a YouTube playlist featuring 3 songs (“Feliz Navidad,” “Jingle Bells,” and “What A Great Christmas It Was”) from Bob’s “Christmas Sing Along.” Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!