Podcast: Ear Snacks with Andrew & Polly

earsnacks_050815-web

Podcasts, oh glorious podcasts. I am a big fan of podcasts and find myself reaching for them more and more as  a relaxing break in my day. Emily and I share a couple of podcasts that entertain us while driving. It’s a great way to sharpen those listening skills, gain insight and avoid groaning over bad radio (though we do love Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live).

Recently, a new podcast has made its way into our rotation. Ear Snacks is a new podcast by an L.A.-based husband and wife duo. Andrew Barkan and Polly Hall (of Andrew & Polly, of course) have recently launched an interactive audio series which, as they express, is for kids by kids.

I have tried several different podcasts and find that the style of the person’s voice, inflection and personality all make a difference. I can imagine it’s not easy making a podcast, especially for kids, that is able to keep adults and kids entertained. 2015-la-andrew pollyAndrew & Polly, have found the right balance with Ear Snacks. I felt like I was listening to a kid version of Portlandia. They both have the right combination of charm, appealing (and wacky) sense of humor, and versatility when it comes to playing different characters. They talk about topics, such as fruit and hats and incorporate them into the episodes through fun songs, activities, interactive dialogue (and some silly jokes) between themselves about the topic,
and they also feature special kid guests. They even go to a farmer’s market! In general, the episodes feel personal in the sense that the podcast is crafted in a way that makes the listener feel as though they are included in the experience, which is Andrew & Polly’s general mantra when it comes to performing live.

Polly expresses: “We make genuine connections with children and families through our songs, shows, and podcast.  Rather than aspiring to be rock stars, we prefer sitting on the carpet in the corner of our favorite independent bookstore and singing on Saturday mornings.  In that way, we can see kids light up when a song really works.  We sing directly to them and with them, on their developmental level, stretching their imaginations and their experience of music.”

Ear Snacks is best for kids up to age 7, and at age 6 1/2 Emily was engaged. Some of the recorded children sound as though they are younger which may or may not appeal to older kids, but altogether the content can sustain broader appeal.

You can enjoy listening to some songs from the Hats episode below and be sure to catch Episodes 1 and 2 of Ear Snacks on Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live (ch. 78), or through various digital sources such as iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud – Fruit and SoundCloud – Hats and tunein.

Hey Hat

.

Everybody Hat Hat

Wanna participate? Just go to Andrew & Polly’s official site and send them a voice message, or you can send them an email and have your kid(s) interviewed on the show!

Andrew & Polly’s music has appeared on Nickelodeon and they are the honored recipients of the ASCAP Foundation Joe Raposo Children’s Music Award for their song ‘When You’re A Dog’ from their debut children’s album, Up and At ‘Em! The duo will be releasing a new album called Odds and Ends on September 25, 2015.

Summer aquatic adventures!

IMG_4093

It’s getting HOT which means we are finding ways to creatively enjoy our time inside while the blistering heated blanket of summer covers the outside world.

Recently, Em and I were playing Go Fish, one of her favorites. The cards we were using had sea animals on them, and as we played I was reminded of a sea-themed album by The Whizpops called Sea Blue Sea (iTunesThe entire album is devoted marine life. Delivered in a personified context, The Whizpops sing from the perspective of the animal, narrating in a way that invites you into their habitat. As we listened to each song, our Go Fish game suddenly became a seek and find adventure. As we played, it was fun to call out which animals we heard on the album, i.e. Dolphins, Sea Turtles. Sea Blue Sea strikes just the right balance between education and entertainment as the material is brought to life through a cool blend of music. I love the variety of musical styles The Whizpops flow through starting with a mélange of Jazz, R&B and hip hop in the first track, “Coral Reef.” Sea-Blue-Sea-Album-Cover-Front-2014-1

After our game ended, and we continued to listen to Sea Blue Sea, my brain exploded with a bunch of ideas about how we could extend our sea exploration. I love when spontaneous creative combustion happens.

Below are some activities we have been enjoying. I invite you to join us and share some of the adventures and activities you’ve been enjoying.

1. YouTube: Sea Blue Sea, as I mentioned above, covers a wide array of sea life. Get to know more of them by finding some YouTube videos. The “Coral Reef,” “Manatee” and “Anglerfish” have spawned the most curiosity. In particular, what an aquatic biome is, why the Anglerfish “carries” a light around (“From the right angle, a luminescent rod dangles like a pale lantern deep in the fog.”) Manatees are marine mammals (“We’re just gentle mammals just lookin’ to munch some grass”), and once we learned that, we got into a discussion about what mammals are, identifying other mammals we know like ourselves, and what being endangered means. It’s also cute to call them “sea cows” for some reason (“We kinda look like cows with no legs”).

2. Practice reading and dig into marine science with downloadable lyrics for songs from Sea Blue Sea

3. Go to an aquarium and do a scavenger hunt to see how many creatures or sea plants you can find that also appear in the songs from Sea Blue Sea or work with whatever comes to mind.

4. While at the aquarium, observe the animals and take photos of them (where applicable – some exhibits prohibit flash photography) or bring drawing paper and sketch some of your favorites together. Visit the “petting” area if there is one.

5. This should really be number one, but play Go Fish with pictures of sea animals or make your own cards. There are many templates online, and for little ones you can make it a fun matching game as well with different colored fish or numbered fish.

image_1

6. If you are up for an outdoor adventure, head to the water (either the beach or the bay or both!). If you have tide pools close to you, go visit a tide pool! We are lucky enough to live close to cool coastal beaches bustling with life. There is something so mesmerizing about seeing a violet sea urchin, touching a sea anemone or a starfish “in the wild.” Even watching the otherworldly grace of jellyfish is a meditative practice in and of itself.

image_2

There may also be local organizations that you can explore with. A local SF Bay organization called Tree Frog Treks takes families and kids on exciting oceanic excursions. These trips are led by knowledgeable instructors who are experts in finding all kinds of creatures. On our trip, one instructor found an octopus and got inked!

41ER9ZZIkcL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Marni Fylling recently published a book called Fylling’s Illustrated Guide to Pacific Coast Tide Pools. It’s a fascinating book with great illustrations and easy to read facts for kids.

image_1 (1)

7. Check in with a marine science center/institute and see if there are any activities you can sign up for. Our local Marine Science Institute offers fishing excursions out to the bay, bay cleanup days, and even summer camps.

“What He Wrote” a song about Thomas Jefferson in honor of Independence Day by Jonathan Sprout

unnamed (2)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – Thomas Jefferson

Happy Independence Day! Today I have another holiday guest post by Jonathan Sprout who, inspired by American Heroes, has created a whole collection of award-winning music in an effort to remember those who have made a significant impact on the history and development of our country. As you can tell from the image and the quote above, today we are remembering Thomas Jefferson.

Thanks to Jonathan’s post, I have been in more thought about what our country was like back in 1776 when we first declared our independence. Rereading the words in the quote above, and thinking about it’s significance in relation to the recent law set by the Supreme Court is eerily on point and gives me goosebumps.

As we celebrate today, whether it’s through parades, waving flags, and chili cook-offs (ahem), we always end with a grand ole celebration of the beautiful lights in the sky. As you get ready to whoop it up today, I would recommend incorporating some time to listen to Jonathan’s words about Thomas Jefferson, finding some good kid reads on this American Hero’s impact in our history, and learning together about the Declaration of Independence.

In his post below, and in “What He Wrote,” Jonathan gets the conversation going enough to pique kids’ interests to learn more about freedoms, and civil rights. Getting into a discussion about what he/she might have done if they were in Jefferson’s shoes will likely invoke some interesting responses. What do your kids feel are their basic rights and how would they act if someone was impeding upon them? It’s always interesting for me to hear what Em has to say. Even if the response is “I don’t know,” I’ve found that I am more motivated to think along with her.

You can find more information and links on this topic at Jonathan’s site.


Thomas Jefferson: My, What He Wrote!
Guest post by Jonathan Sprout

Many people become heroes because of what they do. Once in a while, someone becomes a hero by what they say or write. To me, it’s Thomas Jefferson’s words that define him as one of the great heroes of his age. Thomas Jefferson did many amazing things as an inventor, architect, master gardener, President. He lived his life on the cutting edge of progress. He sent Lewis and Clark on their great mission and more than doubled the size of the United States. He also did some not-so-amazing things. But, my, what he wrote!

There he was, in his early thirties, representing the colony of Virginia in Philadelphia in early summer, 1776. He and representatives from 13 colonies had come together to form a new government. Mr. Jefferson was asked to put into writing for the King of England and the rest of the world what the representatives were demanding and why.

I can’t imagine how overwhelming that first blank page must have appeared to Jefferson. Where would you start? For several weeks, he wrote, edited, revised, tweaked, trashed, and re-wrote until he came up with most of what Americans now call the most important document in America – the Declaration of Independence.

Have you ever actually read this document?

It’s hard for me to imagine how one guy could have done this, mostly on his own. His Declaration was approved by Congress in July of 1776. The rest, as they say, is history.

Jefferson, with his words, expressed the highest of human aspirations becoming the leading spokesman in the revolution of ideas that transformed the way people actually thought in America, and to some extent, around the world.

He changed the world with what he wrote.


Find lyrics at Jonathan’s official Thomas Jefferson page.

Jonathan’s song about Thomas Jefferson, “What He Wrote,” is from his Grammy nominated album, American Heroes #3.

Listen: “Sing A Summer Song” – Charity and the JAMband

a3616965413_10

Summer is here and with it comes summer concert time! A regular favorite and just awesome music series is one put on by the Mountain View Library in Pioneer Park under a big oak tree. The series is packed with the best local talent within the SF/Bay Area, and the grounds are gorgeous. Thanks to the tall oak, the cool, shady ground is turned into the biggest and best dance floor. Charity Kahn of Charity and the JAMband site recently opened the series and has been a part of it for a few years now. Inspired by the old oak and the summer music series, she wrote “Sing a Summer Song” (which is also the name of Mountain View Library’s summer music series).

Visit Charity and the JAMband’s official site for updates, shows, meditation classes and even listen to a typical concert set list!

Mother’s Day Premiere: “Mama” – Mista Cookie Jar

unnamed (1)

Artwork by Lucas!

“Mama, thank you for bringing me into this world.”

Today I am proud to premiere the 8th single in Mista Cookie Jar’s song-a-month series. Appropriately titled, “Mama,” is his most personal so far. An homage to his mother and his Filipino heritage, MCJ opens up about his parents’ journey to the states and where he grew up. 

She went with Papa
to the land they call America.

Now here I am,
quite the character!
Off the boat, they landed.

Where? It’s kinda random.
I was born in Georgia,
grew up in Alabama.
A country boy

with devotion to his family.
That’s filipino values

and some southern hospitality.

This new track is upbeat with a nice swing to it. MCJ describes it as “Multi-culti hodgepodgeyness with a little reggae.

I love the part where MCJ gratefully sings out ”Thank you for bringing me into this world,” a phrase his mother taught him. “My mom said that to her mom on her birthday and mother’s day. And now I say that to my mom on my birthday and Mother’s Day.” Such an endearing sentiment and reminder to give a big ole shout to all the special mama’s in your life!

Stream today’s premiere below and click through to purchase.

Music Review and Free Mother’s Day Download: Hello My Baby – Vered

CoverHello

Today’s music review is for a special album that will resonate with new parents, new-ish parents, and grandparents. In honor of Mother’s Day, you will find a free download at the end of this post so read on!

The first time I celebrated Mother’s Day was when I was pregnant. It felt so strange to suddenly be included in this Hallmark holiday without actually having a baby yet. At the same time, I knew it marked a major milestone. I just didn’t know how major. After having my daughter, I remember thinking “Now what?!” Suddenly, I was responsible for this new life, so fragile and dependent, and I felt completely unprepared. I had so many questions! Being around other moms kept me together and sane.  Looking back, I wish I had Vered Benhorin’s new album, Hello My Baby.

Hello My Baby reaches out with a loving hand to remind all of us, babies included, that it’s all ok. Through warm, soothing vocals, Vered relates to her audience like a best friend who understands and will support you. Her songs remind me of how lucky I am to be a mom. Hello My Baby delves into the most complicated aspects of parenting in which we are constantly at odds with selflessness and selfishness; being a parent while still wanting to be nurtured ourselves. As I listen, I find myself laughing, crying and just taken by the reality of it all. 

The album opens with the title track “Hello My Baby,” which is more than just a greeting. In many ways, it’s the start of an experience that reflects the diverse and sometimes conflicted range of emotions that we have as parents. The second song, “Jump,” expresses the joy and and physical response our bodies have when we see that beautiful face, glowing eyes, and bright, toothless smile.  …“makes my insides go jump.”

Since her last record, Vered has spent time working with families and developing her company, Baby in Tune. With advanced degrees in both Music Therapy and Psychology, plus being a mom herself, Vered explains that “These songs are first and foremost based on my personal experience as a mom. But they are also informed by the time I spend listening to new parents who are looking for someone to relate to. I hope that these songs express how we all feel as parents and our connections to ourselves and our babies.”

In “Something other than a Mom,” Vered unmasks the naked, raw emotion of remembering who you were, who are you are now and how the two identities converge into one: “These days i forget to look into a mirror/ But if a glass catches me/ I see something other than a mom/ When I run my hands over my body/ I feel something strange/ It’s not like when i was something other than a mom/ It’s not to say that I don’t like being her/ But I’ve grown to know and love another/ So my baby/ Since you came/ I wonder if she’ll return.” This is something that goes through my mind all the time. Though I have been a mom for six years, and have mostly returned to my pre-baby form, I am still very aware that my body has changed, as has my identity. I know I can’t be the same girl I used to be, but as I listen to this song, I feel that I can be both the mom I am now and the girl I once was. 

Parenting is an adventure which presents many opportunities to learn, change and grow with your baby. Hello My Baby is a memorable album and one that I have not yet encountered in terms of its intent, depth and honesty for parents. This special collection of songs bridges the connection between parent to baby, encouraging a rich bonding experience. This album is a perfect companion to Vered’s debut, Good Morning My Love. I just wish I was handed these CDs instead of sitting through a birthing video from the 60’s in Lamaze class.

BONUS: I hope you enjoyed today’s music review! Hello My Baby is an exceptional album. In honor of Mother’s Day, Vered is offering Kids Can Groove readers a free download of her song “Changing.” Grab it here

Learn more about Vered’s work at the Baby in Tune official site.

For tips on using music to bond with your baby, check out Vered’s guest post here.

Check This Out: Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes – Andy Z

unnamed (1)

In the children’s music genre there are folk songs a plenty, and with good reason. Their repetitive choruses encourage language development, and build a foundation for rhythm and rhyme. Many of them offer opportunities for movement, as well. I know I’m not the only one who has galloped around the room while singing “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain!”

Releasing an album full of traditional folk and classic children’s songs may not be out of the ordinary, however, as much as I have heard “This Land Is Your Land,” “Your Are My Sunshine,” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” I always appreciate when artists put an original spin on them, essentially creating something that feels new. That’s the difference for me every time.

Andy Zs sixth studio album, Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes, does just that. While planning for the release of this album, the Bay Area-based musician spent time researching the origins of popular folk songs in an effort to present them in their original lyrical form. Andy preserves the authentic sounds of the genre through carefully curated orchestral arrangements and infuses them with his signature charm and positive energy.

Families will enjoy singing along with “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” a seasonal classic, revisiting the wild west with “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” and harmonizing to “Happy Trails,” which features a sweet duet with Karla Kane from The Corner Laughers. Younger listeners (pre-school to lower elementary ages) will smile as they “Shake a Friend’s Hand,” “Shake Their Sillies Out,” and do “The Hokey Pokey.”

Em and I listened to the album together, and as she heard “This Land is Your Land” followed by “Shake a Friend’s Hand,” she proudly sang along excited by the fact that she knew all of the words. As I listened to her, I recalled how we sang together during her toddler years. It was surprisingly nostalgic.

Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes is an enjoyable collection of time-honored tracks that will appeal to children and adults of all ages. Sometimes reinventing the wheel can fall flat, but taking that same wheel and giving it a fresh coat of paint can be a wonderful thing.

Learn more about Andy’s latest efforts and Listen to samples from the album at the official “Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes site.”

Also make sure to check out the stellar troupe of Bay Area artists that accompanied Andy on “The Team” page at the official “Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes site.”

The album is available for purchase through CDBaby, Itunes, and Amazon.

Be sure to catch more of Andy’s tunes by subscribing to his Pandora channel.