The practice of being mindful is often associated with being still, so as to be fully in the moment. It’s not thinking about the past or future, but a distinguishable present. The idea of purposefully being in the moment, and not thinking about the flurry of things waiting to be checked off throughout the day, or the things I didn’t get to yesterday, seems like an impossible feat on most days.
The times I feel most in the moment are when I’m listening to my favorite song, or when I’m dancing. Yoga is also a reliable resource that helps me find a way to just be.
My daughter is very active and though I have tried to connect with her through yoga, encouraging her to try out various poses, she regularly finds a way to augment our practice by challenging me to try an even harder Twister-like pose or some sort of gymnastic move like flipping over the arm of our couch and then flying down to the floor. Though our zen moments tend to be more active than still, I appreciate that we can both just “be” together, in the moment, mindfully trying things out.
Kira Willey, a popular kindie artist and musical yogini, recently released her third album, How to be a Cloud; Yoga Songs for Kids Vol. 3. Similar to her previous albums, this one includes a full-length “side” of 13 songs followed by 9 bonus tracks featuring yoga instruction. So depending on how you’re feeling, you can choose to sing, dance or get your yoga on, all of which are viable vehicles for cultivating mindfulness, and can be done at the same time. It also helps that the album includes a booklet illustrating yoga poses which removes any awkwardness that comes with trying to figure out how you should position your body.
What struck me most about this album is the clever way the songs are arranged. While most albums usually build to a peak and then wind down, ending with a soft song or lullaby, How to be a Cloud was organized such that the slow songs are interspersed throughout the album. The changing from upbeat boogie tunes to soft, restful songs is similar to the way a yoga class might run where there is guided movement and then there are holding poses. By giving kids the opportunity to be active for a few songs, they are more likely to engage with the slower songs that pique their imagination. “Kids need to move their bodies, it’s how they learn best,” notes Willey. I noticed this with my daughter whose method of cultivating mindfulness is through action, as mentioned above. Feeling her feet hit the ground and then push upward again provides her brain with enough feedback so that she is able to focus and reap the restorative benefits of songs like the title track (“How to be a Cloud”), which encourages sitting and imagining what it feels like to be a cloud, feeling the weightless floating. The restful lullaby, “When You Sleep,” also offers the opportunity for a reflective pause as Willey’s peaceful wishes gracefully glide like dandelion seeds through the air.
There is a lot of joy sprinkled throughout this album and while you can feel it in the aforementioned songs, there are plenty opportunities to break out your happy dance. “Gotta Lotta Happy” reminds us that we can keep our hearts smiling by offering positive energy to others: “Happy is contagious like a cold in a good way/ so let’s not hesitate to share/ we gotta talk about it celebrate it shine a light on it/ because everybody needs it everywhere.” “Wings On A String,” a gorgeous song with soaring vocals that give me chills every time, was written as a kite song because, as Willey explains, “kids love to fly.”
“Great Big Starry Sky,” one of my favorites, expresses the innocence of a child’s thoughts as they marvel at the bright lights that twinkle like fireflies in the night sky. The childlike wonder expressed in the lyrics resonates with me as I am deeply fascinated by all things astral: “…are they always there, even when the sun is shining does anyone ever turn them off/ or are they always there even when we can’t see them does anyone ever turn them off.”
“Colors – 2014,” a remix of the original song that appeared on Willey’s first album, Dance for the Sun, and was later featured in a Dell commercial, features a choir of 75 Kindergartners who bring a powerful element as they sing “I am a rainbow today/ all the colors of the world are in me.” Many listeners will relate to “Dancing with My Daddy,” which is basically a literal translation of the utter joy and magic that happens when Daddy comes home, while “Jazzy” and “Cookie Jar” nab you with some catchy lyrics and hip shaking rhythm. Just try and get those two out of your head!
Willey’s approach to songwriting and passion to encourage kids (and grown-ups) to find beauty in themselves is ever-present throughout this album. Each song, whether upbeat or slow provides a meaningful message that delivers a sense of calm and comfort. Delivered through beautiful melodies, How to be a Cloud offers the comfort of a hug, the warmth of a cup of hot cocoa on a cold day, and a heart full of gratitude. Families will enjoy spending time with this album in a variety of ways, which is especially nice on wintry days when Jack Frost is nipping at our noses. Definitely recommended.
- Favorite songs: Jazzy, Cookie Jar, Great Big Starry Sky, Wings on a String
– SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s Kids Place Live (Channel 78) airs Willey’s “Backseat Yoga Breaks” in the morning on the Absolutely Mindy show. The “Backseat Yoga Breaks” guide children in breathing exercises, mini stretches and guided imagery that can be done in the car.
– Willey has a musical yoga-for-kids interstitial series that airs on selected PBS TV affiliates!
Connect with Willey via Facebook, Twitter and her official site where you can purchase How to be a Cloud, as well as merchandise (including a ribbon ring to use while you dance to “Colors” as shown in the video below).
It’s been raining here in the Bay Area for a few days and although we desperately need to quench the thirst of our dehydrated soil, I can’t help but miss the sun. So, the impetus for today’s post is to offer some sunshine and a little entertainment should you also find yourself spending some time indoors. There are also a couple of videos for those who want to soak up some of mother nature’s offerings and find adventure in the elements.
“Sunshine” by The Twigs from Jump Right In
“Every Little Monster” by Todd McHatton from Super Audio Sunshine
“Crew Cut” by Randy Kaplan from Jam on Rye
“My Home” by Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could from Just Say Hi!
“Evergreen” by The Okee Dokee Brothers from Through the Woods
“All These Shapes” by The Pop Ups from Appetite for Construction
“Rainy Day” by Helen Austin from Colour It
Recently, Steve Denyes – of the band Hullabaloo – posted that for the months of November and December they will be donating one CD to Toys for Tots for every one that is sold. So far it has been a success with 327 CDs sold (as of 12/2/2014)! Amazing! This act of giving has inspired me to think more about how I can help bring joy to children and families in the same way while also supporting independent artists.
Music is such a valuable resource, capable of providing hope, support, relief, restoration, healing and love (the list could really go on!). Why not spread some of it around?
You can check out Hullabaloo’s FB page for updates as well as some of the other artists who have expressed interest such as Karen Rives Kalafatas of Karen K and the Jitterbugs, Jason Didner of Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam, Trevor of The Zing Zangs and GooberKids Radio, Peter Alsop and Sarah Gardner.
If you’d also like to make a musical donation, check out the Toys for Tots drop-off directory to find a local location. Consider including music from your favorite artist(s) in your donation(s) or you can purchase a CD from one of the aforementioned artists who will ship one on your behalf.
I will be posting a list of my 2014 music picks shortly which I hope will offer you even more ideas for holiday gift giving.
Check out this new video by Play Date! It’s for “The Number Song,” from their debut children’s album, Imagination. Set on the beach, husband-and-wife duo, Greg Attonito (The Bouncing Souls) and singer-songwriter, Shanti Wintergate, tell the tale of how the number one won the race of numbers.
What you’ll love about it: These two are more fun than a barrel of monkeys (just check out Attonito’s serious dance moves)! They are equally playful and full of zest, which is what makes their music so appealing to kids (and grown-ups). “The Number Song,” is an example of how this duo thoughtfully brings familiar concepts to life (see also “XYZ,” chosen for a Nordstrom digital commercial). By teaching counting through storytelling and visual cues, Play Date cleverly lays the foundation for kids to have fun while learning. The joy of childhood is very much alive in in the sounds of Play Date’s music.
Want to learn more? Of course you do! Play Date will be releasing a vinyl version of Imagination through their label Fun Fun Records in early 2015.
Holiday gift guide: In the spirit #SmallBizSaturday and #IndiesFirst, you can support Play Date by purchasing the album, Imagination, through the Bandcamp widget below.
When you purchase their Eco-Friendly Digipak CD you get a colorful piece of art, perfect for hanging in a child’s bedroom, and a coloring booklet. Artwork by Shanti Wintergate and Zak Kaplan.
Wintergate and Attonito are authors! Keep your imagination flowing by reading the children’s book responsible for inspiring the creation of their band, as well as the songs on their album. “I Went for a Walk,” winner of a 2014 Child’s Magazine award, is a chapter book that takes children on an adventure through space where they have fantastic experiences in different worlds. Each page is made up of Attonito’s fanciful paintings. I Went for a Walk is available through Amazon and Chunksaah Records.
Ready for some pie?! We’ll be baking and singing along today with Todd McHatton‘s “Slice of Pie” from his recent release Super Audio Sunshine.
“Loaded up with filling / Love we’re beholding / A slice of pie will bring you round / In a slice of pie some peace is found / A slice of pie can simply astound / You’re my slice of pie…”
Enjoy more of this song with a free download via the Bandcamp widget below:
And, for the vegan/vegetarian in your life (even if that means you), McHatton is also offering a download of “The Happy Vegan Thanksgiving Song” via the Bandcamp widget below:
I am proud to present the video world premiere for “Just Not Me” by Bay Area kindie rockers, The Hipwaders.
What you will love about it: Like their songs, The Hipwaders create stellar videos, with high-quality animation that is engaging and relatable. These guys make excellent music and have serious fun while doing it. The band’s ability to be humorous and totally real (which is what our family absolutely loves about them) is in full effect here. Animated by Will Guy of Goopymart (goopymart.com), “Just Not Me” *depicts one kid’s protest against parental behests – in the name of free will! – complete with all-too-familiar body language, i.e. a bewildered/disapproving look, unattractive facial expressions, and the classic folded-arm refusal accompanied by a series of firm “no, no, nos,” and a qualifying “That’s just not me.”
(*Warning: visual representations of a child’s inner thoughts ahead)
“Just Not Me,” is a song for all seasons, but can also certainly apply to the holidays. With the madness of travel plans, variety of uncommon foods, and influx of grown-ups vying for just one more smile for the camera (or smartphone), it can be hard to maintain order and sanity. I even find myself wanting to disobey my own rules.
Does this video resonate with you?
As the parent of a spirited 6-year-old, I really related to many of the situations in this video! Though I try not to, I sometimes make requests that threaten my daughter’s autonomy, i.e. wearing a jacket when it’s cold out (and by cold I mean your breath is billowing like smoke from a chimney), taking a bath, or using dinner as an excuse to interrupt playtime. If my daughter were to choose a motto, “just not me” would be it, followed by Sinatra’s famous declaration, “I did it my way.” With this in mind, I found myself laughing out loud while watching this video.
Want to learn more? Of course you do! “Just Not Me” can be found on The Hipwaders’ recently released album, Year Round Sounds. You can purchase the single and the album from Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby.
Also check out other songs from Year Round Sounds covered on Kids Can Groove here and here. And, since we are heading into the Christmas season, check out a brief review and some videos from The Hipwaders’ A Kindie Christmas.