As a kid my parents rarely if ever dictated the type of music I listened to, but I remember friends whose only choices were “sanitized for your protection.” Now that I have my own kids, I understand the concern over today’s popular music and the vulgar and sexist material one commonly finds in the music section. Ready to Rock Kids, currently in its 3rd volume, is the product of child psychologist Don MacMannis (Dr. Mac), who takes the concept of children’s music to a new area. The lyrics aren’t merely covers of pop songs; they tackle real life issues that kids often face in school. According to Dr. Mac, his music is designed to cover the gap between “Raffi and Rap” by promoting positive images of kids and effective solutions to their problems. However, many lines seem lifted directly from a Psychology 101 textbook and seemed very strange put to music. For example:
“So I went to get checked and the doctor said, ‘Whoa, look at those thoughts in your head.’ So, get out o’ your head, and onto your feet. Click your heels and feel the beat.”
I can definitely see the appeal to parents of children who have been diagnosed with specific psychological disorders like ADD and OCD, letting the kids know they aren’t the only ones who have to visit the “thoughts” doctor. However, for the average happy and healthy 4 to 9 year old, the smorgasbord of issues covered by each CD as a whole could leave the child confused. The music itself does include beats and rhythms more complicated than your average song by Laurie Berkner, but when the simple message of one of her songs no longer holds a kid’s attention, I’m not sure this is going to be more appealing.
As a parent I’m always looking for new things for the kids, and I try to strike a good balance between learning and fun, usually favoring the latter since I don’t think kids like being barraged with messages when simple play is often what they need most. I also try to assess whether a product goes under or over a kid’s head, again preferring the latter since I remember well not liking to be talked down when I was young — and that’s why a certain purple dinosaur has never made an appearance at my house.
In the final analysis, I can’t say this is something that I would see myself buying for my child, but if any behavioral problems became evident, it could become an attractive option. More likely are books that tackle a single issue, like one my wife and I bought for my son called Tails Are Not For Pulling, published by the same company as Ready to Rock Kids, for which our cat has been eternally grateful. Perhaps I just haven’t hit the age where monitoring what my kids are listening to becomes an overwhelming task, but my feeling has always been that the next generation will be ready for music their older brothers and sisters listen to before we are ready as parents. For some, Ready to Rock Kids will be a good bridge as its creators intended, but for others it will take some trial and error to help their kids make good choices.
On the web: http://drmacmusic.com
Scott Morgan is currently a full time stay at home dad, which is probably the most important thing he’ll ever do in his life. You’ll often find him tending his organic lawn, sitting Zen Buddhist meditation, or checking where the Red Sox are in the AL East standings. He lives with his wife, 4 year old son, and another on the way in the suburbs of Rochester, New York.