Picking the Best Christian Music for Your Kids Isn’t Easy

Back before we had children, I imagined that I would be one of those cool parents, the kind whose kids listen only to indie music and request obscure hipster bands by name. And while it’s true that we sometimes have dance parties to Motown classics, and that my kids have at times sung along to Sufjan (“suf-ee-yan, follow your heart…”),  I have to confess that I’m not the cool parent I dreamed of being.  In fact, my son is so deep into the kids’ Christian music scene that he not only has favorite albums, he has favorite tracks on those albums. Did I mention that he’s two years old?

There are a lot of Christian kids’ albums out there that score in the mediocre-to-awful range, but it’s not all bad.  These are some of the better options that my kids (ages 4 and 2) love:

In the Car:

1. “Big Stories for Little Ones,” Rain for Roots (2012)

Four Nashville mamas, all excellent musicians in their own right, got together to record this lovely album of songs based on the poems in Sally Lloyd Jones’s Baby’s Hug a Bible. These simple, folksy melodies are so lovely that I’ve been guilty of listening to the album even when there aren’t any kids in my car.  And the lyrics are refreshingly God-centered rather than being overly moralistic.

2. “Hide Em In Your Heart Vol. 1 & 2,” Steve Green (1990, 1992)

My kids love these (somewhat dated) Scripture memory songs by Steve Green. I grow tired of the relentlessly upbeat spoken introductions to some of the songs, but hey – the kids are memorizing Bible verses, right? Their favorite tracks include “In My Father’s House are Many Mansions,” and “When I Am Afraid.”

3. Seeds Family Worship (Vol. 1-6, 2004-2011)

These albums also set Scripture to music using the NIV translation.  The songs are upbeat, influenced by rock, pop, and reggae music. Our favorite of the six albums in the series is “The Power of Encouragement Vol. 5.”

4. “You Are My Little Bird,” Elizabeth Mitchell (2006)

I can’t not include this album by Elizabeth Mitchell. Even if it’s not technically a “Christian” recording, it’s one of the highest quality kids records I’ve found. Covering songs by Neil Young, Pete Seeger, Woodie Guthrie, and Gillian Welch, as well as traditional folk songs from around the world, Mitchell (a Smithsonian Folkways Recording Artist) makes music my whole family loves to sing along to.

At Bedtime:

1. “Now the Day Is Over,” The Innocence Mission (2004)

With this choice, I get some of my indie cred back, right?  This lovely album is one I bought even before I had kids, just so that I could hear the ethereal voice of Karen Peris accompany the lovely, spare arrangements of classics like “Moon River” and “Stay Awake” (from Mary Poppins).

2. “Lullabies,” Page CXVI (2012)

Page CXVI is a band of musicians from Denver who aim to make hymns accessible and widely known. This album contains unique arrangements of hymns focused on rest and peace.  It’s haunting and hopeful, and the 4 year-old and I both enjoy it.

3. “Hidden in My Heart:A Lullaby Journey Through Scripture,” Breakaway Music (2009, 2011)

Scripture verses set to deeply soothing, calming music.

4. “Sleep Sound in Jesus,” Michael Card (1998)

I bought this album out of nostalgia: I have happy memories of it playing in my little brothers’ room when they were babies.   Michael Card’s lyrics, as always, are thoughtful and scriptural, and the melodies are sweet.  The female vocals can be a bit high and trilling for my taste, but when I asked my daughter this morning which cd was her very favorite, this was the one she named.

 We listen to one or more of these albums everyday.  To be honest, though, I do have some reservations about playing a lot of “Christian music” for my kids (reservations beyond its questionable level of hipness).  Tomorrow I’ll share my concerns, and how I resolve them.

About Amy Lepine Peterson

Amy Lepine Peterson teaches ESL Writing and American Pop Culture at Taylor University, but spends most of her time making a home in the cornfields for her best-friend-husband and two (frankly adorable) children. Look for her with a french press of coffee and a book or a screen, plus a little one on her lap, thinking about education, mothering, theology, tv, movies, music, and sustainable habits of living.

  • Sarah

    Can’t believe you didn’t mention Blink by Plumb. The track “Me” still gets my boys and I through rough days.
    Great list, though. Some nostalgia for me as well and I love the Elizabeth Mitchell recommendation!

  • Steve Schuler

    Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll have to check out a few of them for my own kids.

  • Geoffrey Reiter

    “Seeds” is awesome! Thanks for bringing attention to it. I’m interested to check out some of your other recommendations.

  • http://mommyinmoderation.blogspot.com Janna

    Thanks for the list! I’ll have to check out some of your recommendations. My 2 little boys love the Seeds CD (and so do I). They also really love “Slugs and Bugs and Lullabies” by Andrew Peterson and Randall Goodgame.

  • http://maidcarolyn.blogspot.com Carrie

    Janna – I second the “Slugs & Bugs” recommendation. There are three CDs available and Randall Goodgame heads into the studio in June to record a New Testament one (all the lyrics are directly from Scripture). http://www.slugsandbugs.com/

  • http://renewandsustain.wordpress.com/ Christiana

    I’m so glad you made this list. I’d only heard of one or two of these so it’s great to get something other than the mind-numbing recordings for kids. Who says you can’t have good kids music that parents enjoy too?

  • http://opus.fm/ Jason Morehead

    Our boys are big fans of Mavis Staples’ “You Are Not Alone”. We listen to it in the car all the time. Really solid gospel-influenced rock n’ roll. And it’s produced by Jeff Tweedy, so there’s some additional hipster cred right there.

  • http://renewandsustain.wordpress.com/ Christiana

    PS My kids’ favorite music that I actually enjoy and that has progressive Mennonite theology is Bryan Moyer Suderman: http://www.smalltallmusic.com/cds/gods-love-is-for-everybody/

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