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:
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.”
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.
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.