Monkey Rock Music: Kids Music Doesn’t Have to Drive Parents Crazy

John King is the director of Monkey Rock Music, which offers music classes for young children (ages 0-4 years) and their adult caregivers in Ottawa and Montreal.

Let’s be honest - listening to kids’ music is the worst

Sharing music with your child from a young age will result in a lifelong interest in being a part of music. That interest will hopefully lead to wanting to take dance lessons, singing lessons, piano lessons, or at least the high score in Guitar Hero. But most kids’ music is saccharine, canned drum beat, earworm garbage.

Fortunately, sharing music with your child does not have to mean children’s music by any stretch of the imagination. Share the music YOU love. Dance around your kitchen with your baby to Drake, crank Cardi B in the car, start a toddler mosh pit to Nirvana. Your child will take your love of music from you and run with it. This, above all else, will make music meaningful for your children.

This is why Monkey Rock Music always includes a rock and roll sing along in their classes, something parents know and can get into - Wonderwall, Shake It Off, Brown Eyed Girl, etc. Our album might be the only hard rock kids’ music on the market. Amps at 11.

Monkey Rock Music Kids Music Program

Engaging in music

The key to engaging anyone in music is to make it easy to be a part of - sick beats make you want to dance; catchy riffs make you want to sing along. One of the biggest mistakes music teachers make is to try and ‘teach’ music at too young an age. For toddlers, the only goal should be to show them they can be a part of music - and it can be fun.

Music for young children should be 100% participatory, with simple, repetitive actions - ideally with interactions between parent and child. Programs should balance introducing new songs to keep things interesting, with repeating past songs to help young singers learn the music and lyrics. We even provide families with videos of our staff performing the songs, so kids can practice at home while still maintaining that connection to their weekly rock star hero.

Monkey Rock Music Lesson

The point: You need to have fun

Don’t do any music program with your kids that you don’t enjoy. You set the tone in all things for your child from the moment they’re born, and if you’re not having fun, they can tell. The best parent/child programs get this, and will focus as much on your enjoyment as the babies’ - being a parent of a young child is HARD, and any classes you take should make it easier.

Monkey Rock Music Guitar

Dancing to Blue Skies by Bobs & LoLo

When my daughter was younger her favourite musicians were the Canadian children’s performers Bobs & LoLo. The Vancouver-based duo caught the “ear” of my daughter when she was a toddler. Their music video for “Raindrop Pop” came on Treehouse and from that moment on, my daughter was hooked.

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Music by Bobs & Lolo is easy on adult-ears and upbeat and fun for young ears. When no one is looking, my now 9-year old daughter can still be found singing and dancing along to Bobs & LoLo with her four- and two-year old cousins. My daughter thinks it's neat that she has passed on her love of Bobs & LoLo to her cousins. My four-year old niece loves dancing to their newest album and when asked her favourite song, she eagerly replied, "Blue Skies!" She likes it because it's a long song and has lots of blue skies in it! ;)

Bobs & Lolo’s catchy songs often carry a life lesson or environmental message (I still catch myself singing “R-E-C-Y-C-L-E – Recycle, Recycle with me” when I ask my daughter to put something in the recycle bins.

Bobs & Lolo’s newest album, Blue Skies, is filled with familiar beats their fans have come to adore, this time celebrating “sunshine and laughter, individuality and creative expression, big feelings and bigger hearts, special days, special places and the special little people that fill our lives with love, hope and happiness.”

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It comes as no surprise that Blue Skies is nominated for a 2018 Juno Children’s Album of the Year Award. Their music is memorable, fun and is a perfect introduction into music for young kids.

Robin Hardy and Lorraine Pond are the creative geniuses behind Bobs & Lolo. They met as Girl Guides and have been making music together since they were teenagers. I recently asked them a few “behind the scenes” questions and here is what they had to say:

1)   How did you get started together?

We've been Bobs & LoLo far longer than we have been songwriters, performers or business partners. We actually first met as kids at a Girl Guides camp on Vancouver Island. Years later we ended up at the same high-school where "Bobs" and "LoLo" were our childhood nicknames nearly a decade prior to becoming our stage names.  

2)   What made you decide to create children’s music together?

The whole project evolved quite organically from our friendship and a mutual interest in music and working with kids. While we first met singing around a campfire, we later studied classical piano with the same music teacher and also sang in a choir and self-directed a cappella quartet. Before we started our musical adventures as Bobs & LoLo, Robyn (Bobs) was teaching elementary school and Lorraine (LoLo) was working in environmental education for the non-profit sector. Songwriting and live performing started out as a fun side project to create support materials for our separate jobs working with children. We never dreamed those early days would lead to running our own business, touring or national television!

3)   What are the inspirations behind your newest songs?

Blue Skies is probably our most personal writing project to date. We've always written songs inspired by our own childhoods and a shared love of the outdoors, nature and active living. Blue Skies definitely champions these values but we also found ourselves writing more personal pieces for our own kids, families and all of the longtime fans who have become friends over the years. This album has such a mix of influences and inspiration from family love songs like "We Love You" and "Sunshine" to upbeat kiddie-mosh tunes like "Jump With Me", "Ran To The Park" and "We Can Go Anywhere" to our signature blend of folky jazz in "Whatever the Weather" and "Scrub Scrub". We're really proud of all 14 songs on this album and hope the music and messages resonate with families everywhere.     

4)   Both of you have families of your own now – how do you find a balance between family and your music?

Probably the biggest bonus of our industry (next to the obvious fun factor!) is that for the most part, we can include our families. Whether on tour or simply as creative inspiration, we try to bring the crew of minis along. That said, with 5 little ones between the two of us all aged 6 and under, life on the road has gotten a little more complex in recent years, but we still try to make it a family adventure whenever possible. Away from the stage, we find balance by spending time with our families in nature, weaving music and laughter into our daily lives and celebrating both parenting wins and struggles with our close network. 

5)   What does a typical weekday look like for you?

Like all working parents, each day is pretty much a feat of multi-tasking craziness. A typical day starts with an ambitious list of what we want to get through which often includes a number of work-related items, play dates, extracurricular kiddie activities, school drop-offs and pick-ups, meal planning and subsequent grocery runs, quick walks for the dog, park play, meetings in the minivan and conference calls in the bathroom so we don't wake the babies, of course. We can also usually count on some sibling mediation, preschooler negotiations and a ridiculous amount of potty time too. The combo of parenting and professional life definitely has it’s share of challenges, but we feel fortunate to be able to do both. Some days hold big wins for work and family and some days are better left in the fog of motherhood and caffeine. 

6)   What is one thing fans would be surprised to know about each of you?

The first thing that came to mind is that Bobs' favourite food is bacon and LoLo is a vegetarian. We're not always matchy-match!   

7)   What is one piece of advice you have for kids looking to get started in the music/performance industry? 

Success in the arts definitely takes a certain level of business acumen. This is something we learned along our journey. If there are areas that you lack expertise, ask questions, do the research, forge your path and never stop believing in yourself and the value of your creative. There have been many times in our careers where we pondered whether the personal investment was worth the return. As an artist or entrepreneur, you will always put in more hours than you might at any other job. Usually for less pay. The pay off will come. Seeing something you love and believe in thrive and grow is so incredibly rewarding. When you find something you are truly passionate about, the drive to see it succeed provides the fuel and stamina to get through the long hours and hard work. Let your light shine. It is a gift to the world and yourself! 

If you have never heard of Bobs & Lolo before, be sure to check them out online. You will be singing along to their music in no time!  When my daughter was younger, I had a hard copy of their albums in my car and a digital copy on my iPod. They are quickly loved by young ears and I have no doubt that their music will become iconic, much like other beloved Canadian children’s performers before them.

If you’re interested in getting your own copy of Bobs & LoLo’s newest album, Blue Skies, you can stream it on Spotify or purchase it on iTunes or GooglePlay.

WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF BLUE SKIES

Or you can enter to win an autographed copy of Blue Skies as well as an autographed postcard!

**Contest is now closed. Congratulations to Lisa B.! **

Disclosure: KITC was provided with a copy of "Blue Skies" for the purpose of this review however, as always, all thoughts and opinions are our own.

Music In Your Heart And A Song In Your Step

by Jenn Parents always love to dish out advice or recommendations to other parents. I think that's part of the job description. Most of the time I'm sure it feels like you're spinning your wheels trying to solve some parenting "problem". When we finally find something that works, usually by accident, we want to share it and spare others the learning process we went through. It's only natural to want to share our experiences. It builds community and a sense of I'm not alone in this.

I've mentioned in the past that when I had my first daughter I was reluctant to leave my comfort zone. My comfort zone being my house. However, my daughter was shy and nervous around others, so I felt we needed to get out and socialize. I didn't want her to be a shy wallflower forever. It's no fun. The best way, in my mind, to overcome something is to just do it. So we signed up for a host of Mommy and Me type classes and thrust ourselves into the outside world. Yikes! It was one of the best parenting decisions I've made thus far. Hopefully I'll have another one before she's a teenager.

This is the sharing part. One of the classes I signed her up for was called Making Music Meaningful. This is an amazing class for both parent and child. Actually, lots of grandparents take their grand kids too. The program includes children from four months up to four years. Classes are divided into different age groups all with music, songs and activities appropriate for that group. The kids get to explore and have fun with instruments like maracas, drums, and bells. There are lots of songs and nursery rhymes accompanied with bounces, dancing and skipping. They also listen to music played on the guitar, flute and xylophone. Often when the kids are older they find their way into the circle to clap and dance along with the music.

I started taking my oldest daughter when she was fourteen months old. For the first term she was quiet, taking everything in, but enjoying it all the same. By the next term she surprised me. She wandered into the circle by herself and danced and bopped to the music! She only became more outgoing and happy as time went on. It was something that we both really enjoyed and looked forward to attending together. She stayed in the class until she was two and a half and loved every minute of it. Now my second daughter attends the same program. She's been going since she was three months old along with her sister. Music is in her blood. It calms her when she's sad or stressed and it makes her smile more broadly when she's happy. She's fourteen months now and claps and bops to the music when she's there. It's made a huge impact on my kids and for the better. Now songs and music are part of our lives everyday. If you're looking for an activity to share with your kids I highly recommend it to everyone. If you want to learn more, check out the Making Music Meaningful page.

*****

Jenn is a mom to 3-year-old and 1-year-old girls. She says that talking to herself would just be crazy; so she has a blog instead.

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Monkey Rock Music

We are the proud owners of a plethora of musical instruments: a kids drum set, keyboard, kazoo, two recorders, four castanets, three microphones, a harmonica, and no less than 3 ukulele's.  And we have John and Sheryl, the founders of Monkey Rock Music to thank for our growing collection and budding musicians! Our 23 month old son has been enrolled in classes with John since October of 2009.  Monkey Rock Music offers 40 minute long music classes across the city (Glebe, Manotick, New Edinburgh, and Orleans) for different age groups (newborn to 6 year old).  He also performs at local events (we had a rocking good time watching him at the Pinecrest Chapters) and Birthday Parties (I'll have to do a follow-up post in June after the monkey's 2nd birthday party).

After noticing the monkey's burgeoning dancing skills I signed him up for Monkey Rock and he has been captivated by music and instruments ever since.  I am amazed every week that John is able to keep the attention of my busy boy who never sits still for longer than a minute at a time.  I think it's John's focus on fun and engaging songs that encourage everyone to participate and sing/sign along.  I love catching my boys (my 4 year old has also attended a few classes) singing or signing to themselves: its always a song from Monkey Rock.  These days its usually the welcome song or the shark song.

Each week John leads the kids through a themed class that focuses on upbeat songs that everyone can partake in either by singing along or through the accompanying signs.  His ability to play the guitar, sing, and sign with a gaggle of kids sitting around him as well as helping him play the guitar is a source of amazement (and great entertainment).

Not only does my monkey enjoy every moment of class, from the warm-up songs, to the 'big bag' of instruments, to the parachute, its given us something new to explore as a family.  We enjoy playing instruments together at home and the monkey likes sharing the songs he's learned with his dad and big brother.  After two years straight of cars, trains, and planes we also appreciate engaging in non-vehicle related activities together :)

You can learn more about Monkey Rock Music by visiting their website, www.monkeyrockmusic.com, attending a free demo lesson, or by checking out their Facebook page .

Sara is mom to a 4-year-old firefighter and 2-year-old monkey.  You can find her at her blog, My Points of View.