A Parent’s Guide To The Ultimate Playlist

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Great tips to get your kids hooked on good music!I think in all journals and blogs, themes begin to emerge.

A theme that you may see reoccur in my writing (even though this is a parenting blog) is the impact of late 80s, early 90s John Cusack movies.
You see, if you were raised in the Sony Walkman generation, then you know all about the connection between music and life – and the power of music. One of those moments came when John Cusack played his boombox for the girl he loved, stretching his arms in the air, so the music could be the heard at the utmost level.
I made similar moves in my courtship of my wife, I know, not very original, but I found it to be highly successful. And though those years are over, (minus the daily car serenade). I am still connecting music to life and constantly making the ultimate playlist for my family.


CAUTION: If making a playlist consists of finding your favorite genre of music on Spotify, and clicking shuffle all, read no further. This is NOT for you!

Make no mistake, the makings of a great playlist is an art form, and rules definitely apply. In the words of John Cusack in High Fidelity: “You’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel.” My top five rules for making a playlist for your own family are as follows:

Parenting guide to a mixtape


There have been hits and misses when introducing music to my kids. For about 2 years, Adelaide was obsessed with The Beatles. She learned even the obscure songs, like “You Know My Name, Look Up The Number.” She loved when all the teenagers screamed at Beatles concerts, and even picked up a favorite Beatle: Paul. We watched the movies, and liked all of them, except Help.

But as successful as The Beatles introduction was, countless others were met with: “Turn that down!” And “Why do they sound like that?” And even “This song is for people who don’t like music!”
Some things will stick, and others won’t, that’s just how it goes.


How many times have the kids corrected my lyrics? Countless. The key is to know the meanings of songs, and have discussions about what they mean. This will help someday, when you finally introduce them to the poetry of Bob Dylan, or the enigma of Milli Vanilli.


Consider that ‘shuffle’ is your true enemy. It’s like shuffling the events of your day, in random order. Let’s see, I wake up, do the dishes, cook dinner, get dressed… come on. There’s order to things – and it matters. Start with some energy. It’s a hook, then, more energy – but don’t blow the roof off, pace it out after that. Save the slower, longer songs for the end.


Don’t allow your family playlist to include music that raises your blood pressure and sets your teeth on edge. So what if your kids love “Let it Go”. When you have tuned it out after the 4,386th listen it no longer has a place on your playlist. You are part of your family too and your opinions and taste matter most. And also, you set the tone. Allow your (obviously superior) tastes to gently guide the still impressionable and therefore malleable tastes of the younger, more inexperienced members of your household.


Compilations are meant to share- and sharing a playlist was never this easy. When I was a kid- you’d have to go to great lengths to make the same mix tape for multiple people. Now, it’s a link. Take advantage of this, and share your playlist in the comments section.

Here is my playlist with some detail, but the importance of a playlist is to share it.

  1. All Is Love – Karen O & The Kids


Karen O + kids music = plain awesome. She made the soundtrack for Where The Wild Things Are, and it’s a masterpiece with just the right amount of rebelliousness, mixed with sweetness, and innocence, yet full of heart that is always longing, and searching for more.

  1. Raindrops on the Kitchen Floor – Mason Jennings


If I could only choose from the catalog of one artist to create our family’s playlist, Mason Jennings would be that guy.  He captures beautiful moments and incredible feelings in his songs – yet has a way to make them a part of everyday life.

  1. Don’t Slow Down- Matt and Kim:


When this song comes on in our car, look out because the kids are using whatever they can reach for drums, and singing along is not optional. Matt and Kim are THE FAVORITE in our cars.

  1. Dance, Dance, Dance – Lykke Li


Sweet, loving, soft, and the best message ever, about being shy, but still having this overwhelming desire to dance.

  1. Body Movin’ – The Beastie Boys

Dance party song, gets all the energy out!

  1. Butterfly Nets – Bishop Allen – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jcp3nPN74cM

Time to come back down with something softer. The singer’s voice is so sweet, so sincere, and again, it goes back to the innocence of youth.

  1. Young Lion – Vampire Weekend


Vampire Weekend has so many amazing songs, but this one is special for our little guy, and his learning, whether it be to walk or to jump. It all takes time, and it’s hard to wait, especially when you have an older sister.

  1. I Feel It All – Feist


Love this song – and emotions are a big thing in our house – all emotions are allowed and we truly do feel it all.

  1. Violet – Thao & The Get Down, Stay Down


This was quite possibly the first song Adelaide learned enough lyrics of to be able to sing along.  That’s some kind of milestone, and besides that, Thao is simply The Shizzle.

  1. We Can’t Be Beat – The Walkmen


Dad rock at its best.  Sometimes, your life evolves seemingly in sync alongside a favorite artist.  It’s nice to grow older together.

  1. Just Try – Mason Jennings

The perfect end. Sunshine in life. Just try and say that this happens everyday – just try-and see- if that flies.

How about yours?




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    • Eric says:

      Sarah: So true, and music you can listen to with your kids – well, that’s just priceless.

  1. Jody says:

    Love this! My daughter is just starting to really enjoy music and want to listen to it. I am definitely going to try out some of your recommendations! Thanks for sharing!

    • Eric says:

      Jody: Thanks – I know I find a great connection with my kids in music – and I definitely feel like music is therapy – and there’s nothing wrong with a family dance party!

    • Eric says:

      MelissaD: He has an amazing discography. He can hit on many different moods- which is nice. Also, I’ve been wanting to check out the Freegal app.

    • Eric says:

      Melissa D: If you’re using Freegal, then you probably have more than a couple playlists in you, share them, I’m always wanting to hear a good playlist!

  2. Such a great post! I love music!!! One of my favorite songs that always makes me feel happy is “5 Years Time” by Noah and the Whale! I can’t listen to it and not smile :)

    • Eric says:

      Hootsofanighal: Awesome! We love that song too, and probably one that belongs in our playlist. It sounds like you have a playlist in you. Please share:

      • I’ll have to put some thought into it! I love so many genres, it will be hard to narrow it down! Maybe I’ll have to make a playlist for each mood…haha!

  3. Sara says:

    This is a great post. We are going to be making a LONG trip this summer, and this will be a great reference!

    • Eric says:

      I may be crazy in saying that a playlist is an essential part of a road trip. And we love road trips. Where are you going? Never too early to think about your playlist. If you have one, please share it!

      • Sara says:

        We are driving from Texas to Florida to take my son to Universal Studios! I agree. Music can make or break drive.

  4. Jenni says:

    We make playlists for road trips mostly but I also have one for cleaning the house :) Nothing more precious than hearing “I’ve got the world on a string” belting from the backseat as we drive. Such a fun post, thanks for sharing!

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