During my pregnancy with my first born, I read all about the benefits of classical music, for the un-born and newborn alike. I placed head phones on my bulging tummy from my 4th month throughout my pregnancy. I planned to play the classical CDs I acquired from local resale shops in our shared room, after I brought her home from the hospital. Well, that lasted half of a night. I soon realized that I couldn't listen to classical, symphonic, opera, or even traditional lullaby music for lengthy bouts of time.
But my baby loved music! At that time, I was only familiar with the pop and hip-hop stations on my FM dial - and my CD collection mirrored the radio jocks' selections. I didn’t think that was the right type of music for her. On a night when her colic was at an all-time high, I transferred her from the crib to my bosom, and we slid into the rocking chair. The smooth movement helped but she needed something more. Then I remembered our song, not me and her song - me and her father's song, Always and Forever, by Heatwave. I began to sing. I couldn't remember all the words, but I held onto the hook, "always forever love you". She was asleep before I knew it. And so, our nightly routine was born.
When I tired of that song I moved through The Temptations’ greatest hits, then the Four Tops, and then The Supremes. When I didn’t know the next verse, I created impromptu remixes by combining songs and ad-living. I took her on a musical time machine trip into the 70's, the 80's, and finally the 90's (the music from my childhood). And then our system evolved to playlist; which morphed bedtime into soothing karaoke time—I wasn’t giving up the mic completely! The three-part mission was accomplished nightly. We bonded, she received the mental stimulation that only music can provide, and she went to sleep. But, there was a bonus! Because I enjoyed the music and singing elevates mood and relieves stress, and suddenly lullaby time became the highlight of some challenging days I experienced as a new mom.
So if classical music or wall to wall basic lullabies aren’t working for you, I've got good news. Here is a playlist to end all bedtime playlists, with lullaby-ish songs from four decades and some fun facts about the benefits of music on your little ones.
19 Wishing on a Star, by Rose Royce
This song is simply too melodious to not make the list. Plus, any references to stars and wishes matches the bill. This classic was released in 1977 by the legendary Rose Royce band; also the artists of Love Don’t Live Here Anymore and I Want to Get Next to You. This is the perfect way to start your bed time ritual. Children & Music: Studies have implied that musical training aids help in developing the left side of the brain, which processes language.
18 Promise You, by ‘N Sync
“And I will take you in my arms, and hold you right where you belong…” is just one of many perfect lines, to sing to baby, from this heart-felt 2000 ballad. The song was featured on the No Strings Attached album—during JT’s curly hair days. We make so many mental promises to our little ones, let them hear a few. Children & Music: There is a documented causal link between music and what is known as spatial intelligence , which is the ability to understand the world accurately and to form mental images of people, places, and things.
17 Dreaming of You, by Selena
This beautiful song was released posthumously in 1995, and possesses the tempo and sound of an actual lullaby. Like other songs on the list, there is a romantic theme. But, much of it applies to the emotional attachments we have to our children; and it’s guaranteed to make your baby’s eyelids unbearably heavy. Children & Music: According to a study conducted at Northwestern University by Nina Kraus, meaningful engagement with sound stimulates changes in the brain.
16 A Whole New World, from The Aladdin Soundtrack
Any new parent can tell you, parenthood is definitely a whole new world, and we cannot go back to where we used to be. Besides tickling yourself with the irony—and depending on your age, the childhood nostalgia—you will also gift baby with a smooth and magical transition into sleep. Music & Children: Music wires a child's brain to better understand math.
15 In a Sentimental Mood (instrumental), by John Coltrane and Duke Ellington
Firstly, the name says it all. It’s the ideal way to describe cuddling up with baby. And, it’s jazz! Introducing this genre early will give the little one diverse musical taste. This piece was composed by jazz pioneer Duke Ellington in 1935 and is breathtakingly relaxing. It’s truly a must hear! Music & Children: Daniel Levitin, Ph.D says, your child's brain is prewired to learn music.
14 Always and Forever, by Heat Wave
This musical vow of unconditional love, was released as a single in 1977. Some of the lyrics are “Melt all my heart away with a smile…I will always love you forever...they’ll always be sunshine when I look at you." It doesn’t get any better than that. And the 1970’s R&B sound is optimally executed. You and baby will fall in love again and again to this song. Music & Children: Laurel Trainor, Ph.D., director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind in Hamilton, Ontario, suggests moving with your baby to music as an easy way to strengthen your relationship.
13 Hero, by Nickelback
Ballads are not the only way to go with untraditional lullabies. The 2003 Spider-Man soundtrack is an unlikely, but awesome addition. Lead guitarist and vocalist Chad Kroeger has a one of a kind voice that inspires (mental stimulation) and calms (mood) simultaneously. His unique sound cascades over the guitar chords to create a rock recording worthy of this playlist. Music & Children: According to Dr. Laurel Trainor, a musical routine also increases the likelihood of your child speaking sooner.
12 Moments in Love (instrumental), by The Art of Noise
Everyone’s heard it. But many have no idea who composed this rhythmically enchanting instrumental. This unique tune was released in 1984, and featured on the Who’s Afraid of the Art of Noise? Art of Noise were an English avant-garde synth-pop group formed in early 1983. This song has a dual purpose - get baby sleeping - get mommy and daddy...you know the rest. Music & Children: Music has been utilized as part of therapy for premature babies; research links listening to music to weight gain in babies, according
11 Happy Feelings, by Frankie Beverly & Maze
Who can argue that there are definitely happy feelings at bed time? Happy Feelings was also released in 1977, on the debut album of the still popular band! This track is best described as Soul meets Funk. You and your precious little one will groove yourselves to sleep listening --the band still plays at annual concerts all around the country. Music & Children: Research shows that newborns can differentiate between their native language and unfamiliar language simply by listening to pitch and rhythm.
10 Kiss by a Rose, by Seal
Yes, we’re doubling down with Rock. Again, the focal point is the sound of the voice. Our soprano and alto lady voices are not the only means of soothing baby. Plus, we can to continue to sew into the music eclecticism of the child, this way. And besides, everyone should know Seal, even the babies—especially the babies. Music & Children: A study involving college students as well as Kindergarteners suggested that listening to music improves performance on cognitive tests and promotes creativity.
9 Feeling Good, by Nina Simone
Speaking of once in a lifetime voices. It would be a travesty not to introduce the little one to the incomparable, Nina Simone. The song is not only astonishingly sung and composed—it’s extremely poetic. Can you see yourself swaying through your room with baby, feeling good? Music & Children: In a study, babies as young as 8 months old recognized small sections of a song, a whole two weeks after hearing the song.
8 Don't Want to Miss a Thing, by Aerosmith
This 1998 Aerosmith hit stood center stage on The Armageddon soundtrack. It may be the most accurate anthem of cherishing baby moments. We parents truly, do not want to miss a thing! “I don’t want to miss one smile; I don’t want to miss one kiss…. I just want to hold you close…” And if you remember the video, with Liz Tyler at the center, as her real life daddy sang, you know how perfect this song is. Music & Children: In a 2008 study, 5-month-old infants were able to differentiate between happy and sad music.
7 You Bring Me Joy, by Anita Baker
On some nights, you’ll need to remind yourself of how much joy your mini-me brings you. On some nights you’ll need to profess joy that you may not feel at the moment. This 1986 Anita Baker number one hit, is sure to remind you-- and bring peace to bedtime for you both. Random Fact: This woman was Tony Braxton’s idol! Music & Children: Investigators from McMaster University in Canada reported that 6-month-old babies who were placed in a participatory music class showed superior communicative gestures and social behavior.
6 Wild Horses, by The Sundays
Alright, who remembers Fear, Mark Walberg’s leading man debut? This pretty ballad was featured on the soundtrack. This one takes the kiddos to sleep-land faster than Infant Tylenol. And any parent could relate to the determination behind the lyrics, “wild horses couldn’t drag me away…”. Music & Children: Visual and auditory input also stimulates an infant’s neural connections.
5 Candy Coated Rain Drops, by Soul Foreal
It may be time to bring the beat up a bit; YOU don’t want to fall asleep before baby. This 1995 release was thought to be the debut album for the second coming of The Jackson Five. A smooth but light hearted melody, with cute lyrics; a solid addition to a non-traditional lullaby playlist. Music & Children: When singing, two areas in the brain essential to language ability are engaged: Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area.
4 Say Yes (instrumental), by Floetry
Let’s take it back down. This neo soul instrumental is phenomenal! It was released in 2002 by the British songstress duo, Floetry. The tune takes you and baby on a relaxing imaginary walk through the park, without leaving the comfort of your home. Let baby see you close your eyes and go someplace else. Soon, she’ll be there too. Music & Children: A study showed that one-year-olds introduced to music smile more.
3 Latest Greatest Inspiration, by Teddy Pendergrass
The opening line is, “I’ve been so many places, seen so many things, but none quite as lovely as you”. This ballad poetically describes the clarity true love brings, and the motivating force behind it. The second verse begins, “I plan to give you all I have”. This song is a lullaby delight-- lyrically, vocally, and melodically. Music & Children: A study conducted in Hungary found that 3-4-year-olds exposed to music consistently, obtained higher grades in creativity courses.
2 I Knew I loved You, by Savage Garden
This 1999 release from Savage Garden’s Affirmation album couldn’t be sweeter. “I knew I loved you before I met you” hits the nail on the head regarding maternal and paternal affection. If I had to pair the Darren Hayes’s vocals with an image, it would be the first snow of winter. Music & Children: Infants recognize and recall melodies long before any understanding of words.
1 Just the Two of Us, by Will Smith
The playlist wouldn’t be complete without Just the Two of Us; the only notable rap record that personifies the bond between father and son. Smith sampled the track in 1997; the original was released in 1980 by the extraordinarily under-rated Grover Washington Jr. My personal favorite line is, “so if the world attacks and you fall off track, remember one fact, I got your back”. Music & Children: Music ignites all areas of child development: intellectual, social, and emotional-- in addition to motor, language, and overall literacy.
So, that’s it! Give this playlist a try and let us know what you think!