If you are the parent of a child under the age of 7, you need to get to know Laurie Berkner. Berkner created the "kindie" genre, or as I like to call it, "kids' music that parents like, too." Laurie has rocked out on The Today Show, regularly appeared on Nickelodeon, and now has an ongoing show on Sprout. She is a powerhouse, and I was thrilled to have her join our Zoobean Experts on Air series. Once you see Laurie perform, you wonder things like, Where did you get your musical gifts? How did you become so creative? What are you like as a mom?! I asked Laurie all of these questions, and have compiled five of my favorite pearls of wisdom here. You can catch our full chat below, plus a couple of our favorite tunes.
1. It's easy to make your home musical.
Laurie is a creative force with a beautiful voice, so her parents must be musicians or have started her on music lessons at age two, right? Not so much. In fact, neither of Laurie's parents are particularly musical, but they made sure she had music in her life. Laurie's dad constantly had music playing in the background, so much so that, "Music felt to me like a friend. I could put on music and wouldn't feel lonely. It would change my mood."
Have an off key voice? Forget about that, and just keep singing. As Laurie said, "My mother sang to me before I went to sleep every night. The only reason she did that is because her mother sang to her. My mother doesn't have a fantastic voice, but she sang anyway, and I thought she was the best singer in the whole world. It didn't matter. It was more that she was doing it and she loved me. It doesn't matter if you have a perfect singing voice. That is irrelevant."
These are simple things that we can do to make sure our kids are exposed to different types of music, and the joy that music can bring to a household. And if you wonder what Laurie belted out as a preschooler, The Sound of Music was primary in her repertoire. Her mom's favorite was, "I Gave My Love a Cherry," featured on Laurie's latest album, Laurie Berkner Lullabies.
2. Ditch the pen and paper. Grab your phone.
At one point during our conversation, I suggested to Laurie that one easy way to link literacy with singing is to help kids write down lyrics they make up. While writing down might be a good option for some cases, Laurie suggested that we put down the pens and pick up our phones (or cameras). Even if we do it without kids knowing, by recording them singing and creating songs, "They [kids] can listen to it when they're older and enjoy that. What's neat about recording rather than writing down is that you have a free moment. It's a moment in time, like a picture. So you can keep it as a memory." I interpreted Laurie's comments to mean that we should really give kids musical freedom to be in a moment, and to avoid taking away from that moment by whipping out the pen and paper.
3. Be involved in the joy of creation.
Laurie started off her career as a music teacher, working with thousands of children. How did she come up with her hits like, "We are the dinosaurs?" She asked her preschool students, "What do you want to sing about?" She looked to them for inspiration, and once she had a daughter of her own, she looked to her for inspiration as well. According to Laurie, "Half of the songs that I write, they're just words directly out of a kids' mouth. I hear kids say these phrases, and I think, I can make such a cool song out of that." If you know Laurie's music well, that makes perfect sense, and explains why kids love her work so much.
Just as Laurie looked to kids for inspiration, she suggests that we empower kids to look within for themselves. As she says, "the kids I write for are pretty free. My job is just to support that." As kids sing, make up silly songs, or get a little loud in our living rooms, our job as parents is simply to, "encourage them, show them that you are listening." How can you show them that you are actively listening? Give specifics about what you liked, "I never would have thought of 'zoom' rhyming with 'kids' room,'" or dance alongside them. "Sometimes kids are so creative they think further than they are capable of getting to at that time," so foster the creativity and do whatever you can to show them your love for the music they are making!