Destination: cool (little) kid status.

Since the age of 7, music has been vitally important to me. By the time I was 14, every minor hardship had a corresponding Smiths’ lyric. The same could be said for my hopes as a new mother at 29 – please, please, please let me get what I want … a child who feels this song as deeply as I do.

I wouldn’t say I forced music, especially not my preferred style of music. Actually, that’s a lie. I played Rockabye Baby: Lullaby Renditions of Nirvana on repeat all night for the first year of my son’s life. Whenever I was in a super-happy mood, I would bounce my infant daughter around the house singing Beck’s “Timebomb.” I play Belle and Sebastian’s “Get Me Away from Here I’m Dying” loudly in the minivan when the bickering drives me crazy. (“It’s OK,” I assure the kids. “I’m only dying spiritually.”)

And then, last week … a watershed moment. We were in the car listening to “Our Velocity” by Maximo Park. “This song is just like me,” my eight-year-old said from the backseat. “When he says, ‘If everyone became so sensitive, I wouldn’t have to be so sensitive.’ That’s just like me.”

I lowered the volume. “Wait,” I asked. “Do you actually pay attention to the lyrics?”

“Mom,” he said. “The lyrics are the best part!”

I stifled the overwhelming urge to pull the car over, jump out, and raise him to the sky ala The Lion King. My son: The Next Great Emo Superstar! How did I pull this off? Luck: Sure. Good music-loving DNA: Absolutely. But maybe also thanks to these handy helpers, which you may want to try, too.

Rockabye Baby

Bowie, The Pixies, Metallica, Taylor Swift—this collection of CDs offers child-friendly, surprisingly soothing renditions of all your music favorites. You can download or stream them, but the CDs are a wise backup (especially if Grandma doesn’t know how to use Spotify). Warning: You may want to steal these for your own quiet time.

Yo Gabba Gabba

I feel amazingly blessed that I began raising kids when new episodes of this must-see program were running regularly on Nick Jr. My husband and I loved it as much as the kids, especially because it featured celebs like Jack Black and Jason Bateman mixing with indie rockers The Shins, The Roots, Devo, and Shiny Toy Guns (adorably renamed “The Shinys” for the show). It’s harder to find on TV nowadays, but the DVDs and CDs are essential viewing/listening that the whole family will enjoy rocking out to—together.

Microphone with Stand

Don’t settle for one of those echo handheld jobbers you can get at the dollar store. There’s nothing like watching a two-year-old go all Red Hot Chili Peppers with the mike, stand, and wire (under supervision with the wire, of course). Buy one you can connect right to an MP3 player or a dual option for singing sibs.

Foldable Music Mat

Anything that multiple kids can play at once is a win in my book, and that goes double for a piano/drum set that you can fold up and put in a drawer. This touch-sensitive mat with playback recorder is a fun way to gauge a child’s interest before committing to the real thing.

Who Was? Books

My older son is always reading these biographies, and when the jaunty commercial for Ron Howard’s Eight Days a Week was airing last year, he became interested in the Beatles. Who Were the Beatles? is an entirely appropriate, homework-worthy behind-the-scenes peek at the Fab Four. I’m personally curious to read the milk-and-cookies exploits of Keith Richards in Who Are the Rolling Stones?

Guitar Hero

This one’s all about the swagger. Loathe as I am to give my kids any more screen time, this is a wannabe icon’s chance to take the stage in epic venues, jam with virtual bandmates, rock a real(ish) crowd, and experience their reactions. I know one future emo idol who will playing this very soon—with me by his side.

Rock on!

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