Posts Tagged ‘music for kids’

25 Days of Christmas: Day 12 Toronto Symphony Orchestra Family Concert

We love music in our house, all sorts of music, but nothing beats a live performance. Whether it’s a rock concert or folk music or drumming (I love the Kodo drummers) nothing can beat the impact a live performance can make. And I’m not just speaking about me as an adult; our kids love live music also. We were fortunate enough to be invited to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra‘s recent family concert The Bear as part of our 25 Days of Christmas activities.

The performance consisted of two parts. The opening consisted of a screening of the animated film The Bear (from the same creators of The Snowman). Behind and above the orchestra were two screens that the movie played on. Not only did the orchestra accompany the film, but the story was narrated live and the character parts were sung. It was incredible  how hearing the live music and voices just brought the whole film to life; my kids were crying during parts, both happy and sad tears. I forgot how wonderful the acoustics are in Roy Thomson Hall.

After the film there was a brief intermission. As this was a family concert there was an organized craft activity in the lobby. The Young People’s Concert series usually has a small concert before a performance giving kids a chance to see and hear instruments up close. I love how the conductor and host of the performance is also very approachable with the kids, talking to them and keeping them entertained. Those in attendance also know the concert’s for kids so there’s no worry if your child gets a little fidgety; the person next to you isn’t going to hush you every minute. During The Bear, the Avenue Road Art School was running the craft activity. They had tables set-up all over the lobby. The kids could colour and glue paper on a small cardboard square, creating a habit for a polar bear that they would create out of modeling clay. This activity was great for kids of all ages. My 4-year old was having as much fun as my 8-year old and even older kids at the same table as us. And the kids could take their craft home with them (though ours didn’t last long and the polar bears were changed into snowmen and other things before the night was through).

The second half of the performance was just as much fun. The orchestra, now joined by The Bear and young Tilly, took us on a trip around the world by the way of Christmas music. We visited Paris, Austria, Ukraine, Africa, Paraguay and returned to Canada. With each piece the conductor gave the audience a little background information on the music and the screens above showed images of the country or the people dancing. Some pieces, like when they played songs from The Nutcracker Suite, they had dancers compliment the music on stage. I think my kids enjoyed that most. I think I’ll have to plan a visit with my 8-year old to see The Nutcracker next Christmas; I think she would really enjoy it and I have never seen it performed live either.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra did a great job entertaining young and old alike. If you’re looking to expose your kids to live music this holiday, the Toronto Symphony has other festive concerts planned. Or perhaps one of their other Young People’s concerts. They really are great and it’s wonderful to see how much enjoyment kids get from attending. This was a perfect addition to our 25 Days of Christmas activities.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.


Entertainment for the Walk Home

If you’re out for a walk you probably notice runners (and some people just out for a walk) wearing headphones, entertaining themselves with a favourite tune. Not if you live in my neighbourhood, at least not today. We went to pick-up my 8-year old up from her sleepover party and my 3-year old entertained us (and everyone around us) with a song.

Cute right? For the length of that clip, sure. But my daughter is in her determined stage. Meaning she sang that song, or rather that one line of a song, for most of the 20 minute walk home. And she wasn’t shy about it. She sang it loud and strong. There are so many things I seem to tell my kids not to do: don’t dance around the dining room while eating food, no trying to flying from the livingroom couch with make-sift wings. Some things you just have to let your kids do. And since we’re outside of the house (and it didn’t involve rocket launchers or me calling 911) I was all for her singing her one line over and over and over….and over again.

My neighbours on the other hand? Well let’s just say my 8-year old has offered to teacher her the whole song and Future Shop has a sale on headphones.

Write a Review Wednesday: Daddy Longlegs Blues

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week I reviewed Barefoot Books book and singalong CD Driving my Tractor (age 2-5) by Jan Dobbins and David Sim. Still in a musical frame of mind, I’m reviewing The Daddy Longlegs Blues (age 4-7) written by Mike Ornstein and illustrated by Lisa Kopelke. I have to thank Derry at Sterling Publishing publishing for my review copy.


He’s Daddy Longlegs.
He’ll scat across your ceiling
and get funky on your floor.
Shake his booty down your hallway
and then shimmy out the door

Mike Ornstein’s tale of a Daddy Longlegs reads lyrically, like a blues tune. Daddy Longlegs wanders around town bringing rhythm and soul wherever he goes. He bellows on his saxophone, bounces with his fiddle, shakes his booty with his base, hangs loose with his guitar, beats his drum and even boogie-woogies on his baby grand.

The Daddy Longlegs Blues does a great job introducing kids to various musical instruments through words and illustrations. You can’t help but feel like moving and grooving with words like boucin’ and boppin’ in the story. I found myself singing parts of the story in a bluesy tune, especially the lines: He has the blues. The Daddy Longlegs blues. (You were singing it too weren’t you? It’s catchy.)

Music is big in our house, especially jazz and blues, so my kids loved reading a story with a musical twist. Mike Ornstein did a great job weaving in truths about Daddy Longlegs. Did you know they’re not spiders? It’s now a fact my kids share with everyone.

Lisa Kopelke‘s use of font style and size also helps convey a fun, musical feel to the story. The words move in and around the illustrations like a song.

If you’re child is a music fan, there are also pages at the end of the story that cover a glossary of blues terms and a description of the musical instruments used in the story. I especially liked the last page which explains a little more what a Daddy Longlegs is as well as the Blues music genera. Mike Ornstein does an incredible job tieing the two things together.

Want to add a copy of The Daddy Longlegs Blues to your personal library? Visit If you’re looking for other great book recommendations for your kids, you can read past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Review: Tickle Tap Apps, preschool fun for the iPhone

I must admit, after I set-up my iPhone, one of the first things I did was tap my way over to the Apple App Store to check out all the cool (and in some cases bizarre) apps I could now get on my phone. I was like a kid in a candy store.

Of course my kids were interested too, even my youngest at just two. When I heard about Tickle Tap Apps, iPhone fun designed for kids 3 to 5 specifically, I had to check them out.

There are currently three completed apps available: Sort Slider, Count Caddy, and Sound Shaker but there are plans for seven more.

Sort Slider ($1.99) is a shape matching game. The screen consists of two fun shapes, like say a flower pot and a tree branch, and a silhouette of one of the shapes. Your child needs to match the silhouette to the correct shape by either tilting the iPhone to slide the silhouette shape or touching and dragging the silhouette shape.  As your child completes matches successfully, Harvey the dog barks enthusiastically and does tricks to encourage them.

My daughter loved playing this; she especially loved when Harvey did tricks after so many correct matches. The movement, either sliding or touching, was easy for her to master. And there’s no negative feedback which is great; if a child slides a silhouette over the incorrect shape nothing happens. The game continues until the slide the shape correctly. The number of shapes is limited but the variety of combinations and placements always makes this game feel new, never repetitive.

Count Caddy ($1.99) helps children learn and practice counting. Jinja the cat encourages kids to drag the balls of yarn into a circle. They start with one, then two and so on up to eight. After accomplishing counting by ones, Robin the bird has them count feathers by twos and Harvey the dog has the kids count bones by threes (and the number count goes higher, to almost twenty). Along with the repetitive audio, the numbers are reinforced visually with the balls of yarn (or features or bones) and the actual number. There are three levels overall and once they are all completed they can be played over again.

My daughter had a little bit of difficulty with the touch and drag, but she quickly figured it out with assistance. She loved the different animals, though she’s only made it half-way through counting by twos. As my daughter played, she became familiar with the numbers and would recite them along with the game.

Sound Shaker ($1.99) is a fun, interactive music making app. Kids can choose from six different sound categories, like chimes, drums or even barn animals. Once they have their sound chosen, they can add it to the screen. A simple tap and a sound ball appears. The longer they hold their finger on the screen a bigger sound ball appears with a different tone of the sound they choose. But that’s not the best part. Once your child has added all the sounds they want, tilt the phone to hear a new musical masterpiece as all the sound balls roll around the screen.

I think this was my daughter’s favourite app out of the three (mine too actually). I love how creative this is. My daughter especially loved the surprise of the bird when she held her finger on screen for a long time. On the streetcar ride home my daughter would play and passengers all around were craning their necks to watch her. The sound is wonderful too, not tinny and annoying to your ears (which is good because your kids will be playing this for a long time).

All three apps, Sort Slider, Count Caddy and Sound Shaker have fun colourful graphics. The layout is very clean, no cluttered background images, which makes it easy for young kids to concentrate on the task at hand, having fun.

I can’t wait to see what’s instore for the next seven Tickle Tap Apps. If they’re anything like these three, I’ll have to own them, ALL.

I have to thank Limelite PR and zinc Roe Design for giving me access to these three apps for my review.

TSO: For the young and young at heart

When the weekend arrives, school and work is put to the side and it’s time to have some fun. So last weekend my husband and I took our three young kids (age 2, 5 and 7) to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Yup, you read that right, the Symphony. 

When I was in school, actually, even when I was out of school, I perceived the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) as a form of entertainment only snooty, rich folk attended. It certainly wasn’t something I could see myself attending, no matter how much I enjoyed live music. And I do enjoy live music, jazz, world, blues, folk and yes, even classical. Music is big in our house and we like to expose our kids to various types.

I had heard about the TSO‘s Young People’s Concert series, a program to introduce symphonic music to young people, age 5 to 12 specifically. But I still couldn’t shake my own TSO stereotypes. I just couldn’t imagine my three kids dressed in their finest, sitting quietly for an hour. I dreaded the thought of those stares from other parents, the ones with the super well-behaved kids. Or worse, being asked to leave because we were being too disruptive to other patrons.

So when we were invited to attend the TSO‘s first concert in the Young People’s Concert series, I left my stereotypes at home and packed the kids to head downtown for some musical fun. Before each concert, the TSO puts on a 20-minute pre-concert performance in the North Lobby of the Roy Thomson Hall. It’s been awhile since I’ve driven downtown so we arrived late and missed the pre-concert show. My oldest daughter and I were really disappointed since we were both looking forward to the harp performance.

We made it to our seat just before the show started and I have to tell you I was impressed with the seats. I’ve gone to live theatre and one of my biggest complaints has been the seats being very narrow and not well padded making for an uncomfortable evening. The seats in the Roy Thomson Hall were just the opposite and I noticed that right away. But what really impressed me, what I really noticed was how family friendly the TSO Young People’s Concerts are. The lights were turned down when the show started but to a low light versus plunging us in the dark. The conductor talked to the kids; she involved them versus just performed for them. I think that made a big difference in keeping the kids focused. The music was broken out in chunks and the selections were varied and fun. It was amazing watching the kids throughout the hall conducting and focusing their attention on the stage. Even my own kids, right down to my two-year-old, was transported on a musical journey; you could see it on their faces.

Each of the TSOs Young People’s Concerts has a different focus. The concert we attended, the first in the series, was The Listener, featuring the Magic Circle Mime Company. The kids loved their antics. I thought the experience was amazing and very different from what I expected. I think my kids enjoyed it very much too:

(Note: I must apologize for the dark, shaky, video. My youngest was running around in the background, trying to peek into the camera.)

The TSO Young People’s Concert series has four more shows scheduled: Jack and the Beanstalk (Nov 14/09 at 1:30 and 3:30), Paddywak! (Feb 6/10 at 1:30 and 3:30), Spanish Fire! (Mar 27/10 at 1:30 and 3:30), and A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (Apr 24/10 1:30 and 3:30). Tickets can cost as little as $15.00 per child/adult when you buy three or more. You might also enjoy listening to the TSO podcasts too (including the Young People Concert series).

Separate from the concert, we were invited backstage to meet the mime’s and some of the musicians as well as play with some of the instruments. The kids thought this was great fun. My oldest daughter loved the exercise with the mimes. They picked an emotion (excitement) and tried to convey the various stages of excitement, from one being the least to ten being the most, all without making a sound. My son loved the percussionist and creating a rain storm by using parts of his body. It was an amazing time.

So next time you’re looking for a new experience with your kids, why not checkout the TSO Young People’s Concert series.