Kids' music is not what it used to be—the Raffis of yesteryear have long since been replaced with a hipper, more diverse crowd of kids' bands, seemingly all with the common goal of closing the gap between cutesy-wootsy, tear-your-hair-out kiddie lyrics and something parents actually want to listen to. Today, the "kindie" genre consists of long-standing musicians who have made the jump from adult music to kids' fare (They Might Be Giants, former Del Fuegos member Dan Zanes, former Presidents of the United States of America member Chris Ballew, now known as Caspar Babypants, to name a few). Read on for our picks of the top 25 kids' bands—then join your budding record nerd in collecting (okay, downloading) their singles and CDs.
Formed in 2003 by husband-and-wife duo Heather and Norm Jones, Rhythm Child captures the electrifying potential of percussion in their recorded music and their live shows alike. Rhythm Child's take on "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" takes Mary Poppins out to the dance floor, while the title track on their most recent CD, Eat a Bowl of Cherries, will have every member of the family craving some sweet fruit. rhythmchild.net
The unofficial Fountains of Wayne of the kids' scene, this California pop-rock outfit writes jangly ballads for children (i.e., tweens) who may have outgrown some of the other names on this list. While many artists admit defeat in their efforts to create mainstream dance pop for this age group, the Hipwaders provide a rocking kindie alternative with songs like "Stand Up to the Bully" and "Go Go Girl" off their 2011 release, The Golden State. hipwaders.net
Coal Train Railroad
Children's music isn't always known for being as eclectic a genre as adult music, but budding jazz enthusiasts can get their swingin' fix with Nashville's Coal Train Railroad. Consisting of vocalist Katy Bowser and bassist Chris Donohue (who also happens to tour with Emmylou Harris), the duo wowed a packed Lincoln Center audience, and released their second full-length album, Swings, in 2011. With any luck, they'll swing back east in 2012. coaltrainrailroad.com
Princess Katie & Racer Steve
Strange as it may seem, this real-life couple has found a successful kindie-rock recipe in the form of a singing, dancing, rock & roll princess and a guitar-wielding race-car driver. Princess Katie and Racer Steve get away with the gimmicks because their music is, quite simply, humorous and impossibly catchy—while the duo rocks out onstage, kids in the crowd go bonkers. Watch out for the band's fourth album, Love, Cake & Monsters, due in spring 2012. princessracer.com
This Seattle quintet packs an indie-rock punch with thumping drums and shredding guitars, drawing influence from early Fugazi and Superchunk albums—a fact that parents will surely appreciate. Never seen without its hot-pink and jet-black getups, the band is eye and ear candy for little rockers and their air-guitar-playing elders alike. wearethenot-its.com