The psychology of music while driving with kids

Music plays a big part in my life (when younger through playing musical instruments in wind bands, music school, orchestras and swing bands), now mostly through continuing my love a dance.  But there’s not a day goes by without me listening to some kind of music, often while cooking but mostly when driving the car.

And this is where there’s often conflict.  I love listening to music while driving. N is (usually) happy enough to have music on.  But the OH isn’t a fan and prefers to drive in silence.  Which is BORING.  Because singing along while you drive makes you feel good and uplifted, and surely removes some of the tensions of the annoyances of other car drivers.

Luckily the OH is rarely in the car with us, so I can play music to my heart’s content.  But listening to music while driving with children provides its own set of challenges.

N’s usually pretty relaxed about the music I play.  Mostly because he has no choice because I’m the one in control of the music system.  It’s always BBC Radio 2 on weekdays, and weekends is usually Heart (I so preferred it when it was the local Fox FM, but Heart’s ok).  In the evenings I’ll have a mix of commercial radio or my ipod on, and long journeys just depends on what we fancy.

He does have a bit of a moan sometimes when he wants the music turning down (I like it loud, but still have to be able to hear him talk), and always asks for rock which he’ll occasionally be allowed if I fancy something different.  But otherwise, it’s the radio for normal everyday music, or a playlist which can vary depending on mood.

We’ve never listed to children’s music in the car, or audio books.  I think audio books would put me to sleep, especially if they were kids books.  And kids music?  Not a chance, unless it was classical music in a child’s style, or I could just about live with a Disney compilation of classic songs on occasion.  Thankfully N’s never asked although he does listen to children’s cds at home.  I think it’s important for N to hear lots of different music styles which he’ll get less of through children’s music CDs, and why I started my #MusicExploration linky.

But there’s a lot of parents who do end up foregoing their choice and having to keep children happy in the back seat.  I asked some of my blogging friends what music they listened to in the car, and here’s a selection

psychology of music when driving with kids - Bubbablue and me

For the kids:

Mary at Over 40 and a Mum to One says ‘My son loves the Postman Pat movie soundtrack – it’s an almost constant request when he’s in the car. Otherwise he likes audiobooks like The Twits. If I’m really lucky I might get to listen to one of my CDs -Taylor Swift gets Monkey’s approval. I’m happy for him to choose really as we are often driving for some time, so it makes it easier for me if he’s a happy passenger’

I feel for Mim at Love From Mim who says they have ‘Frozen’s Let it Go – on repeat, pretty much every car journey. Help…HELP!!’.  My worst nightmare, but even more so N’s.

Kate at Refined Prose explains ‘We got a CD of the music in baby sign. My daughter LOVES it and each journey will choose a different track (or couple of tracks) to be listened to on repeat. I allow her to get away with it because it makes car journeys less fraught – it’s a sure way of keeping her happy.  But I was delighted when we moved up a class and got a new CD.

Eve from Little Miss and Mummy says they have ‘Anything Disney. Although every time the Cruella D’vil song is played she shouts at the radio for the ‘naughty lady to leave the doggies alone’

Ali at Mum in a Nutshell shares ‘We listen to a cd which came free in a Bookstart pack. It’s only got 5 songs on and is driving me insane but it instantly calms my son. My teenage sons hate it!’’

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For the parents:

Cat at Rock and Roll Pussycat says ‘We love a bit of Motown when Eli is in the mood. Otherwise he tells me to turn the radio off and make roaring dinosaur noises! If I’m in the car alone I usually cherish the silence or listen to a bit of 90’s Britpop and relive my youth.’

Rachel at Rachel Bustin says ‘My baby girl loves Metallica – I used to play it all the time when I was pregnant going to work. Now she just loves it!’.

Emma at Mrs Shilts has a pop lover ‘Olly asks for Coldplay, Olly Murs or Little Mix on cd. He sings along to the music these days which is very cute!’  Good taste Olly.

Laura at Max and Mummy says ‘If it’s not Radio 1, it’s early 00’s punk/pop punk/emo or McFly! He’s got no choice but to listen to what we like. Thankfully he loves it too and wants to be a rockstar’.

Milla from Live Oxfordshire goes for the excuse that it’s all about appreciation ‘I find if I play the music I like often enough, The Boy comes to appreciate it and adopt it (parental brainwashing!). Our fave driving music is a mix CD a friend made me of country music – there is nothing more amusing than hearing a 4 year old singing country music in a redneck/oxfordshire accent!’

Jessica at Beauties and the Bibs says ‘we have made the decision that in the car kids music won’t be played . She Loves any music but especially Charlie Puth and my guilty pleasure of Justin Bieber!’ I say, sometimes you need a Justin Bieber song in your life.

Tim from Slouching in Thatcham says ‘It’s an annual tradition that the kids and I compile a couple of CDs for our summer holiday, but generally they will obsess over one particular album (and often one specific song) at a time. We’ve had Frozen, Taylor Swift and currently Elle King’s Love Stuff, which all three of them routinely sing along to in the car’.

Laura at Wafflemama says ‘If they are due a sleep though, we whack on Classic FM and it knocks them out every. Single. Time’.

Alternative options

Take heart those of you who can only play kids music now, it does change

San from 2 Little Faces says their music requirements in the car have changed as children grow ‘It used to be wheels on the bus… argh. Now the boys are more relaxed about what they listen to so we get to play our music. Which is great because it is so funny on what the boys pick up. I have heard my son singing “Daddy cool” randomly while playing. Yes, we are old’

And for those of you who don’t want music in the car, how about Josie at Mumpreneur Inspiration’s ‘6 year old who is obsessed with the travel news, when it comes on I have to turn it up a and no one is allowed to speak, then when it’s finished we have to discuss it in great detail!’

My take on it is do whatever makes you happy and relaxed when driving the car.  And what you can take listening to.  In my experience N’s always been happy to listen to whatever’s on because that’s what he’s always heard.  But sometimes I do have to give in to a rock request over my preferred music.

Here’s the tracks we both enjoy a singalong to:

  1. Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk    ‘the halleluia song’ in N’s word
  2. Gregory Porter – Happy – we like to play the beats along with the rhythm
  3. Pink – Just give me a reason (we sing it loud!)
  4. ACDC – Rock the blues away (I can live with one song on a journey)
  5. Gotye – Somebody that I used to know

What do you listen to in the car?  Who gets to choose?

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9 thoughts on “The psychology of music while driving with kids

  1. We had a Megson CD (children folk music) that we listened to a lot, but now the children have learnt that the best choice is on my phone. It depends on my mood whether I do a random play of all the music or a random selection of the children’s music (includes Disney and a couple of Now CDs).

    I love Tim’s suggestion of a holiday CD, I’m going to do that this year.

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