Best Music-Making Apps for Kids

If music be the food of love, then tune-loving kids and parents alike will swoon over the veritable smörgåsbord of fantastic music-making apps available on the market today. From classical creators to hip-hop jams, we sampled an entire marching-band-worth of apps (so you don’t have to) and discovered the grooviest ones. Check out our ensemble of apps below—your kids will be joining in on the rhythm nation in no time.


Melody Jams

Preschool rock-and-rollers will really dig Melody Jams, a fun, interactive music-making game that lets players animate and orchestrate their own garage band comprised of adorably-drawn monster characters. Band members can be mixed and matched, with each character possessing unique personality traits and different instrument skills, which are described in detail on the Melody Jams website. Additional music and scene bundles are available for purchase via iTunes for $4.99.

For preschoolers & up. Available for iOS, $3.99.

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Crayola DJ

Aspiring DJs will have a blast mixing and scratching their own custom beats and tunes with Crayola’s nicely-designed music app. Created in partnership with mobile game developer Legacy Games, Crayola DJ features a well-laid-out interface of dual virtual turntables that junior Junior Vasquezes can use to mix and remix almost 100 exclusive tracks—all created by professional DJs. Tracks are available in five musical genres, including hip-hop, dance, pop, fusion and holiday, and a tempo slider lets users adjust BPMs to take their mixes from chillout deep house to frenetic EDM. Regardless of your mini-DJ’s level of musical experience or sound-engineering skills, the app intelligently creates legit professional-sounding dance music that invariably will get people on their feet and moving to the beats.

For ages 6 & up. Available for iOS and Android, $2.99.

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Kapu Bloom Tunes

Combining two activities that kids love (painting and music) Kapu Bloom Tunes lets kids paint the world with music. This sweet digital toy may seem simplistic—there are no recording or sharing options—but young musicians will delight in seeing how their finger paintings are brought to life through colors and sounds. Players dig for, find, then decorate the seeds of a melody flower, which are planted in the ground. By painting the soil and watering the seeds, the resulting plants bloom with music. Tickling plants causes them to sing a variety of familiar melodies and nursery rhymes, and spinning petals leads to even more musical interludes.

For ages 0 & up. Available for iOS, $1.99, and Android, $2.27.

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Duckie Deck Homemade Orchestra

This delightful music-making app is designed for preschoolers and older, and lets them explore how sounds are made using a variety of different, ordinary household objects, such as an empty soda bottle or a rubber band. Kids can listen to and learn how to play sounds created with virtual homemade instruments, at the same time developing a better understanding of how sounds are made in the real world. The app’s simple, intuitive interface makes it perfect for younger users, and the ad-free play environment makes it easy on parents’ wallets, too.

For preschoolers & up. Available for iOS, $2.99.

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Adventures of Poco Eco—Lost Sounds

Although it’s not precisely a music-making app per se, Adventures of Poco Eco—Lost Sounds is a dreamy and visually-stunning music-adventure game that’ll have you and your kids hooked from the start. Featuring straightforward puzzles and a gorgeous electronic soundtrack composed by acclaimed Hungarian musician and artist Iamyank, players are drawn into a mesmerizing neon wonderland where they are tasked with helping an explorer named Poco Eco complete his mission of finding the lost sounds of his tribe. This multi-award-winning app is less like a typical puzzle-adventure game and more like a meditative musical journey across a dozen 3D-animated game levels.

For ages 6 & up. Available for iOS, $1.99, and Android, $0.99.

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Loopimal

Take one part plug-and-play music maker and one part covert coding tutorial and the results would be Loopimal, a cool digital building app that lets nascent electronica musicians create neat animations powered by sounds. Users can create music loops by using pre-programmed blocks that provide both melodies and character animations that can be layered over various beats. With its easy-to-use interface, kids can learn how arranging and repeating blocks in certain sequences can add up to different sounds and movements of cutely-illustrated animals, including a bear, a pig, an octopus, a sloth, a bird and a yeti. Although the app is missing save and share options, young users will enjoy experimenting with sounds and animations in this entertaining app.

For preschoolers & up. Available for iOS, $3.99.

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Easy Music

Conceived by musician and educator Michael Emenau, Easy Music is premised on the theory that before kids can effectively learn how to play music, they first need to learn how to listen to it. Through this appealing, interactive app, kids learn how to recognize notes, pitch, rhythm and melody by exploring different animated worlds and interacting with a color-coded keyboard that helps budding musicians begin the journey toward playing music by ear. Bonus: there are no ads or in-app purchases, a welcome relief from the growing deluge of overly commercialized mobile apps aimed at kids.

For ages 5 & up. Available for iOS and Android, $3.99.

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Magic Piano

From classical to contemporary pop, Magic Piano has gamified tickling the virtual ivories. The app even makes someone who’s all thumbs sound like a piano prodigy. Players follow beams of onscreen lights, which guide fingertips to hit the right notes. Rhythm and tempo can be adjusted to suit a player’s fancy, adding his or her own sense of musical style to some familiar and not-so-familiar songs. There’s also an option to switch instrument modes, which range from baroque harpsichord to new wave synthesizer. The app supports 13 languages and the premium music catalog currently boasts more than 1,000 songs, with new songs added daily. For those who want access to the entire songbook, subscription plans start at $2.99 weekly.

For ages 5 & up. Available for iOS and Android, free with in-app purchases.

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Medly Music Maker

Downloaded more than half a million times, award-winning Medly Music Maker already has been named to numerous “Best of” lists, including Apple’s Editor’s Choice and Best App of 2016. The free version of the app comes with 12 instruments, with 100 more—ranging from house synths to classical violins, and hundreds of drum and FX samples—available through in-app purchases. Amateur and professional musicians alike can create songs in a variety of genres through a simple visual interface where notes are drawn onscreen. The app is compatible with Apple Watch, allowing users to open, play and control Medly-created songs directly from their wrists.

For ages 10 & up. Available for iOS, free with in-app purchases.

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Keezy

Addictive and delightful are just two words to describe Keezy, a quirky musical instrument-slash-sound sampler app that helps wannabe beatboxers of all ages create and record their own custom beats and loops with just a few taps. Keezy comes pre-loaded with 15 sound boards—created by popular alternative musicians, including Reggie Watts, Tegan and Sara, The Mast, Francis and the Lights, and Reni Lane—which can serve as the basis for users’ musical creations. Additional sounds can be recorded on each of the eight colored tiles, which are tapped to play back or pressed and held to loop. There’s also a free companion Drummer app from Keezy for those who want to take their beats to the next level.

For ages 5 & up. Available for iOS, free.

What music-making apps are your and your kids’ favorites? Tell us in the comments below!

—Kipp Jarecke-Cheng

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Best Audiobooks for Kids

Heading over the river and through the woods can take a little longer than usual during the holidays. When “the alphabet game” is old news and “Wheels on the Bus” is about to make your head spin round and round, queue up one of these recent audiobooks of classic children’s books read by celebs of today. Take a trip to Never Land—or maybe OZ—or to the fair fictional isle of Avonlea. Scroll down for nine stories that just might make your next road trip seem too short. 

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1. Anne of Green Gables read by Rachel McAdams

Just out on Nov. 22, and ready for your next long holiday ride/flight, Audible Studios has teamed up with the amazing Rachel McAdams (yep, now you have yet another reason to love her) to create an audiobook version of Lucy Laud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Pop it in the car player or invest in some earbud splitters so you can cuddle up with the kiddos in flight, because you are going to want to re-live every word of this story with your kids. Delight in the adventures of Anne with an “e” (raspberry cordial, anyone?) just like you did back in the day. Listen to the full book before enjoying the upcoming Netlfix adaptation and the PBS remake coming soon.

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Length: 9 hrs. and 30 min.
Price: $24.95
Suggested age range: 9-12 (but our editor swears she read this when she was 7)
Purchase: audible.com/anneofgreengables

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2. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer read by Nick Offerman

Well, thanks to this audiobook, if it’s not already”sagacity” will soon be part of your regular vocab. Just like you (hopefully) did in school, the story will also give you a chance to talk about race issues and commonly used words that today we don’t use (and why). Offerman makes this the next best thing to getting in a time machine and heading back to 1876 to hear Twain read it out loud to you himself.

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Length: 7 hrs. and 52 mins.
Price: $19.95
Suggested age range: 8-12
Purchase: audible.com/tomsawyer

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3. Peter Pan read by Lily Collins

Your kids might recognize her as Snow White from the movie Mirror, Mirror but this time Collins is in the middle of a whole new fairy tale: J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Listen to the adventure of Wendy and the Lost Boys as you make your way to your in-laws or maybe just as you and the kiddos drift off to sleep. Either way, this classic will never be the same for you. And we mean that in the best way possible.

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Length: 4 hrs. and 51 min.
Price: $19.95
Suggested age range: 8 and up, possibly younger for kids familiar with the story
Purchase: audible.com/peterpan

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4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland read by Scarlett Johansson

Lewis Carroll’s story of the girl who fell down the rabbit hole comes to life in a whole new way thanks to the voice of Scarlett Johansson. From the beginning to the end, you’ll be lost in the chase as you join Alice as she follows the White Rabbit, argues time with the Mad Hatter and negotiates nonsense with the a hookah-smoking caterpillar.

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Length: 2 hrs. and 44 min.
Price: $14.95
Suggested age range: 7-11 but we think this one could skew younger thanks to familiarity with the Disney cartoon
Purchase: audible.com/alice

5. Appleblossom the Possum read by Dustin Hoffman

You’ll fall in love with this possum family sure to become a family favorite. Author Holly Goldberg Sloan’s detailed, descriptive storytelling is a delicious mix of fictional characters and animal facts, while Dustin Hoffman’s voice aptly captures the sentiment of this tale about growing up. His crisp narration brings alive its vivid cast of characters: Appleblossom the spunky runt, Ajax the pest, Antonio the brainy, and Amlet the dramatic. Their fun adventures captivate the imagination.

Length: 3 hrs. and 30 min.
Price: $16.95
Suggested age range: 6-10
Purchase: audible.com/appleblossomthe possum

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6. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz read by Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway lends her sprightly voice to bring young Dorothy alive, skipping along the yellow brick road. She captures the awe and curiosity of Dorothy wonderfully and gives voice to the great variety of characters she meets: the Munchkins, scarecrow, and the Wicked Witch of the East to name a few. Unlike Dorothy and the Lion who were lulled to sleep by the beautiful field of poppies, we bet your little ones will stay wide awake with Hathaway’s captivating performance.

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Length: 3 hrs. and 51 min.
Price: $14.95
Suggested age range: 8-14
Purchase: audible.com/thewonderfulwizardofoz

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7. The Night Before Christmas read by Jeff Bridges

Save this short gem for the very end of your drive as you anticipate the magic of Christmas. This brand-new version of The Night Before Christmas features Jeff Bridges as narrator. The book’s beautiful illustrations unfold landscape-style— adding to the charm of the story. Bridge’s voice, with its mixture of soothing, gruff and sweet tones brings Santa alive as the family delights in picturing jolly St. Nick fill the stockings again and again.

Length: 4 min., 28 pp.
Price: $9.95
Suggested age range: 1-101
Purchase: amazon.com/nightbeforechristmas

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8. Matilda read by Kate Winslet

During your family travels, take along spunky, brilliant Matilda as she escapes to new lands through books. Kids are sure to laugh aloud with her as she pulls pranks on mean-spirited adults like her father, Mr. Wormwood working his second hand car garage in his garish clothes. Kiddos will crack up as Kate Winslet dives into each character, immersing them in the distinct, realistic British voices.

Length: 4 hrs. and 30 min.
Price: $21
Suggested age range: 8-10. (Note: Best for bigger kids who can handle the idea of not-so-idealistic adults. You may want to preface your listening with a discussion of the language you’ll hear such as “Shut up” and “stupid.”)
Purchase: audible.com/matilda

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9. The Velveteen Rabbit read by Meryl Streep

Need to calm a rowdy carload? Captivate your clan with this timeless, sweet classic made even more stunning by Meryl Streep’s gentle, soothing voice and the magical piano playing of George Winston. Share the beautiful message of being loved with those you love. As the story winds down and the delicate piano continues, you may just create Christmas magic by getting them all to wink off to sleep.

Length: 25 min.
Price: $3.95
Suggested age range: 5-7, but the message is irresistible to kids of all ages and kids at heart
Purchase: audible.com/thevelveteenrabbit

Have you tried any audible books for your car or plane rides? What’s your favorite?

— Amber Guetebier & Cherie Gough

all photos courtesy Audible 

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The New Film That Will Empower Your Kids


Every day you’re intent to lead by example, teaching your kids love, empathy and inner strength. The new movie, An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win shares your vision. The kid-friendly flick follows Melody, a determined and optimistic 10-year-old African-American, as she navigates life and all of its complications during the Civil Rights Movement.

We recently spoke to five moms around the country who watched An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win with their kids. Read their takeaways and what lessons your own family can learn from the movie below.

1. A Difficult Topic Is Now (a Little) Easier to Talk About
The Civil Rights Movement may not be the first topic to bring up at the dinner table, but it should be after watching An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win. Kim of Kikhaly tells us, “Although the subject [of the movie] is not one that is easily explained or talked about, this movie is very much kid oriented and is a great catalyst to starting thought promoting discussions about very real topics with your children.” Hear more of Kim’s takeaways, and how her own daughter reacted and was inspired by the film by clicking here.

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2. The Movie Will Make You Rethink How You Model Inner Strength for Your Kids
An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win made Raki of Outside the Box Mom blog rethink how she sets examples and acts as a role model for her family. She tells us, “I was inspired to reflect on how I model inner strength for my kids. I really want to empower my daughter and help her be resilient so she can flourish in life.” And the legacy she wants to leave to her kids? Raki reveals, “It’s empowering to know you’re in control of your own actions. That’s ultimately the legacy I strive to leave my children with and hope they remember that as they move into adulthood.” Read more about Raki’s reaction to the Amazon Prime Video here.

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3. You Have Another Teaching Opportunity
Besides acting as a role model to your kids, you’re always looking for teaching opportunities to really guide them. Colorado Mountain Mom, Tami thinks that An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win is a great movie that resonates with kids of all ages. Tami writes, “I look for teaching opportunities and resources that will model good characteristics, and inspire them. With a young boy age 6, and a tween girl age 11, it’s not always the same thing that will strike a chord.  Last weekend we all watched the new American Girl movie on Amazon [Prime Video], and it fit the bill nicely. The messaging behind this movie is fantastic.” Hear more from Tami here.

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4. Sometimes You Should Look to the Past
Sure, looking to the future is great, but sometimes it’s just as valuable to look to the past. After watching An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win, Destiney of Mom Crush Monday did just that. Specifically, she recalled what inspired her as a little girl. Destiney reveals, “I thought back to my great grandma. She inspired me endlessly while I was growing up. Just like Melody watched her mama, I watched my great grandma’s every move. She was a show stopper. She spoke her mind in a time that she was told she wasn’t supposed to. She was a path paver, for girls like me to grow into women like her. I sat there last night, grateful for the women who cam before me. Women that inspired Trish’s character in an American Girl Story; and women like my great grandmother. Women whom I aspire to embody on my own journey.” Curious to hear more? Read more from Destiney here.

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5. Love Really Does Make a Difference
Julia of Tales of a Southern Mom blog asks the same question many parents ponder daily, “How do you fight hate as a mom?” For Julia, watching An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win with her family is a simple way to educate and combat hate. Her reaction to the movie: “How do you fight hate as a mom? I am feeling so encouraged and inspired to try to go out of my way and continue to show my kids adopted and biological, how much love can make a difference to someone.  This holiday season we are going to find someway to love someone in a way they never expect, regardless of what they look like!” Find out more about Julia’s takeaways here.

Watch An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win only on Amazon Prime Video.  

How do you empower your kids and teach them to combat hate? What are your reactions to An American Girl Story – Melody 1963: Love Has to Win?

 

 



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