Here's a nice little article on Dan Zanes. In the article, Dan makes an important point about children's music that really hit home with me:
Zanes found that other parents had the same problem and would just play their kids the Beatles out of frustration. Zanes felt this was depriving children of an important moment in the development of their musical awareness, as well as making it plainly obvious that families could use a shared musical experience.
"I think there's a tradition of children's music that's really valuable and important," said Zanes, "and I think that skipping ahead to the Beatles, and pop music with a lot of romantic love, something gets missed."
Music is a tremendous way to engage children and help learn about themselves and the world around them. Of course you should be exposing your children to the Beatles, Mozart, ...heck, whoever you are listening to.. The more music we expose our children to, the better. But great kids' music speaks directly to the experiences of childhood and gives children a sense of ownership over the music. After we made Super Simple Songs, one of the greatest pieces of feedback we got was from a parent who told us her 3 year-old son called the CD his "Big Boy Music". Now...our CD was made for toddlers, but the fact that the music on our CD speaks to his experiences at a level which he can comprehend and participate with makes him feel like a Big Boy.
Good children's music makes music something much more than background noise or even great rhythms for kids to move to. It makes music into a participatory experience that helps children understand the world around them better. Dan Zanes is not a bad place to start.
I'd say more about Dan Zanes and the great children's music he makes, but he's got to be the most well known American children's artist out there and there is plenty written about him already. You can start at the Dan Zanes website. Stefan at Zooglobble has reviews of all of Dan Zane's albums.