Anybody else old-fashioned like me and still own CD players? After a cross-country move in our 20s, my husband and I transferred all of our “adult” music to digital files and donated all CDs. I never thought I would own a CD player again…until we had kids! Now, our CD player is a key part of the prepared home learning environment for our children (2-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter). My kids love their CD player, and they can use it independently. Everybody wins because they don’t have to ask me to play music or stories on my phone or computer!
Our growing CD collection consists of Chinese and Korean audiobooks books and children’s music. Since Chinese and Korean are the minority languages in our home, we use media to boost exposure to native speakers. We actually only have only one English music CD. English is the dominant language in our community, so our kids don’t need any passive exposure to English at the time.
Here is how we make CDs accessible and organized for our kids! The first section is for parents of little ones who are wondering about introducing CDs to kids. If your kids are older, scroll down to “3 secrets to keeping CDs organized for kids.”
Montessori advice for introducing CDs to kids
1. Create a prepared environment
We follow the Montessori philosophy of making our children’s spaces fully accessible to them. This means that each item has its designated spot, and it’s easy for kids to find and reach what they need. Things that we don’t want them to touch are out of reach and out of sight (and therefore hopefully out of mind!). Our kids’ play space is a corner behind our open living room, and we have a CD player on top of low shelves. Below is photo of how our play area is set up; the CD player is at the top right corner of the image.
2. Choose a simple CD player
During my childhood, I had a 12-disc CD player with a dozen different tuning features and various other buttons. It also took up quite a lot of space! Now, I only have experience with one brand, Jensen, and we have been very happy with it! The design is simple and clean with a small footprint, and the buttons are easy for toddlers to manipulate independently. After owning our first CD player for a couple of years, we bought a second one. Currently, we have one in my children’s play corner and the other one is in my daughter’s bedroom. Here are some close-up photos of our CD player. You can read detailed reviews and compare with other players on Amazon.
3. Give clear and consistent guidelines on CD player use
My children know that if they want to use the CD player, they must handle the CDs and CD player as carefully as possible. They learned this by watching and listening to my examples. If they are disrespectful to the CD player or materials and do not respond to verbal reminders, then I remove them from the area immediately and redirect them to another activity. For example, if my son is acting out, I will try to figure out if he is cranky as a result of hunger, sleepiness, or frustration. Sometimes, I need to carry him to a different location and give him an outlet to be rough with hands, like ripping paper, throwing balls, squishing playdough, or banging on a drum.
Here is a video my son turning on the CD player with my guidance at age 23-months. (He is now 27 months old and can manage it independently).
4. Freedom within limits
Every family will decide on what works best for their circumstances. For our family, freedom means that our kids can choose to listen to any CD whenever they want, as long as it’s Chinese or English. Limits in our family means that they cannot touch the volume control and they can listen to only 1 CD at a time. My kids are learning to take turns for selecting CDs.
5. Natural consequences
Anything in our home is potentially breakable by my kids, but I believe that we can teach them to be mindful of their actions. If a CD breaks, the kids will learn from the consequence. Our kids have definitely lost a couple of CDs by learning the hard way, but I think this helpful them understand that haste makes waste. However, you may want to consider backing up the music onto your computer since finding music and audiobooks in the minority language is not easy!
3 secrets to keeping CDs organized for kids
1. Location, location, location
Previously, the CD player and CDs were fairly distant from each other. In the photo below, you can see my then 23-month-old son using the CD player, but the CDs were located on the other end of the shelf.
Later, I realized that I should place the CDs directly underneath the CD player as shown in the next image. As a result, my children no longer had to walk much to get the CDs, and the CDs are less likely to fall and get scratched.
2. Baskets are your friend
As you may have noticed from the above images and our homeschool tour, we love baskets! Baskets help with compartmentalization, and they also are convenient for carrying. These are our favorite baskets from Amazon. They are washable and have held up well over the past couple of years!
3. Replace plastic cases with zipper wallet cases
In our experience, original CD cases take up a lot of space and are difficult for young children to open and remove independently. Therefore, all of our children’s CDs are in zipper wallet cases. The zipper wallet case was also an effective deterrent during my son’s baby days. As my younger son grew and was able to open the CD case by himself, he developed the fine motor skills, focus, and patience required to manipulate the CD player.
Here’s a look at our 2 CD players. The large CD wallet is for Chinese music and stories, and the small CD wallet is for Korean music & stories.
One side of each CD wallet has audiobooks, such as Greenfield I Can Read Series…
While the other side has music CDs, such as 巧虎!
Our CD basket also has a Korean music player set (available here and here) which we store in a cloth bag. In addition, two Chinese Stream of Praise music board books are in the basket. We actually have a lot of other sound books (eg, Pinkfong) that are not pictured here. However, I intentionally limit accessibility of sound books. Most of them are excessively loud, and sounds books often get distract my children from other activities.
Although many school-aged children have their own mp3 players and headphones/ear buds, I prefer to stay old-fashioned for my kids. We have a system that works for us. I’m also concerned about the risk of irreversible hearing loss with prolonged headphone use on developing ears. While my children do watch some screen time for Chinese language and cultural exposure, I believe the cons of frequent viewing significantly outweigh potential benefits. To learn more, contact your primary care doctor and read this article from the World Health Organization: Make Listening Safe.
What about your family? Do you use CD players or do you find them outdated? I’d also love to learn about how you organize your kid’s music! Please share in the comments below!
Related educational resources
- Teach Your Child a Second Language at Home with 5 Key Steps
- Free Chinese Audiobooks for Children on Ximalaya 喜马拉雅
- Websites and Apps with FREE Multilingual Books for Kids
- Chinese Music for Kids
- Homeschool Tour: Mid-Century Modern Meets Montessori