To help encourage a healthy lifestyle for children, award-winning songwriter and guitar player Jay Mankita combines humorous and serious material about nutrition and the environment in an entertaining way that gets kids and families up and dancing at his hundreds of shows across the country. We asked him what inspires his wholesome music.
What does your music teach kids about nature, the environment and sustainability?
I share my enthusiasm for these connected topics through my songs, but I try not to overload the songs with too much data. I want to inspire children (and adults) with my music, and so many of my songs focus on the appreciation of the natural world—something our kids already have in abundance. So I start where children already are, with their innate love for nature, animals, family, friends, goodness, learning and play. I try to speak truth with my songs, keep the feelings real, not pretend to know too much and watch out for mixed messages. In my own life, I drive a veggie oil-powered van, make my promo packets with recycled paper and eat a lot of local veggies. I also don’t have a TV in my house. The more lightly I live on the Earth, the more inspired I am to sing about it with children.
“Eat Like a Rainbow” is one of your most popular kids’ albums and live shows. How does it encourage healthy eating?
The songs encourage kids to eat colorful fruits and vegetables, to try new foods, to exercise and play and to learn where our food comes from. I tried to be inclusive with the songs—my vegetarian friends are happy that all the songs are vegan-friendly, but the songs themselves don’t discourage meat and dairy products. They just say that milk isn’t the only place to get calcium, and then they name a number of plant-based calcium sources. The songs aren’t packed with a lot of facts about nutrition, but the musical and verbal “hooks” help remind kids of the basic message—what we eat and how we live affects how we feel and who we are.
For more information about Jay, visit jaymankita.com. To order his popular album “Eat Like a Rainbow” at the special discounted price of $12 (including tax and postage) for Family Connections readers, email firstname.lastname@example.org and mention “CJP.”