By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Oct 12, 2009 at 3:03 PM

For most parents, "me time" is a precious commodity. Some of us fritter it away by watching brain-draining television or engaging in "Seinfeld"-esque conversations on Facebook, whereas others, like Chicago’s Tim Knuth, really make the most of their off-duty time.

Knuth, who grew up in Brookfield, is a stay-at-home dad who recently released a kids’ CD called "Pop of the Tots!" He recorded the album in his home studio, The Secret Electrical Music Cave, during the past two winters. 

"I played and sang all the parts myself, partly because I’m shy, partly because it’s fun and partly because I like to be in charge," says Knuth.

Knuth plays guitar, ukulele, banjo, mandolin, bass, drums, piano and "little electronic toys," but he invented "Robot Tim" as a way to explain to kids how one person can make multiple sounds and to personify technology's role in music.

"Multi-track recording is kind of a hard concept for kids to grasp, so I thought I needed to invent a sort of music-making helper," says Knuth. "Since I don’t have an actual band, I’ve now been forced to bring Robot Tim to life so I can play the songs on stage."

Human Tim and Robot Tim play together at Beat Kitchen in Chicago on Sunday, Nov. 1, and will play numerous gigs in Chicago and Milwaukee in the coming year.

Knuth also makes and records music for adults, most recently under the name Smiley Tate.

"I try not to approach kids’ music too differently from grown-up music," says Knuth. "I try to think about what I responded to as a kid, because music was really important to me when I was little."

At the age of 5, Knuth started his first band, "The Fiery Shadows," and during childhood, spent a lot of time in the basement with his brothers listening to records ranging from The Beatles to "weird ‘60s kids’ music."

During the recording process, Knuth isolated himself from new indie kids’ music -- referred to as "kindie" -- to assure an original sound. "Pop of the Tops" features 13 original songs that range in genre from the twangy likes of "There’s A Train" to the folktacular "Anna Lee."

Knuth's distinctive voice and smart lyrics put him in the same bag of marbles as established kid crooners like Chicago's Justin Roberts. The kids' music industry exploded during the past decade, in part due to the success of music-based shows like Noggins' "Jack's Big Music Show."

For the past six years, Knuth taught in the Wiggleworms program at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.

"I love hearing from the families I teach, about the ways songs become woven into their lives. They make up their own little games, and change things, and sing along, and the music takes on it’s own life out in the world," says Knuth. "It might not be earth-shattering stuff, but it’s gratifying to send something good out into the world."

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.