songs to sing with children?

What are some songs that might work well for learning and singing with six-year-old Noah?

We keep a pretty wide berth of actual children’s music, as it is generally dreadful, though certain exceptions are made. Unfortunately, most grown-up music is too complicated linguistically (too may words to memorize, not enough repetition) and/or musically (too many variations in the melody, too large a vocal range) for us to learn and sing easily.

The ideas that have worked well so far have largely drawn on musicals, which are so totally not a part of my world but have been in Eric’s for a long time … and Christmas songs:

  • “Sing with Me”
  • “My Favorite Things”
  • “The Twelve Days of Christmas”
  • “Jingle Bells”
  • “Deck the Halls”
  • “Do-Re-Mi” (from The Sound of Music)
  • “Singin’ in the Rain”
  • “I Got Rhythm”

What brilliant ideas are popping into your mind? I figure you’ve got to have something … so do tell in the comments. Thanks!

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22 Comments

  1. Posted 18 January 2013 at 1:11 PM | Permalink

    I worked at a summer camp in NC and the music we sang at camp is available in CD form here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/soldriventrain2. The kids at camp know all the songs and are ages 6-12, so it’s probably just about right for Noah. While it is mostly kid-type music, I don’t find it nearly as annoying as most. My favorites are “We Come from the Mountains” and “Simple Joys.”

  2. ruth
    Posted 18 January 2013 at 1:17 PM | Permalink

    E’s Current Faves:
    Edelweiss
    Silent Night
    Bridge Over Troubled Water (can’t wait to introduce her to Cecelia, and other Simon and Garfunkle hits)
    Morning Has Broken (Cat Stevens, always lovely)
    Have you heard much by Brandi Carlile? E loves her songs for dance parties, and she is a pretty awesome singer/songwriter
    Would Noah like music from Mary Poppins? Steppin’ Time, Spoonful of Sugar, etc.

    Hope these help! I can send a CD if that would help.

  3. Elita
    Posted 18 January 2013 at 1:36 PM | Permalink

    Although it’s not typically my taste, I love singing folksy songs with my kids. “If I Had A Hammer” was the lullaby I sang them to sleep with every night. My son is 5 and he likes the songs “Bought me a cat”, “The green grass grew all around” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_the_Green_Grass_Grew_All_Around (which are kind of like Old McDonald) and The Happy Wanderer http://www.scoutsongs.com/lyrics/happywanderer.html.
    I also highly recommend Sirius’ Kids Place Live channel. Loads of amazing and original kids music there. I guess you could sign up for a trial (which is cheap) and then just buy your favorites and cancel. My son begs for Kids Place Live every time we get in the car.

  4. Posted 18 January 2013 at 2:39 PM | Permalink

    When I was around Noah’s age and a little older, a guy named Tom Knight was the music counselor for our camp. He now lives elsewhere but still makes and sells kids’ music. My parents didn’t seem to mind it – my mom still suggests putting it on for when little kids come over. It’s not super repetitive and cloying like a lot of kids’ music and has some very funny, catchy songs. He has it on iTunes now (we had it all on cassette tapes…) so you could check out the samples to see if you find ones you like, just search “Tom Knight” int he iTunes store. Some of our favorites were “Don’t Kiss a Codfish”, “Waltzing with Bears”, and “Place in the Choir” (the last probably because it had fun hand gestures). (If Noah’s into trains he might also really like the “Song About Trains”.)

    For grown-up singable songs, my dad loved Rockapella and they were a good source of singalongs (we also knew them from singing the theme song for “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”.)

  5. Carolina
    Posted 18 January 2013 at 3:32 PM | Permalink

    For family and friends singalong gatherings, we mostly use Rise Up Singing, which would also be a fantastic resource for a variety of highly singable, not-too-many-words, folk and other songs. The songbook prints words and chords, and for lots of people many of the songs will be melodically familiar. If they aren’t, I think you can also get recordings of people singing the songs you don’t know the melodies of, or (I have found) almost all of them are searchable on youtube or comparable sites if you just want to be reminded of the tune.

    http://www.singout.org/rus.html (you can also find it on amazon and sites like that)

  6. Ann Marie
    Posted 18 January 2013 at 4:55 PM | Permalink

    How about the many fabulous folk who write songs for kids such as Raffi, Sharon Lois and Bram, Shel Siverstein, Heather Bishop to name a few. PS – there’s a bit of a canadian bias in those names

  7. Posted 18 January 2013 at 4:55 PM | Permalink

    Ooh! Both of my parents really love music, so we did a lot of singing growing up. Here are some ideas that job right to mind:

    First, musicals. I’m totally biased because I loved musical theatre, and I know a lot of musicals have questionable moral lessons … but as a kid I totally loved them, and they often are story songs with lyrics that are easier to remember because they’re narrating something.

    Some children’s music ideas:

    Songs from Mister Rogers Neighborhood — usually super simple and singable.
    Waldorf songbooks (I could get titles from my mother)
    The songbook Lullabies and Night Songs by Alec Wilder (illustrated by Sendak).
    Pete Seeger and Ella Fitzgerald have children’s albums which I remember much enjoying
    Elizabeth Mitchell’s folks songs for children: http://youaremyflower.org/

    ~Anna

    • Molly
      Posted 18 January 2013 at 5:56 PM | Permalink

      Any particular musicals or songs from them? I don’t object but have never really had that genre in my life (aka don’t even know where to start), though Eric leans more that way …

      • Posted 18 January 2013 at 10:43 PM | Permalink

        Ooh, mmm.

        “The Music Man” is fun and has a couple of kids in it; my brother and I loved it lots. And “Annie” (again, kids — orphans even! — although some scary characters too). And “The Sound of Music” was my favorite when I was three, also “My Fair Lady,” although when you get older the marriage relationship is just wrong (and different than in the play, where they don’t marry). “Guys and Dolls” has fun tunes. I also enjoyed “Pump Boys and Dinettes” as a child, but there are some adult-themed songs in there my parents found it awkward that I burst out singing them in public :). “Barnum” (about P.T. Barnum). “Newsies” (the original movie, not the stage musical). Anything by Cole Porter.

        Hope that helps! Maybe your library has some “best of” albums, so you can figure out what you (and Noah) enjoy?

      • Posted 18 January 2013 at 10:52 PM | Permalink

        Obviously, pre-screen stuff. Most musicals have villains, so there can be scary and/or violent songs in an album.

  8. Ann Marie
    Posted 18 January 2013 at 4:56 PM | Permalink

    I forgot to mention a fabulous woman who does books for kids some of which are singable and she’s also produced a musical totally for kids with chickens as the star performers. Her name is Sandra Boynton

  9. Libby Filiatreau
    Posted 18 January 2013 at 5:23 PM | Permalink

    There’s a sweet song that Noah might like to learn and sing to Simon – “The Moment I Saw You” by Nicolette Larson and Graham Nash; it’s on youtube. Also “Be Kind to your Web-Footed Friends” by Mitch Miller and “Swing on a Star” by Maria Muldaur. You can also find “Red Red Robin”.

  10. Dora
    Posted 18 January 2013 at 5:30 PM | Permalink

    I’ll second Rise Up Singing, it was a standby in my house growing up. My parents sang a lot of folk, Irish/English/Appalachian trad growing up so that’s what I learned, as well as some musicals and Hebrew, Yiddish and Hungarian folk songs and lullabies that my Hungarian Jewish grandmother grew up with. What’s funny is a lot of these songs had very “mature themes” that I think some might consider inappropriate for children, though I certainly don’t feel I was negatively affected by them. I knew all the lyrics to several murder ballads by the time I was Noah’s age. Some favorites (those in English anyway) were: “Run, Come See Jerusalem”(natural disaster!), “Barbara Allen,” “The Auld Triangle,” “The Cruel Mother”(infanticide!), “Roseville Fair,” (this was actually “their song”), “The Willow Garden”(jealousy murder!) “The Ash Grove,” “The Cherry Tree” (alcoholism!), I could go on. Hope you’re not shocked :)

    • Molly
      Posted 18 January 2013 at 6:00 PM | Permalink

      Not at all shocked, but not going to introduce these to Noah, either–he’d never sleep again. Seriously. He’s very sensitive about violence, cruelty, and death, so that would be no funsies!

  11. Molly
    Posted 18 January 2013 at 6:00 PM | Permalink

    Wow, everybody, thanks for pitching in with ideas!

  12. Anna
    Posted 18 January 2013 at 6:49 PM | Permalink

    I like old folksy songs like Red River Valley and a family favorite was Froggy Went A’ Courtin’ which has tons of verses but is easy for a kid to learn (although a snake chases everyone into the lake in some versions so be careful!). Suzy Bogguss has a great album off these songs (non violent froggie version) and more and they are on my son’s playlist – they are subdued and kid appropriate. Along with Raffi who really isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Apples and Bananas is a great song that plays with vowels and is silly so kids love it.

  13. Jennifer Z.
    Posted 18 January 2013 at 9:44 PM | Permalink

    Owen likes They Might Be Giants CD’s: Here Come the ABC’s, Here Come the 123′s, Here Comes Science and No. There are some Beatles that work for kids, like Yellow Submarine, Octopuses Garden and Strawberry Fields. Also, Puff the Magic Dragon from Peter Paul and Mary, the Jack Johnson songs from the Curious George soundtrack, Johnny Cash’s I’ve been Everywhere, various Randy Newman songs, and Simon and Garfunkel’s Homeward Bound and At the Zoo. That’s all I can think of for now.

  14. Liz
    Posted 19 January 2013 at 1:44 AM | Permalink

    I’ve had a great time singing “Joy to You and Me” (Jeremiah was a bullfrog….) with nieces about that age.

  15. Christina
    Posted 19 January 2013 at 11:19 AM | Permalink

    Growing up, I adored Sharon, Lois and Bram, and the adults around liked their music as well. I plan on singing their songs to my baby. Also, “You Are My Sunshine” is an absolute favorite in my family — I think every baby has been sung that song as a lullaby. Another one I’ll definitely sing to my own!

    Some of the Beatles stuff can be good for kids — “Yellow Submarine,” of course, but also “Here Comes the Sun,” “Twist and Shout,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (which John Lennon insisted was not about LSD but about a drawing by Julian). I would even say “When I’m 64″ and “A Little Help From My Friends” (if you don’t mind the drug references in that one).

  16. Posted 19 January 2013 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

    This doesn’t really answer the question of sing-along songs, but on the subject of not-annoying music for kids: Minnesota Public Radio has an online streaming station for kids called Wondergound Radio. It is a great mix of kids music and stuff for adults that is kid-friendly. We listen to it a lot. :)

    Also, in a bit of self-promotion: I had a friend who was a preschool music teacher guest post on my blog about introducing music to kids a while back. Maybe it will be of interest? His philosophy is a bit different (getting away from typical folky kid songs), but here is the link just in case: http://propernounblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/rock-in-folk-out-introducing-music-to-small-children-guest-post/

  17. Tertia
    Posted 19 January 2013 at 9:49 PM | Permalink

    Big Rock Candy Moutain and This Land is Your Land
    they sound like kid songs, but they are subbersive enough that I get a real kick out of them too

  18. Heather
    Posted 25 January 2013 at 5:28 PM | Permalink

    Some others already mentioned folk songs; this genre comes to mind for me too. They tend to be lyrically straightforward, for everyday ‘folk’ to sing. Try Joni Mitchell (The Circle Game, Chelsea Morning), Bob Dylan (Blowin’ In The Wind), Simon and Garfunkel (59th Street Bridge Song), for starters.

    Other songs that come to mind: I don’t know too many musicals, but “What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma is nice and easy. I sing it to my baby a lot. Bob Marley’s “Two Little Birds” very easy lyrics, and probably some other reggae songs too. White Stripes “We’re Going To Be Friends” is fairly simple and just a sweet song. Also some They Might Be Giants have some fun silly lyrics – Dinner Bell comes to mind, but I don’t know, the lyrics may be more complex than I remember. Anyway they do some pretty good kid’s music too, I’m just not as familiar with it.

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