Songs for children under four should include clearly enunciated words, easy to memorize lyrics, and fun tunes. Here are some of the best performers of music for the toddler crowd, and a highly recommended CD by each artist.
Seeger’s friendly voice and ringing banjo accompany these folk songs, singalongs, nursery rhymes, and hand plays about all creatures great and small. Originally issued on two Folkways LPs in 1955, the 28 songs on this CD will keep your little ones endlessly entertained.
Jenkins is the master of call-and-response songs, as evidenced on You’ll Sing a Song, originally released on the Folkways label in 1966. Classic tunes include the title song, “Miss Mary Mack,” “Dulce Dulce,” and “Did You Feed My Cow?”, featuring Jenkins’ ukulele and occasional harmonica, and the Gateway Children’s Chorus. This CD is so good, it’s Folkways’ best-selling record ever!
Manhattan musician Levine accompanies the songs on his children’s debut with a Venezuelan quatro (a four-stringed guitar) and his standup bass. Originals like “A Real Bouquet” are beautifully entertaining, and oldies such as “The Alphabet Song,” “Cumpleanos Feliz,” and “The Hokey Pokey” are given some Latino spice, guaranteed to keep your little ones dancing.
Probably the most low-key CD on the list, Songs was originally released in 1956 on the Folkways label. The album features Guthrie playing guitar and singing 18 of his original compositions, sometimes without any musical accompaniment at all. Many children’s artists have covered several of these simple songs, including “Grassy Grass Grass,” “Little Sack of Sugar,” “Who’s My Pretty Baby,” and “Bling Blang."
Gill is great at disguising movement songs as Broadway tunes, singalongs, and skits, and Moving Rhymes is a perfect example. This banjo-playing educator from Oak Park, Illinois, performs tunes like “Face the Facts,” “Tromboning,” “Jump Up, Turn Around,” and “Drumming the House” with his top-notch band that will keep the kids in motion.
Mitchell’s third CD of folk tunes and cover songs helps to continue her rise to the top of the current children’s music ladder of success. She draws from sources as varied as Woody Guthrie, the Velvet Underground, Chinese folk songs, and Bob Marley. Her quiet style and interesting instrumentation make these songs both memorable and easy to sing along with.
Garcia’s long-running children’s music program in San Francisco has produced several CDs worth of great tunes, but one of the best has to be Pink. Garcia’s renditions of folk tunes, singalongs, and originals are flavored by accordion and banjo, with his own “Hold My Hand” being a definite must-hear.
Hinton’s classic was released by Folkways in 1964, and is just as refreshing today as it was then. Hinton has lots of fun with words, and your little ones will be tickled trying to keep up with or appreciating the humor of folk songs like “The Green Grass Growing All Around,” “Michael Finnegan,” and “Jolly Old Roger."
Many people swear by this album, while many swear at it. But when it comes down to it, Raffi’s 32-year-old debut is perfect for singalongs. His simple arrangements and performances make chestnuts like “Down by the Bay,” “The More We Get Together,” “I Wonder if I’m Growing,” and “Brush Your Teeth” as fresh today as they were in the mid-1970s.