Singalong Songs You May Actually Like

Below is the link to my first post for the new web site I am writing for.  If you didn’t see it on Facebook, feel free to check it out.  I am glad to have the opportunity, but just know it will not affect the quality of the work done on this site.

This week I am posting a piece I wrote and shopped around over the winter with the hopes of having it published around this time of year.  I did learn a lot about the freelance experience, but sadly, there were no takers.  If anyone out there knows anyone in the publishing industry, let them know the rights to this are still for sale and I would gladly take the piece off of here in order for it to appear in a publication.

Sing-along Songs You May Actually Like

By Jonathan Sadowski

If you’re singing “The Wheels on the Bus” for the 7,000th time and you’ve realized you’re out of people, animals, or parts of ‘the bus’ to imitate, if kids aren’t laughing when you purposely mess up the ABCs again, or if the entire family has memorized every scene and song from every DVD in the van, you can rest assured that a) you are not alone, and b) you can easily change the in-car entertainment.  Introducing child-friendly songs by artists my wife and I enjoy has been a worthwhile endeavor that helps us stave off long car ride fussiness and has dramatically reduced the number of days I have walked around singing “Ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring, banana phone.”

family car electronics

We started this in an attempt to create more “unplugged” time while the family is together, and to expose our kids to a wider array of music.  Many long car rides were spent to watching the same Barney episodes a million times or listening to some second-rate musician butcher songs that our parents sang to us, because the same songs were sung to them.  As I lamented with my classic-rock loving friends about what to do, we put our heads together and came up with a list of songs that were short (under 3 minutes), would have lyrics accessible to children, clean language, and a simple beat.  Below is a list of the five that are the biggest hits with my family.  They are all available on youtube and iTunes.

  1. Monkey and the engineer – The Grateful Dead:  The logical progression of events helps kids learn story-telling skills, and the idea of a monkey driving a train is a hit with light-hearted people of all ages.
  2. Yellow submarine – The Beatles:  A great introduction to the Beatles, “Yellow Submarine” has an easy-to-learn chorus, encourages imagination / imaginary play, and is a good reinforce for those who are learning colors.
  3. Big rock candy mountain – Harry McClintock:  We decided to change two or three words (ex: whiskey to ice tea), but what young mind wouldn’t want to swim in a lake of stew or drink from lemonade springs?
  4. If I had a Hammer – Sam Cooke:  While many versions have been recorded, Sam Cooke’s is by far the most “danceable.”  It is also a great song for substituting your own objects into once the existing verses become too familiar.
  5. Dance to the Music – Sly and the Family Stone:  Younger generations will recognize this track from the karaoke scene at the end of Shrek, but nothing can beat hearing your kids try to imitate the “dumm dumm, dumm da doo doo dum…” that the group lays down on the original.

Introducing new songs does take some planning.  I have found that the middle of the day, at home, after a little snack is the best setting for my kids to hear something different.  They are fresh, in their own element, and full energy.  Having space in a playroom also allows for some room to have a silly dance accompany the new song, which helps with audience participation dramatically.  After sharing a couple of laughs while listening to a song you like, try it in the car to see if they recognize it out of the context they are used to.  If so, you are home free.  Implementing this plan will allow your kids to stick a toe out of their comfort zone, create an avenue to discuss recent historical periods (when they are old enough), and help wrap their minds around different sounds and the emotions they evoke.  Car rides will rely less on electronics, you will have less regrettable songs stuck in your head, and there will be an increased chance your children will develop more diverse musical interests.*

*That statement is based on no scientific evidence at all, just a hunch.


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