12 Top Recordings to share with your kids
I like to think that I’ve heard more children’s musical recordings than anyone in the entire history of mankind. I listened to over 300 children’s recordings for the first edition of my book Children’s Jukebox, and another 650 children’s recordings for that work’s second edition. As a result of this Guinness World Record-like endurance feat, I have strong opinions about the best recordings and am happy to share them with everyone in Hokey-Pokey Land. All of these recordings are available for purchase from sites such as Amazon or CDBaby, from the artists’ personal websites, or from the local public library lending system. Since you no doubt already have local Parents’ Choice winners Colleen and Uncle Squaty’s entire catalog, here’s what else to buy.
1. Rachel Buchman. Hello Everybody. A Gentle Wind, 1989. This is my favorite recording aimed at the toddler crowd.
2. Jerry Garcia and David Grisman. Not for Kids Only. Acoustic Disc, 1993. Yes, that Jerry Garcia, along with multi-instrumentalist David Grisman, plays several American classics like “Teddy Bears’ Picnic.”
3. Jim Gill. Jim Gill Makes It Noise in Boise, Idaho. Jim Gill Music, 1995. Gill is famous for his interactive, participative songs like “List of Dances” and “The Sound Effects Song.”
4. Woody Guthrie. Woody’s 20 Grow Big Songs. Warner Brothers, 1992. The composer of “This Land Is Your Land” also wrote some of the best children’s music ever.
5. Billy Jonas. What Kind of Cat Are You? Bang-a-Bucket Music, 2002. Check out this singer’s ode to nighttime animals with the gentle song “Nocturnal.”
6. The Learning Station. Literacy in Motion. Monopoli, 2005. All of the songs on this album are inspired by children’s books, like “Wild Things” for Where the Wild Things Are.
7. Elizabeth Mitchell. You Are My Little Bird. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2006. Mitchell’s voice will knock you out with her treatment of Woody Guthrie’s “Who’s My Pretty Baby?”
8. Barry Louis Polisar. Old Dog New Tricks. Rainbow Morning, 1993. Who could resist a title like “I’m a Three-Toed, Triple-Eyed, Double-Jointed Dinosaur?”
9. Raffi. Singable Songs for the Very Young. Rounder Records, 1976. The first recording by this legend is still one of his best.
10. Sharon, Lois, and Bram. Great Big Hits. Elephant Records, 1992. The Canadian trio showcases their best work with this, the first volume of their greatest hits.
11. Various Artists. Caribbean Playground. Putumayo Kids, 2004. You can’t go better than with the Putumayo line when looking for multicultural children’s music.
12. Dan Zanes. Family Dance. Festival Five, 2001. I dare anyone not to dance during the lively “All around the Kitchen.”
It was tough limiting this list to 12 recordings. Go to your local library and check out my book Children’s Jukebox, 2nd Edition to see more recommendations including works by Laurie Berkner, Tom Chapin, and more.
I must admit my auditory senses short-circuited from all that listening and I haven’t paid much attention to the children’s music scene the last few years. That’s why I asked Ashley Bieber of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Library Kid’s department to recommend the best recently published children’s recordings:
Sarah Gardener. Jazz pour le bebes (Jazz for Babies). Sarah Gardener, 2014.
Essie Jain. Until the Light of Morning. Essie Jain, 2010.
Koo Koo Kanga Roo. Cat Party. Uniroo, 2014.
Walter Martin. We’re All Young Together. Family Jukebox, 2014.
Raffi. Love Bug. Rounder Records, 2014.