We love to rock it around here. Whether it’s upbeat tunes to get us going in the morning, relaxing melodies for evenings at home, or silly songs to get us dancing, we like to keep the rhythm flowing.
While I admittedly am no “music junkie” I do appreciate quality kids’ music, especially when it teaches worthwhile lessons. Kids are like sponges – might as well let ’em soak up the good stuff… including encouraging them to get outside!
Over the past few years, we have found an assortment of songs and albums that we would love to share. Click through links to listen to songs on Spotify!
Music for Outdoor Kids: The Okee Dokee Brothers
To kick off our list of the best music for outdoor kids, we have to start with our very favorite: The Okee Dokee Brothers. This Grammy-award winning duo produces album after album of catchy folk tunes that inspire families to get outside and enjoy nature.
“I’ll spread the word and you beat the drum
We’ll round up the troops and get the gang to come
And we’ll leave the streets and these neighborhoods
Head over the river and through the woods.”
Through the Woods
Whether you’re looking for mellow songs like Walking with Spring or Evergreen, or you want some upbeat, silly tunes like The Bullfrog Opera or Campin’ Tent, The Okee Dokee Brothers have something for every mood. Not just enjoyable for kids–parents can appreciate the deeper themes like friendship, contentment, and accepting others.
“The yeti says it’s just been misunderstood
It pays taxes and always votes
It’s actually a strict vegetarian
And it adopts all the mistreated goats
I was just afraid at first
Afraid of what, I didn’t know
Big foot, well… yes
The Abominable Yeti
New Album Release!
As if we didn’t just show you four albums full of solid gold, The Okee Dokee Brothers just released a brand new two-disc album full of music for outdoor kids on May 1st! Hoorah!
“We figured there’s enough bad news these days, so here’s a drop in the good news bucket! We’ve decided to release our new 2-disc album nearly two months early so families can listen to some positive tunes while they stay home (whenever possible) and stay safe. So without further ado, introducing… Songs for Singin’!“
– Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing (The Okee Dokee Brothers)
Check out the music video for the first single, Hope Machine, below!
Music for Outdoor Kids: Elizabeth Mitchell
Here’s another favorite for the top of the list. I enjoy the whimsical, soft sounds of Elizabeth Mitchell just as much as my kiddo. Songs feature guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and even oboe among other instruments. Her albums are also full of positive messages, songs about growing up, and plenty of nature themes.
“Runnin’ and a funnin’, skippin’ and a sunnin’
Givin’ and a wantin’ and a runnin’ wild
Willin’ and a spillin’ and a rollin’ down a hill’n
Never sittin’ still-‘n you’re my lovin’ child
One, two, three, you’re as free as a honeybee
Free as a honeybee in the sky
Four, five, six, your wings made of sugar
You’re my little sweetie, little sweetie-pie.”
Along with her own compositions and some written by her daughter, Storey, Elizabeth Mitchell includes covers of traditional folk songs and reinvents some favorites.
Her album Little Seed is dedicated to songs by Woodie Guthrie and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Children’s Album. The album Turn, Turn, Turn, created in collaboration with Dan Zanes (who is also on our list!), is filled with gems like Racoon and Possum and Honeybee.
“Take my little hoe, dig a hole in the ground
Take my little seed and I plant it down;
Tooky, tooky, tooky, tooky, tidalo,
We’ll all dance around and see my little seed grow.”
In addition to a plethora of different instruments, Elizabeth Mitchell shares songs in several languages including French, Korean, and one of my favorites, Ooki Na Kuri No Ki No Shita De (Under the Big Chestnut Tree), sung partly in Japanese.
Her newest album, Tú Eres Mi Flor, was written with Suni Paz and features American folk songs adapted for both English and Spanish speaking children.
Music for Outdoor Kids: Red Yarn
When you’re in the mood for some toe-tapping rockabilly tunes, you can’t beat Red Yarn’s raucous storytelling. In addition to spectacular music, he is often accompanied by an array of puppets–any artist who has a squirrel on the fiddle and a raccoon working the boom mic gets hearty approval from me!
This modern American folklore music for outdoor kids features themes of childhood adventure, animal antics, and wilderness discovery. Check out Deep Woods Revival, Down in the Meadow, and Beautiful Day.
“It don’t matter whether you’ve got fur or you’ve got feathers
If you walk on four legs or on two,
We’ll all feel better if we could all just be together,
And there’s room here in my old barn for you.”
New Album Release!
Red Yarn’s newest album, Backyard Bop, is due to release in August 2020 and promises another set of delightful beats including the single Jump for Joy (see video below)!
“Well the other day I met a little bunny
She said, ‘Listen man, don’t you think it’s funny
How so many folks just want to sit around
Aw, and moan and mope about what gets them down.’
You gotta stand right up
You gotta raise your voice
You gotta get up with me
And jump for joy
You gotta rise and shine
You gotta make some noise
Aw, dance with freedom
And jump, jump, jump for joy.”
Jump For Joy
Music for Outdoor Kids: Dan Zanes and Friends
We would be utterly remiss if we left Dan Zanes off our list of music for outdoor kids. Dubbed by People Magazine as “the crown prince of contemporary kids’ music,” Dan Zanes continues to front the Grammy-award winning group Dan Zanes and Friends and has released over 15 albums since 2000.
With too much good to say about Dan Zanes, I’ll just highlight the special album Night Train 57, created with his wife Claudia Eliaza who is herself a Haitian-American jazz vocalist and music therapist.
Commissioned by the Kennedy Center, the pair created this all-inclusive “Sensory Friendly Comic Folk Opera” which should not be missed!
“Well, take a chance and let it go
Bloom, Baby, Bloom
Find your dance and let it grow
Bloom, Baby, Bloom
Can you ride on, ride on
Bloom, Baby, Bloom
Find out where your soul belongs
Bloom, Baby, Bloom.”
Bloom Baby Bloom!
Special Music Series!
During this unusual time of coronavirus and social distancing, Dan and his wife Claudia have been writing new music and sharing songs in a special “Social Isolation Song Series.” What a delight–check it out on YouTube!
Music for Outdoor Kids: Lisa Loeb
Parents might recall the 90s hit single “I Do” by Lisa Loeb. While some of her children’s music has a similar vibe, she presents a wide range of styles from well-known sing-alongs (Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, Miss Mary Mack), to upbeat dance-alongs (Wiggle, Monster Stomp), as well as mellow folk songs.
Pressing your face to the windowpane as you watch the rain come falling down
Are you sad ’cause you’re stuck inside?
Got it bad, pitterpat.
We could mope around together, or grab our boots and your red umbrella
And dance on the muddy lawn; let it slide, it’s all right.
When It Rains
Some of my personal favorites (no surprise) include those from the album written with Elizabeth Mitchell like the title track Catch the Moon, folksy Free Little Bird, and the traditional Japanese Donguri (Rolling Acorn).
“Bunny brown can’t be found
He’s hiding in his hole
Come to me, come and see
Where the carrots grow
The world outside is waiting
Come on let the clouds roll through
We can find a better view
Open up your eyes
On the other side
The sky is always blue.“
The Sky Is Always Blue
Music for Outdoor Kids: Recess Monkey
Rolling right along, we’ve got Recess Monkey: a Grammy-nominated band made up of three teachers from Seattle whose music I can only describe as FUN.
With several family albums to choose from, our favorite songs include Fort and Firefly Lullaby from the album Field Trip, Tallest Tree and Trailblazer from the album Desert Island Disc, and A Seed Doesn’t Know from their newest album Family Photo Album.
“You are a trailblazer, you can do anything
Built to amaze us, you make my heart just sing
You are a trailblazer, the course you’ll set is new
You’ll face your troubles, but there’s no stopping you
Dream your dreams and you’ll find your way around the world.”
Music for Outdoor Kids: Daniel Tashian
If you like an upbeat, jazzy style to your music, don’t skip Daniel Tashian (and the voices of his three daughters: Tigerlily, Matilda, and Tinkerbell).
Tashian has won multiple awards (including two Grammys) for his work producing and co-writing with various artists. I really enjoy his 2019 kids’ album, I Love Rainy Days, which features the title track and also Nightbird, another favorite. Also check out his newer album, Mr. Moonlight, which includes the whimsical Clouds and peaceful Book of Dreams, perfect music for outdoor kids.
“It’s a good day for puddle jumpin’
Do you like to quack like a duck?
Well, if you do, let me tell you somethin’
My friends, I think you’re in luck.
It’s a good day for muddy-strollin’
Clouds are rollin’ by
So lovely and gray
Have I told you before
That I love rainy days.”
I Love Rainy Days
Music for Outdoor Kids: Caspar Babypants
Also known as Chris Ballew (who parents might recognize as the lead singer of The Presidents of the United States of America), Caspar Babypants has put out a slew of kids’ albums over the past 10 years with Flying High! being nominated for the Grammy Award for best children’s album in 2019. Fuzzy Buzzy Buzzing Bug, Dragonfly Blue, and All The Fish are just a few we like among the joyful, easy-to-sing-along tracks.
“Dancing in the funky wilderness
Moonbeams on my head
Sleeping in the funky wilderness
Moss is an awesome bed
Slinking through the funky wilderness
Crawling like a snake
I live in the funky wilderness
Life is fine in the fuzzy pines
With all this time to take
Take my time
All this time to take
Take my time
All this time to take.”
Music for Outdoor Kids: Molly Ledford & Billy Kelly
Those of you who’ve been sampling all these recommendations as we go might guess that Molly Ledford & Billy Kelly are another favorite of mine when you hear the folksy melodies and banjo plucking that I love. You would be right. You can’t go wrong with Trees, Meet You By The Roots, and Standing By You, Sapling.
“When we go to the woods, we’ll be on our own
When we go to the woods, we can live by our own code
Get your pocket knife
Bet there’s something on there
You have never tried
Got my compass and my Henry David Thoreau
Yeah, I’m so ready to go
When we go to the woods, I feel more alive
When we go to the woods, it’s up to us if we survive.”
To The Woods
Music for Outdoor Kids: Frances England
With a Grammy nomination for best children’s album (Explorer of the World) and numerous other awards and accolades, Frances England spins delightful, whimsical tunes that should be included in any family playlist!
“Sunshine through the leaves,
Songbird in the trees,
Happy buzzing bumblebees,
Dandelions in the grass,
Making wishes that last,
At least until tomorrow.
We’ll run through the grass in our bare feet
We’ll climb to the top of the tallest tree
Oh, there’s nothing that you and I can’t be
When we see what we can see.”
See What We Can See
… And The List Goes On!
“Come with me, take my hand
Take a little walk with me.
Let’s walk right across this land
Take a little walk with me.
Hills and mountains, ponds and streams
Take a little walk with me.
We’ll tell the wind our hopes and dreams
Take a little walk with me.”
Take A Little Walk With Me
“I saw a bear with a fiddle in
Playing high and low
All the other animals gathered around
To watch his little show.
They clapped their hooves and they clapped their paws
While they listened to his tunes
And he played and he played until the sun went down
Then he played by the light of the moon.”
A Bear With A Fiddle In The Middle Of The Woods
Banana Slug String Band
“Over flat colored stones it riffles along
Kingfishers and frogs join in with its songs
With rapids and falls, spray bursting in air
This river brings life to salmon and bear
Blurp ah pa-shoosh rumbly pound
A white rapid river makes a wonderful sound.”
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