Toddler songs can make the difference between a happy kid and a screaming one. So I sing on the way to run errands — basically everywhere we are — and I don’t care how ridiculous I sound if it means I get five more minutes to get the task at hand accomplished.
Though I’ve been known to mix Katy Perry and Justin Timberlake into my song rotation, I always return to the classic toddler songs that moms have been singing for generations. Not only are they fun to sing, but they can actually help teach literacy, numbers and even emotional intelligence. So warm up those pipes and sing some of these toddler songs with your budding music lovers.
Yankee Doodle went to town,
Riding on a pony.
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni.
Yankee Doodle keep it up.
Yankee Doodle dandy.
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.
In case you’ve ever wondered about the meaning behind this toddler favorite, it’s actually a funny story. Written around the time of the Revolutionary War, the “Yankee Doodle” song was originally sung by Brits to insult Americans, whom they considered less refined. But Americans adopted it as their own — it’s now the state song of Connecticut — and the word “Doodle” (which meant, more or less, goofball) eventually evolved into the modern day word “dude.” What’s more American than that?
The Hokey Pokey
You put your right hand in, you put your right hand out
You put your right hand in, and you shake it all about.
You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around (spin around)
And that’s what it’s all about! (Clap, yell “Hey” or both)
When you need to shake those sillies out, “The Hokey Pokey” does the trick. Fun as a group or one-on-one, perform it standing up and repeat the verse using as many body parts as you like (left leg, elbow, head, tushie). End with “you put your whole self in, you put your whole self out,” as you jump into and out of the circle. So much fun, and burns calories, too!
Itsy Bitsy Spider
The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout.
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain.
And the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.
Toddlers love the little spider who never gives up, so pantomime his actions, using thumbs and forefingers to climb upwards. You can even add verses by introducing a “great big spider” (use a deep voice and bang your hands against your knees) and a “teeny tiny spider” (use a high, squeaky voice and make tiny motions with your hands).
You Are My Sunshine
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy, when skies are gray.
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.
This pretty ditty is great for soothing toddlers or helping them get ready for bed. But if you’re a hormonal mama who can’t bear the thought of anyone taking your sunshine away, try this cheerful alternative: “You’ll always know dear, how much I love you. Because I’ll tell you every day.”
This Little Piggy
This little piggy went to market. (Wiggle toddler’s big toe)
This little piggy went home. (Wiggle second toe)
This little piggy had roast beef. (Wiggle third toe)
This little piggy had none. (Wiggle fourth toe)
And this little piggy went weee weee weee all the way home. (Wiggle fifth toe, then run your fingers “all the way home” from toes to head, ending in tickles.)
When your squirmy toddler is trying to flip over mid-diaper change, there’s no better distraction than tickling those toes! “This Little Piggy” provides a hilarious diversion from life’s biggest struggles, like getting dressed in the morning and that slow-to-arrive restaurant meal. Between all the giggles, you’re likely to hear just one word: “Again!”