Top 25 Songs to Sing with Baby That You’ll BOTH Enjoy

The first time I rode in a car with my brother after his daughter was born, some obnoxious kid’s CD was playing on loop. Around the time the CD started wailing, “When you’re up you’re up, and when you’re down you’re down, but when you’re only halfway up you’re neither up nor down,” my brother flashed me a look that was halfway between apologetic and What am I supposed to do, right? 

Now that I have a daughter of my own, I’m a little more sympathetic to his plight. We don’t have a children’s CD in our car, but because–for some reason–it’s the only thing that calms her down when we’re driving, I have listened to the Galavant soundtrack about 100 times since Babyface was born. When I dropped Babyface off with my mother the other day, I flashed my mother that same What am I supposed to do? look while I explained that the lyrics weren’t terribly appropriate for a baby but that for some reason the CD would calm Babyface down if she got fussy. (As a sidebar, Ginger Snaps suspects we played the CD one time too many while Babyface was in the womb and that’s why she likes it so much).

Though Babyface is particular about her CD when she’s in the car, when we’re home and I’m bouncing around the house trying to keep her calm, it doesn’t really seem to matter what I sing to her as long as I’m singing something, which has allowed me to experiment with some different–slightly more appropriate–songs.

Whether your goal is to move away from the same saccharine children’s CD you’ve listened to a thousand times or simply to improve your repertoire of songs that are appropriate to sing with your child, here’s my top 25 favorite songs to sing with Babyface. All of these songs are appropriate to sing with her, have good messages, and–best of all–keep me feeling sane at the end of the day. I’ve divided the songs into three categories: upbeat songs to sing, songs to sing at bedtime, and songs to sing when the struggle is real.

Top 10 Upbeat Songs to Sing with Baby

Songs are an important part of the day for me–and for Babyface. I almost always have a playlist running when I’m working at my desk, and when I’m playing with Babyface I love singing silly songs with her. Daytime singing is when I’m more likely to stick with kids’ songs that my mom sang with me when I was a kid, like the Fishy Song, or with fun, educational songs like the ones found on Barenaked Ladies’ CD, Snack Time. Still, there are times when I get tired of the old stand-bys and want to sing some songs with Babyface that I actually like, not just tolerate. That’s when having these 10 upbeat songs that are appropriate for kids in my back pocket is totally worth it.

10.) The Presidents by Jonathan Coulton

Granted, we could debate the relative “appropriateness” of this Jonathan Coulton song. Coulton, if you don’t know him, sings comedy songs more tailored for adults than for children, and this song about the presidents is no exception. What I like, however, is that it’s catchy as all get-out and allowed me to memorize all the presidents from Washington to Bush, Jr. (the song was written in 2005), as well as some quick facts about them that help me contextualize their presidencies. That educational factor, for me, outweighs the few questionable lyrical moments. And honestly, the few things I wouldn’t want Babyface repeating (a la “Clinton gave an intern a cigar”) are things I don’t suspect she’d understand anyway for a number of years.

Most compelling lyrics (because seriously, who can keep Harrison – Buchanan straight without this song?):

William Henry Harrison died early / John Tyler annexed Texas from Mexico / James K. Polk fought Mexico to keep it / Taylor was a Mexican war hero. / Filmore gave a boat to Commodore Perry / Pierce repealed the Missouri Compromise / Buchanan saw the Civil War’s beginnings / Lincoln saved the Union, then he died. 

9.) I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas

The Black Eyed Peas aren’t who I first think of when I’m considering songs for my infant. I am, however, all about instilling optimism and positivity in her at an early age–qualities that don’t come naturally to her dad or me. This is a great song to draw on when I want to get her excited about something–like a sleepover at Nonna’s–or when I just want to dance with her in the living room.

Most compelling lyrics:

I gotta feeling, woohoo / that tonight’s gonna be a good night / that tonight’s gonna be a good night / that tonight’s gonna be a good, good night!

8.) Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas

Really, almost any Disney song is great to siIng with your baby if you’re in a pinch. Disney songs are great because they’re designed with children in mind without being overly saccharine (most of the time–here’s ignoring you, “When You Wish Upon a Star”), and they have this great nostalgia factor that allows most of the lyrics to actually stick in your head. But for me, this classic from Pocahontas often comes to me when I’m singing with Babyface because it’s all about learning to value what different kinds of people have to teach you and also learning to connect with nature.

Most compelling lyrics:

You think the only people who are people / are the people who look and think like you / but if you walk the footsteps of a stranger / you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew…

7.) Best Day of My Life by American Authors

This song actually had a feature role in GS & my wedding, which may be part of the reason it’s near and dear to my heart. Again, however, I like that its message is positive, uplifting, and optimistic. It’s basically about following your dreams and going into life with an optimistic mindset–and who doesn’t want that for their kids?

Most compelling lyrics:

I howled at the moon with friends / and then the sun came crashing in. / But all the possibilities — / no limits, just epiphanies! / I’m never gonna look back, woah / Never gonna give it up, no / Just don’t wake me now: / This is gonna be the best day of my life! 

6.) A Perfect Day from Phineas and Ferb

In case you’re unaware, Phineas and Ferb constitutes a nearly-perfect animated television series. It’s got a diverse cast of characters, females with actual personalities, siblings who love and work with each other on a daily basis, and catchy songs with positive messages and high-level vocabulary–all things that parents love. It also has a lot of repetition between episodes and dumb jokes, which kids love. Ginger Snaps and I have been watching this show on loop since we first got together–long before Babyface was conceived–and one of the saddest moments in our relationship was when it was removed from Netflix. Of the many great songs that show has to offer, however, A Perfect Day is one that makes the list of Top 10 Upbeat Songs for Kids because it’s all about appreciating the little things in life and being grateful for them.

Most compelling lyrics:

It’s a perfect day / it’s in the mid-70s / humidity at 60% / It’s a perfect day / not a cloud in the sky / and I can say without fear of dissent / it’s a picture-postcard perfect kind of / a summer afternoon / it’s a perfect day. 

5.) Happy by Pharrell Williams

Sick of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”? This is the updated, upbeat, grown-up version of that song, and it will get stuck in your head like no man’s business. It’s fun to sing to, fun to dance to, and bound to put your whole family in a good mood if you let it.

Most compelling lyrics:

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof / clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth / clap along if you know what happiness is to you / clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

4.) Try Everything by Shakira

Perseverance and open-mindedness are two important qualities we want to encourage in Babyface. The movie Zootopia was a loosely-veiled children’s movie about looking past race and stereotypes and respecting individuality, and this feature-song by Shakira, while catchy enough to make it onto the regular radio, also instilled some of that great positive energy.

Most compelling lyrics:

I messed up tonight / I lost another fight / I still mess up, but I’ll just start again. / I keep falling down / I keep on hitting the ground / I always get up now to see what’s next. / Birds don’t just fly / they fall down and get up. / Nobody learns without getting it won. / I won’t give up / No, I won’t give in / Until I reach the end–and then I’ll start again. / No, I won’t leave / I wanna try everything / I wanna try even though I could fail. 

3.) Brave by Sara Bareilles

Sometimes, I’m a little too timid. One of the things I love about Ginger Snaps is that he does not care what other people think of him. While there are frustrating moments to that, it means that he’s never afraid to speak up for the things he believes in and he never gives in to peer pressure. When I think about some of the situations I found myself in during my college years–situations where I let myself get past the point of comfort with guys because I didn’t want to be rude or upset them–I pray that Babyface turns out to be more like her dad on that front than like me. This song by Sara Bareilles challenges the listener to do just that–be brave and willing to speak up for themselves rather than letting the world crush their individuality. Here, here!

Most compelling lyrics:

You can be the outcast / or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love / or you can start speaking up. / No one’s gonna hurt you the way that words do / when they settle ‘neath your skin. / Kept on the inside and no sunlight– / sometimes a shadow wins. / But I wonder what would happen if you / say what you wanna say / and let the words fall out. / Honestly, I wanna see you be brave! 

2.) Get Back Up Again by Anna Kendrick

Ginger Snaps and I really enjoyed the movie Trolls. The animation was cute, the plot was fun, but the music was what really made Trolls worth the watch, especially as an adult. It featured lots of covers of classic rock songs–everything from “The Sound of Silence” to “True Colors” — while its original songs, like this one, held strong. “Get Back Up Again,” sung by Anna Kendrick, is all about maintaining a positive attitude and working hard even when things are difficult — a message that is great for kids.

Most compelling lyrics:

I’m marching along–I got confidence / I’m cooler than a pack of peppermints / and I haven’t been this excited since / I can’t remember when! / I’m off on this remarkable adventure / just riding on a rainbow. / What if it’s all a big mistake? / What if it’s more than I can take? / No–I can’t think that way / ’cause I know that I’m really, really, really gonna be okay! / Hey, I’m not giving up today / There’s nothing getting in my way / And if you knock, knock me over / I will get back up again. 

1.) Carpe Diem from Phineas and Ferb

I said before that this was a near-perfect cartoon show, and I think the fact that it has my #1 favorite upbeat song to sing with Babyface really exemplifies that fact. This song is all about taking control of your own destiny and taking responsibility for entertaining yourself. Today, there are so many kids who don’t know how to entertain themselves at all. I love the idea of encouraging Babyface to be creative and take chances and create her own adventures–which, at the end of the day, is what Phineas and Ferb was all about.

Most compelling lyrics:

If there’s one thing we can say / I know it sounds a bit cliche / there’s no such thing as just an ordinary day / And you don’t have to build a roller coaster / to find your own way to make the most of these / days of summer / and dance to the beat of a different drummer / just grab those opportunities when you see them / Every day’s a brand new day, baby / Carpe diem!

Top 10 Songs to Sing with Baby at Bedtime

Ginger Snaps and I like to sing with Babyface as we’re getting her ready for bed–while we’re changing her diaper, wrapping her up in a swaddler, and prepping her bottle. Neither of us are fans of traditional lullabies, which either make no sense, a la Rock-a-Bye Baby, or are creepy in origin (did you know that Ring-Around-the-Rosie is about the black plague?). These 10 soothing songs help calm our baby down, but they aren’t the usual, tired lullabies we were taught in nursery school.

10.) I’ll Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie

This was actually the “first dance” song at our wedding. Ginger Snaps and I both love that it’s romantic–the message is basically “I’ll love you far longer than until death do us part”–but that it’s not overly cliche in its delivery of that romantic message. I like singing it with Babyface because I feel strongly about sharing that message of unyielding, everlasting love with her. But for the same reason my mom changed the words to a prayer when I was little so that I didn’t have to think about death every night, this one stays at the bottom of my Top 10 list because, as beautiful as I think the message is, there’s also a chance the lyrics about death could be perceived as mildly creepy when Babyface gets older.

Most compelling lyrics:

If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied / illuminate the ‘Nos’ on their vacancy signs / If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks / I’ll follow you into the dark. 

9.) Goodnight My Angel by Billy Joel

There’s this book that my grandmother used to get for each of her grandchildren when they were born. Now that she’s departed, my aunt has taken up the torch and buys that same book for each of the great-grandchildren. The book is called “I’ll love you forever,” and it’s basically about how your love for your child isn’t dependent on their good behavior, and how it’s a bond that connects each generation. Every time I hear this Billy Joel song, I think back to that children’s book. The messages are very similar–and similarly beautiful.

Most compelling lyrics:

Goodnight, my angel, now it’s time to dream / and dream how wonderful your life will be. / Someday your child may cry / and if you sing this lullaby / then in your heart there will always be a part of me. 

8.) You Will Be Found from Dear Evan Hansen

Though I appreciated a few musicals when I was younger, it was really as an adult that I developed my love for them. A close friend of mine is a musical fanatic, and because she and I ride together a few times a year on the way down to enjoy girls’ weekend with my cousin, I got used to listening to musicals in her car and learned the real beauty behind them. Dear Evan Hansen is currently my favorite musical, but it deals with adult themes like depression, suicide, and drug use, and I would skip most of the songs if Babyface was with me while I was listening to them. “You Will Be Found,” however, is an inspiring song about remembering to lean on your support network when you’re feeling sad. Knowing that depression and mental illness run on both sides of Babyface’s family, I suspect it’s a song that she’ll be able to draw comfort from for many years–and it happens to have the soft, soothing lilt of a lullaby.

Most compelling lyrics:

There’s a place where we don’t have to feel unknown. / And every time you call out, you’re a little less alone. / If you only say the word / from across the silence / your voice is heard. 

7.) I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack

This song is all about the hopes and dreams we have for our children. The message is essentially that we want our children to take the world by storm–that we want them to live a life free of fears and to be brave enough to try things even when they’re scared. Though I’m not generally a Lee An Womack fan, this song gets me right in the feels every time.

Most compelling lyrics:

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean / Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens. / Promise me that you’ll give Faith a fighting chance / and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance / I hope you dance. 

6.) Your Song by Elton John

Sometimes, the classics take the cake. I love Elton John: I think he’s crazy talented and his music is heart-wrenchingly moving. And I like the fact that if I sing this song with Babyface regularly, she’ll not only be lulled to sleep, but also learn some appreciation for Elton John. The meaning behind the song, as I see it, is that we all have some sort of gift we can offer the world and that sometimes the most beautiful thing we can do is present that gift to the people we love.

Most compelling lyrics:

If I was a sculptor / but then again, no / or a man who makes potions / in a traveling show / I know it’s not much / but it’s the best I can do / my gift is my song / and this one’s for you. 

5.) Song of the Sea from Song of the Sea

This song feels more like a traditional lullaby–and sort of a nonsensical one at that–but it comes from an off-the-beaten-path animated film about siblings learning to lean on one another during a troubling time in their life. I love the fact that this song seems to be about a dream: Perfect for bedtime.

Most compelling lyrics:

Oh, won’t you come with me / where the moon is made of gold / and in the morning sun / we’ll be sailing. / Oh, won’t you come with me / where the ocean meets the sky / and as the clouds roll by / we’ll sing the song of the sea

4.) You’ll Be in My Heart by Phil Collins

Bedtime is a time for tears with Babyface, who can somehow tell that her nighttime nap is different from every other nap she takes throughout the day and turns on the waterworks for it. When that happens, Phil Collins is there to comfort us both with these sweet, patient lyrics and this sweet, soothing tune.

Most compelling lyrics:

Come, stop your crying, it’ll be all right / Just take my hand–hold it tight / I will protect you from all around you / I will be here–don’t you cry. 

3.) Humble and Kind by Tim McGraw

There are certain things we all want to teach our children, with humility, honesty, and respect rising to the top of that list. Tim McGraw somehow perfectly captured those traits and put them into a soothing song that I believe all parents should be singing along with their children.

Most compelling lyrics:

Don’t expect a free ride from no one / Don’t hold a grudge or a chip, and here’s why: / Bitterness keeps you from flying / Always stay humble and kind. / Know the difference between sleeping with someone / and sleeping with someone you love / “I love you” aint no pick-up line / always stay humble and kind. 

2.) Dear Theodosia from Hamilton

At the heart of the musical Hamilton is this song that two dads sing to their newborns about the overwhelming feelings that come with welcoming a new baby to the world. As usual, Lin Manuel Miranda captures the emotions perfectly, and when I find myself at a loss to tell Babyface exactly how much I love her, it’s this song I fall back on.

Most compelling lyrics:

When you came into this world, you cried / and it broke my heart. / I’m dedicating every day to you. / Domestic life was never quite my style. / When you smile, you knock me out / I fall apart / and I thought I was so smart…

1.) Goodnight My Friend from Galavant

All right, for the most part, I don’t love the fact that Babyface has chosen the Galavant soundtrack as her favorite compilation of music, but there is something magical about Track 14, and it has become something like musical gold in our household. Beautiful and simplistic, it wins bonus points for being easy to learn and for sounding good on loop.

Most compelling lyrics:

Up we will float as we close our eyes / stars all around us like fireflies / just me and you drifting through the skies / goodnight my friend. 

Top 5 Songs to Sing with Baby When the Struggle is Real

I’m pretty open on this blog about my struggle with depression. Believe it or not, my depression has actually gotten better since Babyface was born–in part, I think, because even on my rough days I know I have to fake it ’til I make it for her sake. Still, there are definitely days when the struggle is real–days when she won’t stop crying, for example, and I have to remind myself that I’m not a failure as a mother just because I can’t figure out what ails her, or just days–like today–when I’m tired and achy and the endless gray skies start to get me down. It’s on days when the struggle is real that I truly rely on the power of music.

My parents did the same thing when I was a kid, which perhaps is why I think of singing as such a healthy way to work through depression. I remember that when I was little, I could tell my dad was having a rough day because he’d make my stuffed animals dance to the tune of “I Got Friends in Low Places.” My mom’s sad-day songs changed with regularity, though for a period of time it was “Something in Red.” To this day I associate those songs with my parents, and I suspect Babyface may associate some of my sad-day songs with me. That’s okay: The important thing is that I’m honest with her about my emotions and that I model healthy ways to work through them.

5.) Who I Am (Rosemary’s Granddaughter) by Jessica Andrews

Sometimes when the struggle is real, all I need is to remind myself that I am a strong, capable woman and that being willing to reach out to the people in my support network shows a strength of character, not a character flaw. This song is all about celebrating where you come from and works to get me back on track when I’m forgetting that fact.

Most compelling lyrics:

I am Rosemary’s granddaughter / the spitting image of my father / and when the day is done, my mama’s still my biggest fan / Sometimes, I’m clueless and I’m clumsy / but I got friends that love me / and they know just where I stand. 

4.) Wake Me Up by Avicii

As parents, it can be tempting to just want our children to do what we want them to do. Right now, that might mean wanting Babyface to sleep at the same time every night or to cooperate when we change her diaper–later on, I’m sure, the issues will be grander in size. This Avicii song helps me to remember that Babyface is her own person and that even though she’s small, she has her own dreams and desires and opinions–and that’s something to celebrate, not fight against.

Most compelling lyrics:

They tell me I’m too young to understand. / They say I’m caught up in a dream. / Well, life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes. / Well, that’s fine by me. / So wake me up when it’s all over. / When I’m wiser and I’m older / All this time I was finding myself / and I didn’t know I was lost. 

3.) In My Daughter’s Eyes by Martina McBride

I said earlier that one of the reasons my depression has improved since Babyface was born is that I now have someone who actually needs me to woman up on a daily basis and figure it out. This Martina McBride song is all about being the person your daughter trusts you to be, even when you feel like you’re faking it.

Most compelling lyrics:

In my daughter’s eyes, I am a hero / I am strong and wise and I know no fear / but the truth is plain to see / she was sent to rescue me / I see who I want to be in my daughter’s eyes. 

2.) Strong Enough by Matthew West

I don’t talk a lot about my faith–on my blog or in real life–and Ginger Snaps and I are raising our daughter non-denominationally, with a goal of teaching her both the healthiest and the least healthy parts of organized religions so that she can, when she’s older, truly decide for herself what brings comfort and meaning to her life. In my personal life, I draw comfort from the belief that most religions are more alike than they are different–and that our real job during our time on this earth is to learn how to love one another and how to cast aside hatred and inequality. I also draw comfort from the belief that there is something greater than myself, and that I can rely on that during some of my toughest moments. It’s that message that I really feel at peace with when listening to this Matthew West song, and it’s one of the reasons I rely on it so often when I need help getting through the day.

Most compelling lyrics:

I know I’m not strong enough to be / everything that I’m supposed to be / I give up–I’m not strong enough. / Hands of Mercy, won’t you cover me? / Lord, right now, I’m asking you to be strong enough. / Strong enough for the both of us. 

1.) Anybody Have a Map? from Dear Evan Hansen

And then there are days when the most comforting thing, as a parent, is admitting you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. Though it’s just the chorus of this song from Dear Evan Hansen that I sing–sometimes over and over again on loop–it captures those moments so perfectly I had to rank it as my #1 song for when the struggle is real.

Most compelling lyrics:

Does anybody have a map? / Does anybody happen to know how the hell to do this? / I don’t know if you can tell / but this is me just pretending to know. / So where’s the map? / I need a clue ’cause the scary truth is / I’m flying blind / and I’m making this up as I go. 

As my mother tried to explain to me repeatedly before Babyface was born, children are born with their own unique personalities and preferences, and perhaps not all 25 of these songs will resonate with your little one. Maybe you’ll be like me, singing away to your three-week-old baby “Long legs and perfect skin / a body built for sin / and cleavage you could hold a whole parade in,” while desperately praying she’ll have found a new favorite before she’s old enough to understand the words you’re saying. But with any luck, this list of the top 25 good songs to sing with your baby will help the two of you find some favorites you can both agree on.

A couple of tips for those of you who are new to the singing-with-baby thing: None of us actually know all of the lyrics to songs at first. Ginger Snaps’s strategy is to sing the three lines he knows on loop, claiming that the cadence and his voice are all Babyface really cares about, while the perfectionist in me prefers to look the lyrics up on my phone when I sing with her. Whatever your preferred method, it’s okay: your baby won’t remember your imperfections; she’ll just care that you were there and that you were trying.

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