If you’re happy and you know it…
You said (or sang!) clap your hands in your head didn’t you? That song remains a staple in early childhood classrooms and in homes for good reasons. Preschoolers love moving and singing and clapping and stomping. Teachers appreciate how the song begins to teach the youngest children about emotions. And parents grew up singing it so they already know all of the words by heart!
Music and movement support social-emotional development in young children. The research proves what teachers and parents have known all along. For example, singing, dancing, and using hand motions in a group increases cooperation and creates greater empathy for each other. So keep clapping those hands and stomping those feet! We put together 10 kids music videos to get you started.
- “Thank You” by The Okee Dokee Brothers
Social Emotional Benefits: This song helps to teach young children about being thankful. Learning how (and why) to be grateful increases a child’s capacity for empathy and early childhood research indicates it also leads to increased feelings of happiness and generosity.
Teaching Tips: Make up your own verses to the song. Talk about what you are thankful for in that moment or put out some art supplies and draw a picture of it!
2. “Feel What U Feel” by Lisa Loeb
Social Emotional Benefits: Helping children identify and label their feelings and the feelings of others increases emotional literacy. Our feelings are complicated and complex and this song for preschoolers covers many emotions and emotional situations that young children could encounter.
Teaching Tips: Talk about some of the situations. Ask if anyone ever feels cranky after not sleeping well or feels like their skin is on too tight or sad or happy or confident. There are so many emotions to cover in this song!
3. “When You First Let Go” by Justin Roberts
Social Emotional Benefits: Learning to trust adults and caregivers creates healthy bonding and paves the way for emotional growth. This song will tug at the heartstrings (and tear ducts) of the adults as they think about all of the little bonding moments that happen as a child grows.
Teaching Tips: Promote bonding by using this song for snuggle or rocking time. Older preschoolers might enjoy playing the caregiver by rocking a favorite stuffed animal.
4. “Blue Bear” by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
Social Emotional Benefits: Preschoolers will definitely be able to relate to this Blue Bear’s emotion of feeling hangry and how finding a circle of friends to welcome him makes all of the difference. Learning how to be a good friend AND recognize those qualities in others takes practice.
Teaching Tips: Talk about what Blue Bear might have felt when no one would give him something to eat. What about when he finally found his friends? What makes them good friends? (Blue Bear’s friends welcomed him and shared what they had!) Get out some googly eyes and patterned paper and make a friend for Blue Bear inspired by the artwork in the video.
5. “Stop & Go” by Ella Jenkins
Social Emotional Benefits: Young children can not get enough of this song or similar songs and games, such as “Red Light, Green Light.” During the song, preschoolers have no idea that they are also practicing inhibitory control each time they stop their bodies or start them back up again based on musical cues. Good inhibitory control is a key ingredient to early school success.
Teaching Tips: Instead of watching the screen, turn up the volume and play along. This song can make a great “brain break” and help little ones get the wiggles out if it is not quite time for outdoor play. This song also can help with transitioning back from the playground to the classroom or the car.
6. “Lovely, Love My Family” by The Roots
Social Emotional Benefits: You probably already guessed it but this song is all about the love of a family! For many young children, their families are where they initially form and sustain positive relationships. The learning begins from infancy when a child cries and a family caregiver responds by meeting his or her needs.
Teaching Tips: Talk about what you love about your family and who makes up your family. (Don’t be surprised if a child includes a favorite character from a movie alongside Granddaddy or Mom!) Children will discover that families may look different but the love within them is the same.
7. “Love Me for Who I Am” by Brady Rhymer
Social Emotional Benefits: This song focuses on valuing and respecting diversity and accepting differences. This can lead to increased empathy and understanding in relationships while also helping to create an inclusive community.
Teaching Tips: Take the time to give one compliment to each student in your classroom or let children know one trait or characteristics that makes them so special. This works at home, too. You can expand the practice to outside your family, as well.
8. “Kindness Is a Muscle” by Universal Kids
Social Emotional Benefits: Learning what it means to be kind and putting it into practice takes time. However, kindness leads to healthy relationships with peers and adults and helps children feel happiness. This song teaches children that we need to exercise kindness in order to make it stronger.
Teaching Tips: Talk about random acts of kindness that you see in your community, your neighborhood, your home or your classroom. Examples could include giving a compliment to the cashier at the grocery store, sharing your red crayon with a friend, or bringing freshly baked cookies to a neighbor.
9. “You’ve Got a Friend” by the Crosbys
Social Emotional Benefits: This familiar song provides specific examples of what it means to be a good friend, including being available to help when needed, seeking and receiving help, communicating needs, and more.
Teaching Tip: Talk about what qualities make a good friend and what are some practical ways that a preschooler can be a good friend (sharing, being a helper, listening to what the other person says, etc.)
10. “What I Am” by Will.i.am on Sesame Street
Social Emotional Benefits: Self-awareness is a key component of social emotional learning that includes being able to identify your own strengths, limitations, thoughts and emotions. This song fully leans into the growth mindset for preschoolers as they are learning more about themselves and how to express themselves.
Teaching Tips: You can’t sit still with this song. Get up and move. Ask children to fill in the blank, What I am is… Then let them know what you see, too. What you are is kind, helpful, funny, etc. This will help to build up their emotional literacy and self-awareness.
Now It’s Your Turn
I know. I know. We left off lots of amazing songs. It wasn’t easy to narrow the list to ten! Did we leave your favorite children’s music video off the list? Share it in the comments. The more music the better.
Lisa Camino Rowell has spent more than 20 years in early childhood education. She’s written for well-known brands, such as Kindermusik International, Reading Rainbow, Babies R Us, Crayola, KinderCare, and Pampers. Lisa loves writing for the Teaching Is a Royal Adventure blog because she considers it her life’s best work whenever she creates content that supports the role of parents as a child’s first and best teacher or provides tools that help early childhood educators excel in the classroom.