11 Family Music Albums to Get Kids Moving

These 11 family music albums full of STEM and SEL topics will have kids moving to the beat and learning some important lessons while doing so.

Baby Ninja.Performed by Kelli Welli. CD. $12. Digital download. $10. 30 minutes. 1st+1st Media. 2023.
Kelli Caldwell, a.k.a. Kelli Welli, showcases her powerful vocals and driving rhythms on her fourth album for families. Filled with an almost frenetic energy, her style defies categorization with a mix of country, rock, pop, and hints of punk. The album kicks off with the title song, a rollicking tale of the speed and stealth of a toddler. While the music is often bold, the lyrics are loving and supportive, as is evident in “Superstar,” which features the line, “I love you and always will,” and “I Put My Heart Into,” which describes making things like bread, a quilt, and a rocking horse with heart and love. Children will continue to feel empowered when Uncle Jumbo joins Welli on “You’re a Sunny Day,” and she lauds the strength of young ones in “Hey Little Hero.” Welli provides over-the-top fun with “Skunk in a Handstand” and “Ryan the Lion,” a tune written and performed with her young son. The album ends on an unexpectedly quiet note with “Frère Jacques in Five,” a rendition of the traditional tune sung in five different languages. VERDICT Families looking for themes of love wrapped in fun, lively music will want to give Baby Ninja a try.–Veronica Schwartz De Fazio

Brambletown. Performed by The Okee Dokee Brothers. CD. $16.99. Digital download. $8.99. Record. $24.99. 46 min. Okee Dokee Music. 2023.
The GRAMMY Award–winning Okee Dokee Brothers (Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing) give listeners what comes naturally for them—quality music with a message. This time they tackle some tough topics, such as the environment and recycling, the true meaning of home, gratitude, and interconnectedness with humor and lightness. The themed album that takes listeners to Brambletown and its colorful cast of characters. Opening with the toe-tapping invitation to come on down to the Bramble, the Brothers introduce the many inhabitants (“Junkyard Raccoon,” “Dr. Mole’s Apothecary,” “Old Badger”), tell stories that teach subtle messages (“The Fox and the Hare”), and get listeners singing along (“Child of Nature,” “The Varmints”). Each song has its own message, feeling, and sound, with many rhythms, musical styles, and instrumentations. Vocals often channel music and harmonies of John Denver, backed by instruments like banjo, trombone, harmonica, accordion, and fiddle. VERDICT Pack this one in the car on the next family road trip, as it will enhance the adventure.–Stephanie Bange

The Christmas Tree: A Christmas Story with Music. Performed by Ina Allen. CD. $15. Digital download. $9. 30:26 min. Music and Narrative. 2022.
Set on a Christmas Eve “long ago” in a fairy-tale cottage in an unnamed forest, Allen’s latest story evokes a simpler time without technology or modern-day conveniences when families just enjoyed being together without a screen to distract them. In this tale, Ruslan and Vernya live in the cottage with their five children, “who were all two years apart except for the twins.” Ruslan works as a woodcutter and one day brings a tree home for Christmas. The forest animals help decorate it, mother makes handmade gifts for everyone, and the family has a wonderful Christmas filled with love and happiness. Allen includes some beautiful turns of phrase like, “slumber of deep snow enveloped the land” which are given a weight and sense of place through the narration of Chloë of the Midnight Storytellers. Following each one-to-two minutes of storytelling are thoughtfully selected piano interludes of equal length that reflect the emotions and actions that was just depicted in the story. The Christmas Tree is a gentle departure from the hustle and bustle of today’s Christmas celebrations. VERDICT A solid selection for collections where more traditional Christmas tales are in demand.–Veronica Schwartz De Fazio

Everybody Needs a Little Sunshine. ­Performed by Kymberly Stewart. Digital download. $9.49. 28 min. Kymberly Stewart. 2023.
Los Angeles–based singer/songwriter Stewart’s follow-up to her debut family album Giggles and Curls is a delight from beginning to end. Stewart sets the tone with the title track, infusing every note with a sense of joy. Her rich voice, often reminiscent of a young Diana Ross, takes the lead on every song, seamlessly switching musical genres from gospel to Doo Wop to R&B. Her lyrics support messages of love, kindness, and unity, all wrapped up in a big dose of fun. Several songs would work well in story time or the classroom, including the dance parties “Rock and Roll with You” and “On the Playground,” as well as the slow-fast movement song “Little Hip-hop Bunnies,” which alternates between a lullaby and hip-hop beat. The album closes with the showstopper, “We All Live Together” which leaves listeners with the reminder that, “we all live together in this great big beautiful world.” VERDICT This celebration of love and joy is not to be missed.–Veronica Schwartz De Fazio

Forest Flow. Performed by Jessa Campbell & the Saplings. Digital download. $10. 33 min. Saplings Music. 2023.
Idaho-based Campbell’s follow-up album to her award-winning debut, Can You Feel It? , is filled with music and ecology and will keep kids on the move. The 10 original songs on this album range in musical style, from hip-hop to pop to folk to rock and feature guest artists on several tracks. Opening with the song “Rainbow Flow,” listeners will find it hard to sit in their seats as a harmonic duet between SaulPaul and Campbell takes off discussing the colors of the rainbow with the Talking Heads cover group LDW backing them. SaulPaul and LDW also perform with Campbell on “Movement Is Chemistry,” a dance tune explaining this science concept. Rapper Travis T and 2 8 Tha Native share the lead with Campbell on a couple songs: the former on “Owl’s Game” (a hip-hop song about the food chain) and the latter on “Swim with Me” (a cool, jazzy hip-hop number with sweet harmonies). Palo-Mah shares the mic with her in “Vuela, Vuela Fly,” as they encourage a caterpillar to grow, and in “Walking Goats,” as they sing about things they see while on a walkabout, with ­Palo-Mah singing Spanish lyrics. VERDICT Each of these gems would add a spark of life to a unit on STEM or ecology or make a ride in the car something special.–Stephanie Bange

Good Times. Performed by Ashley Mills Monaghan. Digital download. $9.99. 29 mins. Ashley Mills Monaghan. 2023.
The nine songs on this pop-infused debut album are uplifting, empowering tunes for the whole family. The collection opens with the touching “All of You” sung to a child and highlighting all of the parts (nose, toes, heart, brain) that are loved because “you’re beautiful because you’re you.” Monaghan continues this theme in the “I Belong ­Mantra” where children can sing “I am patient, I am strong/I am happy. I belong” as well as “If I Tell Myself I Can,” which encourages listeners to have confidence and believe in themselves. “The Color Song” is made for story time, asking children to stand up and move around based on the color they are wearing, while “Happy Feet,” a jaunty movement song featuring Music with Michal and Uncle Dox, has children tiptoeing, jumping, and stomping. Monaghan’s breathy voice is backed but never overpowered by layered instrumentation and on occasion, particularly on the title track, “Good Times,” the harmonies have shades of Natalie Merchant. VERDICT A solid first foray into kindie music that will be welcome in the classroom and at home.–Veronica Schwartz De Fazio

Kindies Do the 80’s, Vol. 1. Performed by Patrick Adams. Digital download. $9.49. 36 min. Lyric Star Music. 2023.
Adams partners with eight kindie musicians/groups to cover 10 songs that were popular on the radio and in dance clubs in the 1980s. The arrangements are faithful to the originals; Adams plays on all songs. Most of these covers rely on only synthesizers and drums to accompany them, leaving no bass musical sound or low vocals for support and provided no contrasting range. This makes many of these covers feel lighter than the original recordings. Kids may prefer these over the originals. Highlights include The Bangles’s “Walk Like an Egyptian” (featuring Kath Bee); Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (featuring EVT Kids); A Flock of Seagulls’s “I Ran” (featuring Tim Seston); Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” (featuring Sarah Elizabeth); and Lipps Inc.’s “Funkytown” (featuring Todd’n’Tina—give this one a hand for the occasional insertion of the words “candy town”). A few tunes lack the rich harmonies that made the original hit interesting. Some selections have potentially problematic lyrics—“Hungry Like the Wolf” has suggestive lyrics and “Dare to Be Stupid” is full of sarcasm that some may not feel is appropriate for kids. VERDICT This is music for grandparents to share with the grands and for families to take with them on road trips for a blast to the past.–Stephanie Bange

Listen Lead Love. Performed by Esther Crow. Digital download. $9.49. 26 min. Esther Crow. 2023.
NAPPA Award-winning kindie rocker/climate justice activist Crow has released her second album of 10 original tunes for kids. The themed production encourages listeners to be leaders in their homes and communities, exploring this concept with a little help from a couple of her friends. The album opens with trumpet sounds and an upbeat, percussive call-response rap “Start the Discussion” that focuses on reducing the use of plastic. Highlights include “The Leader in You” (a reggae-pop tune that will inspire positivity, initiative, and community work and features the Kids in Kare Africa orphanage and Father Goose Music joining in the vocals); “Feelings Are a Roller Coaster” (a ballad featuring Crow harmonizing with Kymberly Stewart that encourages kids to listen to others and would be perfect in units on SEL); and Crow’s “Spoonful of Sugar”–like song “Get the Yucky Stuff Done” (a kazoo-laden ditty that encourages kiddoes to get the worst chores over first – then go out and play). Three singles [“The Leader in You,” “Homemade Halloween,” and “Christmas Socks (Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose)”] were shared in the months leading up to the release. Crow’s confidence, strong songwriting skills, and whimsical lyrics match her gutsy singing style perfectly. VERDICT This is one the whole family can enjoy.–Stephanie Bange

Made to Bloom. Performed by Stephanie Leavell. CD. $15. Digital download. $10. 32 min. Music for Kiddos. 2023.
For her second album, Idaho-based music therapist Leavell uses her whispery-soft soprano voice and songwriting skills to help youngsters deal with big emotions. Most of the 10 original tracks are quiet ballads that help kids slow their pace (“Slow Down”), take a breath (“I Need a Break”), and cool down (the bluesy “Grizzly Bear Grump”). Other highlights include “Moon Above” (helps one center your thinking—in this case, focusing on the moon), “All I Wanna Do” (gets kids working out their anxieties, anger, and confusion by dancing, stomping, or jumping), “If You Need to Cry” (embracing and feeling those strong emotions), and “Get Back Up Again” (words of encouragement after a disappointment). Leavell is accompanied by vocal harmonies and a variety of musical instruments, including ukulele, upright bass, mandolin, harp, and drums. VERDICT An excellent tool to add to an SEL toolbox of everyone who works with kids.–Stephanie Bange

Play in My Band! Performed by Stacey ­Peasley. CD. $15. Digital download. $10. 50 min. Stacey Peasley. 2023.
Boston-based Stacey Peasley’s latest album for children is filled with her trademark kindie rock sound. Featuring Peasley’s strong vocals, this collection offers listeners 19 songs that will brighten any story time, preschool classroom or at-home dance party and fills the need for new shaker, stick, bell, and scarf songs. Peasley’s years as an educator are evident in the simple yet engaging lyrics that tell stories, encourage listeners to move like penguins and snowflakes, roar like ­dinosaurs, and “cook” in the kitchen. There are songs for every season (“Apples, Apples,” “The Turkeys Run!” and “Spring is in the Air”) as well. Lively, upbeat melodies grab listeners’ attention from the very first note of each entry. VERDICT With most songs having interactive elements and many only lasting up to 2:30 minutes, this will be a hit with preschool teachers and librarians alike.–Veronica Schwartz De Fazio

Songs for You and Me. Performed by Allegra Levy. CD. $16.97. Digital download. $9.49. 34 min. New Moon Records. 2023.
Jazz singer/songwriter Levy’s first album for families kicks off with “Hello Song,” which includes ways to say hello in a dozen different languages. From there, she takes listeners on a tour of life with tracks like “Noodles,” a rollicking tune about a day when there were “noodles all over the floor”; “I Got a Boo Boo,” which opens with the thrumming pizzicato of a double bass; and “In the Tub,” filled with soothing encouragement to wash away your troubles with the bubbles. Also included are the fast-paced country-tinged “Hip, Hip, Hooray”; a Spanish-language celebration of cuddly, snuggly animals in “Los Animales”; and the interactive, made for story time “Clap Your Hands.” Levy’s rich alto is at the forefront of all 13 songs in the collection, but it really shines at the end as things slow down with “Stella for Star,” a tribute to her daughter, and the lullaby “A Quiet Song.” ­ VERDICT A fantastic jazz ­album rooted in a genre not often tapped for ­children’s music.–­Veronica Schwartz De Fazio

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