Folk music for kids by Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, and more

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Woody Guthrie’s Songs to Grow On For Mother and Child.

Finding music that young kids and adults can agree on can prove to be a challenge — there a lot of albums out there with debatable content (do you REALLY want to hear a group of kids sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” for the 85 millionth time?). I recently stumbled into a whole treasure trove of folk music for children, including albums by Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash. So if folk is your thing.. come on down and listen:

Songs to Grow on for Mother & Child

Woody Guthrie included some pretty direct advice to parents in the liner notes of this record: “Don’t just buy this record and take it home so your kids can listen to it while you go off and do something else.” This album is super upbeat and nonsensical at times, but will appeal to folk music fans across the ages. It’s definitely one you can clap and dance along to WITH your kid, instead of running in the other room and plugging your ears.

Woody Guthrie Children’s Songs

The songs on this record aren’t actually sung by Guthrie, but they’re definitely all his. This one is notoriously difficult to track down (Amazon only has three copies available), but songs like “Dance Around” (you can hear it here on Grooveshark) make it worth finding!

American Folk Songs for Children

This is a two disc set of nearly 100 songs from Mike and Peggy Seeger. I think this Amazon review says it all:

Forget about purple dinosaurs and inept adults dumbing down low quality music to hypnotize children with insincere emotion. This is the real stuff. This album is quality authentic music that children love! My kids wear this album out and better yet I like it.

The Johnny Cash Children’s Album

“Fun children’s music” might not be the first three words that spring to mind when you think of Johnny Cash, but as The Johnny Cash Children’s Album proves, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be! Granted, these songs are decidedly different from the rest of Cash’s discography, but they’re perfect for your little folk singer in-training.

What kid’s music by adult artists have you shared with your kids?

Comments on Folk music for kids by Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, and more

  1. John Denver. Especially “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders”.

    Kids love easy to understand lyrics and a catchy chorus so older pop like ABBA, Barry Manilow, and 1950s sock-hop music are generally adored.

  2. I totally grew up listening to those Woody Guthrie kid songs with my parents and now I listen to them with my son.

    I don’t think he’s ever had a bath where we weren’t singing “Washy washy washy…”

  3. I have to second the Elizabeth Mitchell recommendation. She is AMAZING and her music definitely falls into both the folk music for kids category and the kids music that won’t drive you crazy category. She and Lisa Loeb have teamed up a few times too, if I remember correctly.

  4. I don’t even have kids, yet, but I love Kimya Dawson’s “alphabutt” album, and the Earthwork Music 4 Kids is amazing and folksy.

  5. Yes, Elizabeth Mitchell. We have Several of her albums–they’re so sweet and lovely. She covers woody and bob marley, etc, on some songs, too. I think her “you are mY little bird” is so moving for when you’re expecting.

    Oh , and I love playing our baby Janet Klein albums. 1920s pop music is perfect for more playful moments 🙂

  6. Snacktime by Barenaked Ladies is on permanent rotation in our house. There’s not much better than songs about ninjas and cameos by Gordon Lightfoot. Adults and 3 month old babies alike seem to enjoy this one!

    • We LOVE this album at home too. Proven to soothe cranky babies at our house. It’s fun and clever. Our son enjoys watching us head bang to Allergies.

      Also we LOVE Raffi. I grew up listening to him and now my son is. He has a nice soothing voice. Also sings a song about Zombies en francais. Can’t wait to see him in concert this December.

      We have found recently our son get super excited when my husband puts metal music on lately and he jumps around foolishly. Hilarious!

  7. Great post. A lot of folk music is great kids music. Some offbeat music my child likes are The Flaming Lips and Strawberry Alarm Clock. Fun and interesting. Also what Kris said “Not For Kids Only by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman” Yes!

  8. kimya dawson’s ‘alphabutt’ is AWESOME. we listen to it in the car all the time.
    arty also loves that johnny cash children’s album, though we skip the song where he shoots his dog… O.O

  9. In Chicago, we have Wiggleworms classes for kids at the Old Town School of Folk Music. They’ve got a couple of CD’s that are great. Plus, they have a few Woody Guthrie songs on them, songs in Spanish, French, Swahili (I think), etc. Really good stuff.

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