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Top 8 Folk Recordings for Children

Updated on November 28, 2015

The Autoharp: A Folk Instrument


REAL Folk Music

Does your child only listen to Sesame Street and Disney Music? Or maybe just pop or country radio? As wonderful as they are (my family listens to them too), there is more to American music.

Just like the Rolling Stones encouraged their fans to listen to what inspired them (the blues), I say lets give our children a richer history of our musical heritage by playing quality folk songs that inspired our songs of today.

Many times a commercial will use a public domain song and add their own words to it. As a musician and teacher, I would much prefer that kids have heard the original song first.

Music Resources for Parents and Teachers
Music Resources for Parents and Teachers | Source

Recommended Folk Music Recordings for Children

1 Smithsonian Folkways Children's Music Collection (various artists) The Smithsonian Folkways and the Library of Congress Folklife collections maintain a valuable reservoir of folk music and recordings. This CD includes carefully chosen cuts that exemplify the range of children's folk music in America.

2 Raffi: The Singable Songs Collection Raffi is a master at combining traditional with the popular in his renditions of folk tunes. He does it in a way that's very approachable for young children without losing the integrity of the song. He also writes his own cool stuff.

3 Folk Playground or any Putumayo Release Any Putamayo release expands your child's music mind to include new instruments, new beats and new scales and keys.I often played Bollywood music and Ethnic folk music at home. My daughters and I would dance and twirl in long dresses. Now when they hear this kind if music they don't immediately say "Eeww that's weird" and change the music.

4 Music for Little People: A Child's Celebration Folk Music (various artists)

5 Animal Songs for Children Mike, Peggy, Barbara, Penny Seeger I would use this as background music. It may seem a little corny to your children used to Katy Perry but once the melodies get familiar you're kids will ask if you can play this for them. I have it on my iPhone and I listen to it in the car.

6 I Had a Little Rooster by Jill Trinka and John Feiraband This is a wonderful collaboration between two experts in American folk song history. They both separately and together have documented and recorded many examples of our music heritage.

7 Jean Ritchie: Ballads from Her Appalachian Family Tradition Jean Ritchie is a national treasure. She sings songs from her Appalachian childhood and adulthood with such beauty and authenticity.

8 Sweet Honey in the Rock: Selections Album or any music by Ella Jenkins or Doc Watson The strength in the sound and the harmonies of Sweet Honey in the Rock gets its inspiration by Gospel music.

Honorable Mention: The World Sings Goodnight (various artists)

A Child's Celebration of Folk Music
A Child's Celebration of Folk Music

This is a wonderful collection of folk songs. Some are familiar, some are more obscure. Performed by various artists like Raffi and Sweet Honey in the Rock.


Copyright Controversy

This Music Belongs to Us!

The United States has culture and history that is well worth preserving. Both the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress work diligently on our behalf to collect and preserve this information. They are also working very hard to get much of this information up online for the world to have access to.

Which brings me to my soapbox. Artists and musicians need copyright protection. It frees them to create with a free mind in the knowledge that they will benefit from their own hard work.

At the same time, I believe that after the artist or musician has passed on, their work should be then open to the public. It should be credited to them, but put into the public domain. Many disagree with me on this.

We have a wealth of songs and music from the past that we may not have ever heard of if there had been copyright restrictions. As a teacher, there is a little leeway with fair use, but at a certain point, copyright restrictions can actually stifle knowledge. Like a faucet that's dried up, like an artist with only a couple colors on their palette, people who can't pay for this copyright access will no longer get to hear these things or see these things.

Here's a controversy: Alan Lomax almost single handedly documented our American and World Folk Culture for the Library of Congress and saved it from obscurity. He was also controversial because he added his name to the copyrights of some folk songs and performances.

Here's a question: Woody Guthrie was known as a populist and as a voice for the downtrodden and the poor. Would he approve of regular people not being allowed to sing his songs publicly because they couldn't afford to pay the performance rights?

Should the copyright go on forever? The composer should always receive credit for their compositions. But where is the end game for the copyright?

Should the copyright of an artist's music be something their family would inherit?

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Comments most welcome.

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    • Kim Milai profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Milai 

      5 years ago

      @SusanDeppner: Thank you, we have fun dancing and singing at home. Although now my daughters are pre-teens and if I try to sing or dance they get so embarrassed!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I love what you wrote under the "World Playground" album. It's so important to enrich their lives by exposing our children to lots of great music styles. Your kiddos are so blessed to have you!

    • Kim Milai profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Milai 

      5 years ago

      @happynutritionist: Thank you so very much. The autoharp pictured is my new retro style I love it. I appreciate your encouragement. I'm hoping to reach more people in Squidoo. My blog didn't really get the traffic I wanted :)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I love the picture of the autoharp in the intro - and what you are writing about folk music for children. You have such experience as a music teacher that I'm sure over time these pages are going to be growing and bursting with good information! Thank you for taking time to share with us.


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