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Writing songs for kids

Updated on August 30, 2012

The Right Approach to write Songs for Children

Songwriting is an Art,make no mistake about that.

Whenever I listen to great songs like: "The first time ever I saw your face" A song written by Ewen Mac Call in 1957
popularized by Roberta Flack in 1969 This is a song crafted
with feeling and style. Kids songs should also be written with passion and enthusiasm
to make the children feel good. The best children songs can last forever:

"Itsy Bitsy spider"

" The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout.
Down came the rain, and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun, and dried up all the rain
And the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again."

The processes of Songwriting differ. Sometimes the song "comes to you": You are inspired by Someone, Something, or just a Sound, a word, a Phrase even a Smell. Everything can lead to writing a song. Every emotion can trigger a Songwriter to write a song. Songwriting isn't just writing down a few catchy phrases and a chorus. Songwriting is an art that can be mastered by those who really put effort into becoming a great Songwriter. I say a great Songwriter, because anybody can write a song, but the art to touch a "string " when people hear your song,whether they feel glad or sad, a combination of the right words, and melody can make a big difference between a song that is good and one that is great!


There is always room for improvement with your song,so when you think your song is ready, do a re-check and re-write it. I learned this the hard way. There are exceptions of course, but in my opinion a one day song will never be as good as a song you took time to craft.

I once submitted a song to be chosen for a representation of Suriname to an international Songwriting competition. I had written the song years before,and thought it was a good song. It was in fact good, but not good enough! I had the highest score but the jury found I had to make the song stronger to represent my country. Now I had to rush the song,with involvement of a jury. I won the nomination, but I didn't win the competition. I was very angry at myself. I could have done a lot better if I had just rewritten the song ,dug deeper and put more time and effort into it. From that day on I decided never to be satisfied with the first draft of whatever song I wrote. With this approach, I started to look at international competitions. In 2006 I wrote a song for the first lo-budget love World songwriting competition. I won the grand prize with the song "Pasensi kado" There were 200 participants from all over the world.

Becoming a Songwriter was really a process of trial and error. for me I always enjoyed writing,whether it was a story to entertain my children, or a song to make them laugh.

I started playing the flute at a young age. I always wanted to play the piano, but a piano was too expensive for my parents to afford,so we decided on a flute,which wasn't too cheap, but my parents insisted that all of their six children had to learn to play a musical instrument. We all had the opportunity to express our musical talents.


My music teacher was the late Surinamese flutist Eddy Snijders,who was also the conductor of the Suriname youth Orchestra. So at the age of fourteen, he taught it was time for me to become a member of the Suriname Youth Orchestra. I played in the youth Orchestra for several years,and when I was about 18 years,my neighbor, Sam who played keyboard,asked me to join a band called: the "Voodoo Gypsies".

The leader of the band Siegfried Vianen was a bit of a controversial figure,who had his own style. He thought we didn't have to practice,so we just played
what came to mind. Everybody in the band was able to express themselves. We really were a jam band and it was fun. In that time it was very rare for a female to play in a band,and with a flute I was really kind of exotic attraction.

Later I joined another band called "Explosion" We changed the name years later into into "Brainwash" Again in this band we played our own music, because the leader of the band : Jerry Themen,was a songwriter too. In those days people didn't really wanted to hear new styles, in Suriname,the case was to be the best fake Otis Redding, James Brown, Rolling Stones, etc. Because of all the stimulation from my bandleaders, I also started writing songs and it became my passion.

In the year 2000 I won a local songwriting competition:"SURIPOP" and the song I wrote for that event was "Yu na mi son" which means :"You are my Sun" This song came to me, when I was looking through my photo album and saw all my three children as babies. I had a very strong feeling of each of them as i memorized the moment they were born, I closed my eyes to experience that wonderful moment again. The moment I held them in my arms for the first time. And it inspired me to start writing the song :'Yu na mi son".

As a songwriter you must not wait for a song to come to you. If it does its wonderful,but it won't happen everyday and a songwriter must write EVERYDAY.
You must go out and search for a song. This is the most productive way.

Search for the song ,dig deep and search. Start to look around you,or search inside of yourself, your family, kids your neighborhood. Read a book, listen to music.Songs are everywhere everyday Because a song is a story, a story told in a few minutes or even seconds, the children song:"Meneer de Kakkerlak " is about 45 seconds, but it's a song, a story about a funny cockroach:

When we write songs for children we must take a different approach then writing for adults. Try to think of yourself as a child. What did you liked? What made you happy? What did you really wanted to know? All these questions and curiosities that are in kids minds, can be told in a pleasant way. In a song. A song for a kid can be funny,or catchy, but never depressing, or sad. Children must feel good when they sing! Here are 7 tips to write songs for children:


1. Use rhyme children learn a song faster when it has a good rhyme

2. Use simple melodies:(think:Twinkle twinkle little star)

3. Listen to songs you liked when you were small,and notice what you liked about them. Then try to imitate the song with your own lyrics.

4. Look for a co-writer if you don't play an instrument and he or she does
(but remember even if you don't play an instrument you can still make melodies) Knowledge of music theory is a plus.

5. Personalize songs if you make a song for a child,children like to "be"
in a song.

6.You can teach kids stuff by singing it: brush your teeth, tie your shoes,
make your bed. They'll like it and mostly do it too if you sing it instead of telling them.



See me Singing the Cockroach song "Meneer de Kakkerlak" with the kids - Meneer de Kakkerlak

The kids love this song! But I always had to be the cockroach.... I didn't care it was fun!

The Sad story of Nimesh.

My animator from India Nimesh created a singing dancing cockroach for track no 7 "Meneer de Kakkerlak". Unfortunately he had an accident before the project was finished. He died one day after the accident. I was shocked, and very sad. His team members finished the animation : "Meneer de Kakkerlak"

Nimesh's Animation of the Cockroach - "Meneer de Kakkerlak" "Mr Cockroach"

Mr Cockroach sings Dutch, so I will translate the song into English:

Here it goes:

"I am Mr cockroach I wear a brown cockroach coat and spray it with cockroach odeur, I think it's a great cockroach smell.and the kids reply:

You are Mr cockroach: You wear a brown cockroach coat

and spray it with cockroach odeur You think it's a great cockroach smell


500 CD's in one day - My cd marketing tactics

I did it with the help of my family and a few talented young artists. I couldn't rely on the the radio stations in Suriname because they hardly play children s music.The advantage I had was that there hadn't been made original kids songs in Suriname for decades, and I knew parents were hoping for someone to write new kids songs. First I tried to find a sponsor,but I soon realized that was going to be a total waste of my time, because the potential sponsors were more interested in sponsoring more popular activities, like the many, many Song festivals that are held in Suriname a country with a population of hardly half a million people. So I had to look for my target group or Parents and kids. Kids go to school,so the promotion had to start in the schools. To promote at schools, you need permission of the Ministry of Education. I got that permission after corresponding for about two months with the administration. To motivate the schools. I gave the schools a commission on every CD sold. Some teachers took advantage of it ,others were totally uninterested and demotivated,and even returned the money kids brought for the CD's to their parents.The most dreaded part was that I had to call the school leaders first, and explain about the CD. There were a lot of questions to be answered,and before I knew it I lost 30 minutes to answer questions of teachers about the CD. After a while I got the grip of this call system, so that I spend less time on the telephone. But this was a big organization, primitive maybe but successful, fortunately I had a lot of help from my friend Mary,who went with me to more than fifty schools day in and out to give them fliers and other promotional material.

Brigi-Digi-Dam the CD

The CD art is by Robbert Enfield a Surinamese Painter currently living on the Island of Tortola in the British Virgin Island and designed by by Jerome Romeo.

The Singers on This CD are: Whitney van der Marck, Debora Martin, Irene Panka, Chantal Romeo, Burnitia Panka, The children of the "Sjommischool" and of course Mr. Cockroach

All songs Are written by Ruth Koenders. The Album is produced by "Stichting No Fasi Production a foundation that I started in 2002 to stimulate young Surinamese artists .

Download Brigi-Digi-Dam at Amazon - Surinamese kids songs in Sranan Tongo and Dutch

Here are 5 tracks of the childrens CD Brigi-Digi-Dam by Ruth Koenders,Surinamese Songwriter,also known as Maripa.

You can also download the complete CD at Amazon

Most of the songs are written in Sranan or Sranan Tongo:

The Sranan Tongo words for 'to know' and 'small children' are sabi and pikin which is due to the Portuguese having been the first explorers of the West African coast, where they developed a pidgin language from which a few words became common coin in interactions with Africans by explorers who came afterward, including the English. However, research has established that Sranan is fundamentally an English-based language, with an overlay of words from Dutch, due to the Dutch takeover of Surinam in 1667.

Sranan Tongo's lexicon is thus a fusion of English, Dutch, Portuguese and Central and West African languages. It began as a pidgin spoken primarily by African slaves in Suriname who often did not have a common African language. Sranan also became the language of communication between the slaves and the slave-owners, as the slaves were prohibited to speak Dutch. As other ethnic groups were brought to Suriname as contract workers, Sranan became a lingua franca.

Although the formal Dutch-based educational system repressed its use, Sranan became more accepted by the establishment over time.

Sranan remains widely used in Suriname and in large Dutch urban areas, especially in casual conversation where it is often mixed in freely with Dutch. People often greet each other using Sranan, saying for example "fa waka" (how are you) instead of the more formal Dutch "hoe gaat het" (how are you).

Sranan as a written language has existed since the late 19th century, and was given an official spelling by the government of Suriname on July 15, 1986 (resolution 4501). A small number of writers have used Sranan in their work, most notably the poet Henri Frans de Ziel ("Trefossa"), who also wrote Suriname's national anthem (the second verse is sung in Sranan Tongo).

Brigi-Digi-Dam The CD The title track is about a kids band that like to play at parties to make kids dance and feel good. They enjoy playing for the kids. Download the complete CD Here!
Kes’kes' e meki bbu
Kes’kes' e meki bbu
A child tells who visits the zoo with his/her mom said to the mother: mom the monkey makes faces at me,and the mom says: If the monkey makes faces at you,then you must make faces at him to:) Language:Sranan Tongo
Meneer de Kakkerlak (Instrumental)
Meneer de Kakkerlak (Instrumental)
This song is about Mr.Cockroach,its the most popular according to the kids and the most downloaded song,see the video of the dancing cockroach Language: Dutch
Anansi koni
Anansi koni
This song is about the spider "Anansi" who is said to be the smartest of all animals and ants,and the donkey who is the dumbest. Language Sranan Tongo.
Imagine what it would be if mice would live in a closet. That's what this song is about. Baby mice were living in a closet,and when they grew up they ate the clothes and the drawers too. Language Sranan Tongo

Children need good songs

Songs for kids

For months I have been busy writing new songs for kids. Especially songs for kids in Suriname, because as the owner of a daycare and preschool,and a Songwriter I saw the big need for Suriname's kids to have new songs. Every time I asked one of them to sing a song, they sung the same old songs my grandparents used to sing,or songs they hear on the radio,mostly songs they don't understand. They just sing along even if the songs have some nasty lyrics I want to change this and this project is a start! I have written 15 new songs for the kids between two and twelve years old. The name of the CD is Brigi-Digi-Dam. Brigi-Digi-Dam is the sound of a drum. When kids make music the first instrument they use is a drum,or something to beat on,and that makes a sound. Wether its your chair,the refrigerator, or maybe your beautiful glass table all children will find something to play drums on. That's Brigi-Digi-Dam, the Loud Banging children like so much .


When you want to reduce spending,you need to have a team that is motivated,

skilled,and can cope with stress. Luckily my team had all of the above

Rolf my husband was totally involved, and did all the administration and the PR.

My friend Mary went with me to all the schools and my son Jerome did the design

and duplication of the CD's, so that I could have the exact number of CD's I needed,

when it was appropriate.

Inspired by a baby

Shane was one of the first babies to arrive at the daycare. One day he was very cranky and cried when his dad brought him into the daycare center. Then, I put him on my lap and started singing, lullabies, songs melodies, but he still cried. Then I thought to start rowing, and I sang : "We are rowing, rowing"

I made rowing movements,and Shane kept quit and seemed to like it,so I had to continue the rowing. Then I went on with the song: "We are rowing on the Suriname river , I kept on rowing and singing, until I saw a smile on Shane's face.

I went home later and finished the song. The way the song sounded in my ears was sung by a youth choir. So I went to the conductor of the Suriname youth choir,

to ask if they wanted to sing the song on my CD. At first he was not too enthusiastic about the idea. Luckily he changed his mind,and the song

" Roeien op de Surinamerivier" is now on track no 15 the last song on the CD

For the first time in The music Studio - Meneer de kakkerlak,Wakawakamira,and Roeien op de Surinamerivier

The kids were excited, we practiced for weeks and today was the big day:

We were going to the music studio to make a CD.They had to sing two songs and the youth choir was coming along for the song: "Roeien op de Surinamerivier" to reduce the expenses. I asked the parents to give them only a small bottle of water, and I was glad I did. First thing kids want to do when they arrive at a new place is going to the bathroom and asking for water. They did both,as I expected,so fortunately we only had to go to the bathroom multiple times. We took a bus to go to the studio, because it was far away from the school. We stopped to pick up the youth choir at their practice location and went on to the music studio. We left about 12 noon and the small ones finished their songs in about one hour. The work with the choir took much more time they finished the

song about 8 0 clock in the evening. So this song "Roeien op de Surinamerivier" became the most expensive song on the CD.

The banner in front of my house

Most record shops in Suriname sell only illegal copies,of CD's so I really didn't trusted them with my CD.To be sure that I reached most of my potential clients,I placed a banner in front of my house and advertised on the radio too. I made an advertisement of 2 minutes,with a mix of different tracks,so that the people could hear what I was selling. As I said before the radio hardly plays children s music in my country and maybe elsewhere too, but bottom line, I had to find a way to let the people hear my music. I paid a lot for the airtime at two major radio stations. Another problem I had, was that my street was being repaired so that my clients had to walk around a lot of barriers. I am very grateful that they had no problem with that.



He came with a smile into my garden,the gate was wide open because the gardener was busy and had to go in and out of the gate. The Gardener called me and said that there was somebody waiting to buy a CD. Nothing special,because I have a banner in front of my home. The man introduced himself as Mr..WOLF yes! Now Wolf is an ordinary name here in Suriname .He was an Amar Indian, and told me he came on behalf of the Captain of an Indian city deep in the South of Suriname called Apoera about 600 kilometers from Paramaribo, the City where I live. I asked him to sit down and if he wanted a cup of coffee,yes with a little sugar please he said polite. To make a long story short. He said he asked around where he could find me,because the children of Apoera wanted to listen to the CD but couldn't afford it. I felt sorry,for the kids,and gave him a CD to play it on the local radio station. He gave me two cellphone numbers to call the captain, which were fake of course. But the dumbest thing I did was giving him the money he asked because he ran out of gas. He left after I gave him my umbrella because the rain was pouring hard.

He would be back in the afternoon to give me my umbrella and the money he "borrowed"

Dumb,but its all in the game. I assume that when he saw the banner he made up the Apoera story.

The two minute radio ad - Surinamese ad for the promotion of Brigi-Digi-Dam

With collage of pictures from the kids of my Preschool and daycare,and family.

Voice: Irene Panka

"Yu na mi son" - Grand prize winning song of the SURIPOP competition 2000

I inherited the 'Sjommischool" and daycare from my late mother: Jettie,and decided to continue it. Unfortunately I had to close the school and daycare last year. In this video collage you see an impression of the 5 year period I had, with the kids.

The music is from my Suripop winning song: 'Yu na mi son"

My Suripop award - Grand Prize of the Suripop(Suriname Popular) songwriters competition

In 1983 I won the first prize in the Political catogary with the song Boni Doro,co-written by Hugo Landolf. In the year 2000 I won the grand prize of the 11th edition of the Suripop now held once every two years in Suriname. The award is made of aluminum and the foot is of nature stone


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