11 Family Music Albums To Get Kids Moving

From "Let's Move" to "Moonwalking," seven out of these 11 family music albums have received starred reviews.

Happy Day. Performed by Jenn Cleary. CD. $15. Digital Download. $9.99. 32 min. Jenn Cleary. 2022.
Folk-rock singer-songwriter Cleary introduces 10 original tunes on this follow-up to her 2021 debut album All Together Now. Each song on Happy Day is a positive celebration of life and the world around us. The album opens with the title track, a catchy, interactive, sing-along that big and small kids will enjoy. This is soon followed by the Louisiana zydeco sound of “Plant a Garden” and the humorous “I Like Candy,” an ode to many familiar sugary treats that ends with the realization that moderation is a good thing. The middle of the album focuses on self-care—encouraging listeners to put down their screens and “Take a Walk in the Woods,” slow down a little by adopting “Turtle Time,” and finding strength within themselves in “Only One You.” The album concludes with the unique sounds of “I’m a Yak,” a tribute to the early years of Cleary’s adopted daughter’s life in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal and the beautiful lullaby, “It’s Time to Go to Sleep.” VERDICT This gently empowering collection will engage and entertain children of all ages.–Veronica Schwartz De Fazio

Into the Little Blue House. Performed by Wendy & DB. CD. $20. Digital Download. $20. 41 min. Tigerlily Music. 2022.
Chicago-based Wendy & DB (Wendy Morgan and Darryl “DB” Boggs) beautifully meld their love for the blues with their passion to educate and entertain children on their fifth family music album. Beginning with the opening notes of a wailing harmonica and bluesy guitar on the title track, combined with lyrics like, “Where love is planted, love is grown,” listeners know that they are going to be in for a real treat. The collection includes lighter fare such as “Tie My Own Shoes Blues;” “Going to the City,” about riding El or subway lines; and “In the Neighborhood” a great throwback to childhood summers in the city when all you needed was some sunshine and imagination. Also included are educational tunes like the jaunty “To Bee or Not to Be,” about things you can do to help protect that buzzing population, and “Peanut Butter Blues Jam,” which provides lots of fun facts about peanut butter. Other tunes give direct nods to the history of the blues, with the beautiful “Famous Women of the Blues,” featuring the powerhouse vocals of Ivy Ford, and “Feel Holler” and “Work Song,” in which DB provides brief, accessible explanations of the origins of field hollers and work songs before launching into a cappella tunes that allow his rich voice to shine. Backed by Chicago blues musicians and often joined by a talented children’s choir, Wendy & DB skillfully weave melody, vocals, and lyrics, choosing just the right time for each to shine. VERDICT Filled with heart and soul, this album is not to be missed.–Veronica Schwartz De Fazio

Jukebox. Performed by Street Corner Symphony. Digital Download. $12.49. 39 min. 8 Pound Gorilla Records. 2022. S
A cappella group Street Corner Symphony got its start in 2010 on the all-vocal television competition The Sing-Off. After several albums and appearances around the world, this Nashville-based group has turned its attention to music for the younger set with Jukebox, their first album for families. Featuring sophisticated musical compositions, this collection allows Street Corner ­Symphony’s intricate vocal stylings to shine in a variety of musical genres. Whether they are singing about kindness, encouraging listeners to “Be Brave” by trying new things, or explaining the importance of having an “Attitude with Gratitude” when feeling sad, the group crafts just the right tone to convey the song’s message. While many of the songs have pop undertones, others, such as George Clinton’s funk-filled “Atomic Dog,” the R&B dance jam “Street Corner Shuffle,” or the lush, show-stopping “Amazing Things,” bring other musical genres to the forefront. Not only do the vocals on this album stand out, but the lyrics are a highlight as well. Several of the tunes feature clever lyrics, including the title track which regales older listeners with a child’s wonder as they discover “old” technology like a jukebox and a boom box, as well as the 1990s power-rock ballad-esque, “Ode 2 Phone,” which has a great emotional prelude before diving into lyrics about mourning the loss of your phone. VERDICT Listeners young and old will have this album on repeat for a long time to come.–Veronica Schwartz De Fazio

Just a Minute. Performed by Jesse Jukebox. CD. $15. Digital Download. $10. 28 min. Jesse Jukebox. 2022.
Jesse Friedberg challenged himself to make his fourth production of children’s music a concept album filled with songs that were each one-minute long. Sounds pretty weird, right? But that’s one of the songs! “Weird” is filled with all kinds of instruments that a one-man band would play, song lyrics to reassure that it is OK to be weird, and some vocals that make no sense. Opening with “One Minute Song,” Friedberg clues in listeners to the album’s concept. Some songs are funky (“How Long” discusses how long a minute lasts), some are funny (“The Trilogy of Olive the Dog” details how the dog got lost, then found his way home, told in three parts—each part a minute long), some are ballads (“Books” and “Incredible Snooze”), some are in several musical styles (“What’s Your Dance?” is told in four one-minute parts, each a different style), and some are just plain weird (“Monster Robot” and “Invisible Shirt”). Other standouts include “Library,” “Pizza Party!” and “Pierogi Polka.” With the wide range of topics covered comes an equally wide range of musical styles and genres, including “Groovy Kangaroo” (funk), “Help Our World Go Round” (bubblegum pop), “Sixty Seconds” (New Age), and “Just One More Chip” (middle of the road rock). Yes, in this case, “weird” is something cool—very, very cool. VERDICT This very weird album is filled with ditties that are a browser’s delight to sample; while not for everyone, this will be gobbled up by Friedberg’s fans.–Stephanie Bange

Let’s Move. Performed by Katie Dwyer. CD. $15. Digital Download. $10. 56 mins. West Side Rose. 2022.
For her second kid-focused album, singer-songwriter Dwyer displays her chops in each of these 24 tunes that will make kids want to get up and moving, always morphing her sound to fit the musical style of the song. The complexity of the music and variety of genres on the album will keep listeners energized and engaged. Dwyer’s voice is cheery and bright, often with Broadway pizazz and sizzle. Genres on the album range from the pop-rock opener (“Dance, Dance, Dance”) to hillbilly rock that playfully “hops and stops” (“Gillie the Grasshopper”) to old fashioned hot piano rock ‘n’ roll (“Dino Stomp and Chomp” and “Let’s Rock”). Other standouts include “Let’s Move” (featuring Caribbean reggae music with a steel drum vibe), “Tooper the Turtle” (a story song with xylophone accompaniment that speeds up each verse), “Got a New Canoe” (a bluesy number about paddling the new canoe that also picks up the tempo), “Art is Cool” (starting out as a tango, this turns into soft rock during the refrain and bridge; it encourages creating art), and “Pop Go the Bubbles” (a bubbly pop song that speeds up in the repeat). The accompanying keyboard player often gets a well-deserved moment in the spotlight (in the New Orleans–inspired ending of “Jazzy Fingers” and the hypnotic opening of “I Am Me”). VERDICT This is one album the whole family can enjoy and never tire of listening to.–Stephanie Bange

Moonwalking. Performed by Young Folk. CD. $10.99. Digital Download. $9.49. 29 min. Stonycroft Records. 2022. S
Young Folk is the moniker under which Josh Lovelace creates music for families. The veteran singer-songwriter has found success with the Grammy-nominated rock band NEEDTOBREATHE, and Moonwalking marks Lovelace’s third album for families. As with his previous outings, this collection of 10 new songs captures the whimsy and imagination of childhood while also speaking to the parenting experience. From the title track to the musings in “Mommy’s a Mermaid,” the pop sound and light lyrics work to lift the spirit while “Cool Dad in a Mini Van” and “Rosie Cat” speak to how one’s perspective changes as one become an adult. Also included on the album are “Silly Time!,” a storytime-ready tune that will help to get the wiggles out, and “Wash Your Hands,” a rockabilly reminder to continue to keep the germs away. The collection winds down with the beautiful, affirming “I Believe in You” and the original lullaby, “Goodnight, My Dear.” VERDICT This album is filled with love and joy and will delight children and adults like.–Veronica Schwartz De Fazio

Sing for the Sea. Performed by Claudia Robin Gunn. Digital Download. $16. Approx. 70 min. Claudia Robin Gunn. 2022. S
A two-time APRA Music Award winner (songwriting), New Zealand singer-songwriter Gunn plans to release two themed albums about wildlife conservation and awareness in 2022. This is the first, focusing on the ocean. It celebrates wildlife and other things that can be found in and about the briny seas. There is a dreamy, folk-music quality to Gunn’s soprano voice on all 24 songs. She is accompanied by the skillful Tom Fox playing all instruments except the trumpet on one number. A simplicity shines through each tune, though there is a strong “sameness” since they are largely ballads. No rough seas here. Standouts include “Coral Reef” (featuring harmonies in a soft rock setting), “Ferry Song” (a quirky tune about a ride on the ferry with a ukulele accompaniment), and the catchy “Sandcastle Competition” (this one will have kids singing along with the refrain quickly). Topics covered include not only whales, squids, rays, sharks, octopi, and sea shells, but also mermaids and pirates. Curiously, the songs play in alphabetical order on the album; the flow from tune to tune may not sound congruent to some listeners. VERDICT An intriguing recording that could be useful supplementary material in a unit about the ocean but is not a “must buy.”–Stephanie Bange


Space Cadet. Performed by Justin Roberts. CD. $19.98. Digital Download. $9.49. 36 min. Carpet Square. 2022. S
Four-time Grammy nominee Roberts is back with his 16th album for families. In a return to his kindie pop/rock roots, Roberts combines upbeat, modern melodies with his signature lyrics to create full-fledged characters to whom children can relate. Young listeners will be delighted with tunes like “I Have Been a Unicorn,” “Truman was a Tornado,” and the title track, “Space Cadet,” that all speak to their need to be unique, independent, and true to themselves. Along the way, children are also treated to a raucous “Dance Party,” taught about the “Seven Billion Billion Billion Atoms in Me,” and the endearing tale of friendship in “Little Red Wagon.” Woven among the more up-tempo tracks are quieter tunes like “I’m Not Just an I,” which combines clever wordplay with a gentle melody, and the closing track, “Everybody Get on Board,” which features a beautiful message of inclusivity. Roberts has a gift for tapping into the feelings and interests of young children, and that understanding and empathy make this collection really shine. VERDICT Fans old and new will embrace Space Cadet with open arms.–Veronica Schwartz De Fazio

Super Wiggles. Performed by The Wiggles. CD. $9.98. Digital Download. $9.49. ABC Kids. 2022. S
With the expanded lineup of diverse singers on this album, including new addition Tsehay Hawkins as the new yellow Wiggle and the “Fruit Salad TV” Wiggles, the sound of the group is fuller and richer than ever. Their high-octane music, which has been internationally successful, continues with this latest album of 22 original songs that offer tributes to superheroes in our everyday lives. Opening with a new “Meet the Wiggles,” listeners are introduced to the stars of both groups, because this is the first album together. They then perform tunes about inclusion (“Sing Together” includes an a cappella rap), making friends (trumpet fanfares add pep to “The Friendship Song”), and several novelty songs (“Big Strong John,” “Unicorn March,” “Mermaid Kisses,” and “The Garbage Truck Song”). Several songs have themes about everyday superheroes such as teachers (“Hooray for Teachers”), school crossing guards (“Lollipop Person”), a male ballet dancer (“Super Ballet Man”), a female astronaut (“Rocket Girl”), and “Super Granny.” Other superhero songs include the surf music-inspired “Boom, Boom, Boom, You’re a Superhero” and the closer, “Is There a Superhero Around?” VERDICT From beginning to end, this is nonstop “Wiggly” fun!–Stephanie Bange

That Friday Feeling. Performed by Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could. CD. $13.99. Digital Download. $9.49. 42 min. Bumblin Bee Records. 2022. S
With three Grammys and 12 studio albums under his belt, one would think Brady Rymer and his bandmates would just rest on their laurels—not a chance! The 12 songs on their newest album cook like all of the others in their catalogue. Opening with “That Friday Feeling” (a rocking song filled with positive vibes), they keep it going with “Cheer You Up” (things to bolster spirits), “Babies of Summer” (a counting song with a Caribbean beat), and “Superpowers” (a catchy song to determine what your superpower is). Other standouts include the joy-filled “Seven Hours of Sun,” the funky/jazzy “Yes We Can” with an organ solo and an a cappella bridge, and the stripped-down country tune “Roads.” Tight harmonies, jamming beats, excellent arrangements, and a mix of tempos and instrumentation make this one album that will be a favorite of the whole family. VERDICT From the upbeat rocking title piece to the final song about the simple joys in life, this one hits the mark with every note.–Stephanie Bange

Your Voice Is Magic. Performed by Again Again. CD. $9.99. Digital Download. $9.99. 34 min. Emerald Sketch. 2022.
Los Angeles–based duo Jennifer Cook and Anne Montone use their second album for families to share messages of love, inclusion, and respect. Often a raucous dance party, tracks in this collection include the protest anthem “Signs Up High,” the upbeat “­Pronoun Party,” the empowering techno tune “Girls Included,” and the hand-clapper “Be Your Body’s Boss” which stresses the importance of having agency over your body. Also included are “FOMO” an up-tempo tango about the fear of missing out and the pop-inspired “Better Way to Play” that encourages children who are angry or tired to try alternative ways to engage with others than using mean words. The album winds down with “Chosen” a lovely song about adoption from the perspective of the adoptive parents, and “Monsters Aren’t Real,” which helps to diffuse some of the fear associated with monsters at bedtime, bad dreams, and thunder and lightning. VERDICT An entertaining collection that will educate listeners and lead to many important conversations. –Veronica Schwartz De Fazio

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