I’m so excited to share 10 incredible music books for young children with you today!
As a parent, I love using both picture books and music as tools for connection with my kids. Combining the two allows you to laugh, sing, clap, tap and make noise together with your family.
Young children naturally notice sound EVERYWHERE. They bang sticks, throw rocks, sing and create sound almost constantly.
Sometimes, as adults, it takes us a little more work to be mindful and aware of the music and sound that are around us all the time. Tuning in (no pun intended!) is such a gift to our children! But many of us don’t have a lot of practice or confidence in our ability to create sounds, music or rhythms.
Luckily, there are LOADS of music books for young children out in the world to help us out!
And reading picture books that thrum with rhythm and rhyme is actually a really important part of developing kids’ language and pre-reading ability—extra bonus!
These are fabulous picture books* that feature sound, music and rhythm that you can enjoy with your child(ren). They’ll all have you tapping your toes and maybe even breaking out in song. 🙂
(*This post features books that are especially well suited for the younger set—birth through age 7 or so. Stay tuned for my second post with books about sound & music for older children.)
These two books have been some of our family favorites for years. I use this chant all the time when I am with a group of kids. It’s always an enormous hit, with lots of laughter (and you can substitute ANY creature: a dinosaur, a monster, an elephant, a fairy, etc.)
We’re Going on a Lion Hunt by David Axtell
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
It’s also a lovely one to adapt when you’re getting ready to go out the door (“We’re going on a shoe hunt” or “We’re going on a backpack hunt” – whatever you need). Or use it as a song on the go when you need a little something to help an unsettled child (“We’re going on a grocery hunt! We’re gonna catch some apples!”)
See also :: We’re Going on a Sound Hunt (A sound exploration activity for kids)
The rhythm in this book is so strong, you’ll be snapping and grooving along. Simple rhymes and vibrant illustrations make it a lovely intro to jazz for little ones.
Jazz Baby by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Laura Freeman
A delightful conglomeration of sounds, this book always makes my kids (and me!) giggle. My preschool students request this book over and over again. From household objects to instruments in the orchestra to construction zones, reading the funny sounds that everything makes is both hilarious and fascinating.
Crash! Bang! Boom! by Peter Spier
(If you like this one, try Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!)
The illustrations in this book version of the classic song are full of movement and life. They feature a young African-American family dancing, playing music and enjoying each other’s company.
Hush, Little Baby by Brian Pinkney
This is another great song that hopefully inspires you to make up your own verses with your child (“Hush little baby, don’t say a word, mama – or dada – or whatever name works – is gonna buy you a polka-dotted cat.”) You can use it as a calming song, or use it as a silly song to inspire laughter, depending on your needs!
My daughter has adored this sweet story about a surprise 90th birthday party since she was small (she’s 8 now and still loves it!) Every page features loads of great sound words (such as “creak, crack, snick, snack”) that weave into the story beautifully. Plus, I absolutely love the relationship between the oldest and youngest members of the family.
Night Noises by Mem Fox, illustrated by Terry Denton
A lovely tale about a group of young musicians who decide to form a band to earn some money. Rosa is worried about her grandmother, who is sick, and wants to help fill up the family jar with coins. The friendships are kind and supportive and the band finally performs at a big community event. Beautiful illustrations throughout.
Music, Music for Everyone by Vera B. Williams
(If you like this one, Vera B. Williams has three other books that are some of the most read of all time in our family: A Chair for My Mother, More, More, More Said the Baby, and Cherries and Cherry Pits)
This beautiful book features a young girl frightened of the coming storm. With her babushka’s help, she gathers the ingredients needed to make thunder cake and faces her fears at the same time. The sounds of the rain, wind and claps of thunder are powerful. They really create the feel of a strong summer thunderstorm.
Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
My family has a whole shelf of books by Patricia Polacco; if you don’t already know her work, this is a great place to start! (Warning :: You may be inspired to bake a cake!)
If you know a kid who likes hip hop or rap or even just playing with language, they will absolutely love this book with a rhyming dog. My son, who loves percussive sounds, was really interested in the collage pictures and the hip hop beats. It takes some concentration on the rhythm for the reader, too, but very worth it!
Hip Hop Dog by Chris Raschka, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky
I love this book; it is full of incredibly intricate hand-drawn maps of the US and lovingly drawn illustrations of historical events. (It is an illustrated version of the classic Woody Guthrie song.) And I love that it also includes some historical information about Woody Guthrie.
This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie, Paintings by Kathy Jakobsen
My own children love to sing versions of this song about our hometown in North Carolina and all of their favorite places (“From the botanical gardens to the chocolate lounge, Asheville was made for you and me!”). Yes, we really have a chocolate lounge in our town; it’s amazing!
I hope you find some inspiration from these books to make music, rhythm, song and rhyme with your kids anytime and anywhere!
How about you? What are your favorite music books for young children? Or your kids’ favorite music books?
Melissa Garrett is a parent, teacher, social worker, mess maker and lover of art supplies. She has a host of experience teaching and working with lots of different age groups, especially preschoolers. She also has a background in music and loves to integrate sound and art into the classroom and everyday life as much as possible.
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