Songs have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I vividly recall that when I was little, my day revolved around when my parents would get home from work and I would force them, before they even had the chance to eat dinner, to do the hokey pokey for me.
Before long, I’d be joining in and encouraging my quietly awkward, not-particularly-interested-in-performing siblings to get up with me to perform the song.
It signalled the first time the people around me realised (and perhaps on a subconscious level I did too) that I simply was a terrible singer and a suitably un-coordinated dancer. It was also among the first of many times that I experienced the power of songs in helping children and their parents to bond and learn together.
Lucky for me, I managed to make sure I still engaged with the most significant songs and performances when I was a child, always the kid at the front of the Christmas concert singing too loudly and performing too enthusiastically.
Christmas Pageant feels. Image: Love Actually.
What I have realised, though, with hindsight, is how it’s funny that children songs seem to be relatively timeless.
Many of the songs I grew up with are similar to the songs my parents grew up with, giving us such similar childhood narratives where our bedrock skills of learning how to dance, entertain and communicate came from exactly the same place. It’s so powerful that I know if I choose to have my own family, I’ll be more than happy to perform the hokey pokey on request (they may not even have to ask).
So what better way to throw it way back, and round up some of the very best of our childhoods from then all the way to now.
1. Hokey Pokey.
OBVIOUSLY, this was going to be the first one. I probably knew the words to this song before I knew how to speak.
The Hokey Pokey is an interesting one, because contrary to so many other children's songs that seek to have an underlying message throughout, growing up, it was always so much less about the content of the song and so much more about getting kids up and about. And I certainly got up and about to this one.
2. ANYTHING Wiggles.
Of course, The Wiggles don't just have one song. But, goodness, their entire collection of songs has shaped many-a-childhood in more ways than I can articulate in just a few pars. How else did we learn about the most basic food groups than from childhood classic Hot Potato? Or understand that Fruit Salad is the next snack we want to make and then sing about?
Today, believe it or not, The Wiggles are still producing songs with underlying messages for kids. Their latest offering is called ‘Buckle Up and Be Safe,’ and it’s going to be a car-trip favourite before you know it. This time, they're spreading the word about the importance of road safety and establishing a fun, family ritual while encouraging kids to buckle up properly.
The song has been released in partnership with Transport for New South Wales, in response to the realisation that parents have become complacent about fastening a seatbelt every time they drive. Naturally, everything is harder to remember with a screaming toddler in tow, but ‘Buckle Up and Be Safe’ is attempting to make things that little bit easier for you and them. It’s a 1, 2, 3 – style song that’ll get the kids excited and interested in a process that could potentially save their life.
'Buckle Up and Be Safe' by The Wiggles (post continues after video):
3. Itsy Bitsy Spider.
Knowing the hand-movements and the lyrics of Itsy Bitsy Spider was the mark of so many childhoods. In fact, the movements are so engrained in my subconscious that I can still remember them today.
Also, how else could you learn about spiders and their webs so seamlessly than through this classic?
4. I'm A Little Teapot.
I'm A Little Teapot is still one of the catchiest childhood nursery songs to-date. Although kids often sing along with little idea about what they're singing along to, and what their movements mean, the song had, and continues to have, a huge subconscious impact on how they learn. This one in particular has the most simple and underlying educational purpose of teaching kids what the hell tea is.
And it works. Because how many four-year-olds do you know that would otherwise have the word 'stout' in their vocabulary?
Vocabulary enhancing. Image: Alice in Wonderland.
5. Old MacDonald Had a Farm.
With a last name like McDonald, you can imagine this one has a special place in my heart. And although at a primary school age you can understand that people asking me 'How's your farm going?' was the equivalent of A+ banter, I did always have this irrational feeling that I had a monopoly over this song and when and how it was sung.
Of course, I never had a farm, nor did I have a pet. But along with everyone else, this is one of our first introductions to the fact there are other animals on this planet besides the dogs and cats in our neighbourhood.
6. The Wheels on the Bus.
I have no doubt that just the mention of this song will have it stuck in your head for the next six hours.
This is another one that, when you think about it, gave and still gives kids a great understanding of public transport and how buses work.
Primary school didn't even need classes when they had songs like this that let children learn without them even realising.
What song do you remember from your childhood?
Are you buckled up? To keep little passengers safe, make sure you have the right car seat, it’s fitted correctly and you know how to check it properly. Find out more at childcarseats.com.au. They’re counting on you.