What is it?
Happy Kids Songs is a series of children’s albums created by Don MacMannis (aka “Dr. Mac”), a child psychologist and award-winning songwriter. The songs are intended to teach character as well as social and emotional skills that will help kids make choices that will lead to happiness and success. The website has links to download the music through either iTunes or amazon.com. Each mp3 album contains 5 songs (downloadable separately or as a set). Here are the songs on the three albums we got a chance to review: Friends & Sharing (#1)
- Sailing on the Seven C’s
- Everybody Wants to Find a Friend
- Sharing Friends
- Happy as Happy Can Be
Manners & Character (#6)
- Six Little Kids
- The Golden Rule
- The Magic Word
Happiness & Attitude (#7)
- Be Good to Yourself
- Better Together
- I Don’t Understand
- Shake It Out and Dance
- Who Knows What’s a Kudo?
Other albums in the series cover Social Skills & Bullying (#2), Feelings and Fears (#3), Practice and Success (#4), Talking and Listening (#5), and Respect and Responsibility (#8). The companion workbook goes along with the songs from all the albums and has two main sections. The first includes lyrics to the songs as well as activity pages (e.g. word searches, dot-to-dots, and coloring pages). The second part of the book contains suggestions of other learning activities related to each song, mostly designed for larger groups of children. The copyright allows you to reproduce the workbook pages for a co-op or in a classroom. Everything in the softcover workbook is actually available for FREE on the Happy Kids Songs website, but purchasing the workbook saves the trouble of downloading and printing the 80 files individually.
Our Experience with Happy Kids Songs
At first, we just listened all the way through the 15 songs we were given. Dr. Mac talks about “seeding” the songs with kids, just getting them familiar with them before discussing the meaning. After this initial exposure, we focused on just one or two songs at a time to addressing specific things that came up with our kids.
It was really helpful to have the lyrics so we could follow along and break down the songs during our discussion. Once we talked through the words, my kids (well, the 4- and 6-year olds, at least) were able to listen more carefully and sing along.
I think Happy Kids Songs are a wonderful resource for parents (or teachers). Each song teaches a valuable lesson, and the albums are a great addition to any character education program. Here are a few of my favorite songs:
- “6 Little Kids” tells the story of 6 children who close their eyes and try to describe an elephant based on what they can feel in front of them. Each one describes something very different. Sometimes it is tempting to think someone is wrong for seeing a situation differently, but it’s important to remember that we each have a unique perspective.
- “The Golden Rule” relays Jesus’ classic advice to “Just do to others what you would like them to do to you.” How many times a day do I remind my children of this? Having a song to sing helps me keep the message fresh so they don’t just tune me out.
- “Shake it Out and Dance” addresses the issue of “I can’t.” I have one child who says this constantly, and I’m working really hard to break the habit. The song is a fun reminder that it’s better to try than to just hold back by saying, “I can’t.”
I also really like the workbook. My kids love the activity pages in the first section, but I found the second half of the book to be most valuable part of the whole program. There are so many great suggestions for helping teach the lesson of each song. For example, here are some of the ideas to go along with “Who Knows What’s a Kudo?” First you see the main point of the lesson:
Focus: Giving and receiving compliments
Social and Emotional concepts:
- Seeing the best in others
- Focusing on the positive
- Thanking people for their efforts
Then there are several suggestions for activities (which I’ve just summarized here):
- Pair the children up and have them each say three positive things about each other. Then write those things on a cards and have the larger group try to figure out who each card is describing.
- Make acrostics of each child’s name having them think of positive words to go with each letter, like these that the boys and I did together. (They really enjoyed this and wanted to do one for Arianna, but I wasn’t sure I could come up with three positive “A” words for a 2-year old so I said we’d hold off on that!)
- Make “friendship soup” by having the children brainstorm different friendship traits and write them on separate cards. Then put all the cards in a bowl and stir them up with a big spoon. Have the children each draw a card, read the trait, and name another person in the group who demonstrates that trait.
There are ideas like this for each song. While most of them are designed for a classroom setting, many are easily adaptable for families to use as well.
Just the Facts
- This is geared for ages 4-8, but my younger children also enjoyed the music.
- Songs – $.99 each (available to download individually)
- Albums (5 songs on each) – $4.95
- Happy Kids Songs Workbook – $12.56
I don’t plan to continue using Happy Kids Songs on a regular basis, though I might pull some of them out again at some point. For one thing, I’m rather fussy about musical styles, and these songs weren’t to my particular taste. (I never heard any complaints from my kids though, so I think they enjoyed them.)
However, the main reason I don’t see them as something our family will use is because I prefer to keep our character education rooted in the Bible so my kids will be able to connect decisions about their attitudes and behavior with God’s truth. Many of the lessons taught in Happy Kids Songs stem from biblical concepts, but I would be more inclined to use them if I had an quick reference that listed Bible verses to go along with each song. If I ever end up back in a public school classroom, however, these would be a great resource!
Connect With Happy Kids Songs on Social Media:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/happykidssongs
- Twitter: @howsyourfam
- YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/4DrMacMusic