When kids have pent up energy, or even a case of the crankies, sometimes nothing fills the bill better than a sing-along video. We've highlighted some great ones here, from treasured favorites to fresh and funny newcomers. So grab a mic (or a hairbrush, breadstick or whatever else is handy) and sing a song.
Whether it's a sunny day or not, little ones love to go where the air is sweet: Sesame Street. And two recent DVD releases make music and singing part of the visit. On Sesame Sings Karaoke (Sony Wonder, ages 2 and up) young viewers join Elmo, Rosita, Big Bird, Bob, Baby Bear and lots of other Muppets and human pals from the PBS stalwart as they have a fun-filled karaoke night at Hooper's Store. Little ones will learn what a karaoke machine is and how it works as the characters take the stage - and the microphone - to sing popular Sesame Street hits such as "New Way to Walk," "ABC-DEF-GHI" and "People in Your Neighborhood."
Clips from the TV show, featuring Gloria Estefan, Destiny's Child and Ben Stiller, give the program some extra star power and are interspersed with new material that ties everything together in a pleasant story line.
We All Sing Together, which also features Sesame Street clips and characters, makes a nice companion DVD. Elmo, the Count, Telly and some other silly monsters espouse diversity as they celebrate and explore the fact that kids are "Different Yet the Same."
Laurie Berkner's Video Songbook (Two Tomatoes Records, ages 1 to 7) puts talented children's singer-songwriter and musician Berkner in the spotlight. She plays tunes from her popular recordings for an enthusiastic audience in a school-concert setting. All the action is framed by songbook "pages" drawn on the screen. Silly animations, inviting banter and the overall good-time beat of tunes like "Victor Vito" and "We Are the Dinosaurs" will have little ones grinning as much as grooving.
Rock and roll is right at home at the heart of Ralph's World: Say Hello! (Mini Fresh Records, ages 1 to 8), the first video by well-regarded and prolific children's performer Ralph Covert. His songs have a sunny sound and his solid guitar playing (with occasional backup from additional instruments) will please the ears of many hip, music-loving adults, as well as their young charges. Covert has a grand time cavorting through a large, Candyland-colored set, while young dance school students add some easy-to-imitate moves. Simple animation, short skits and a helping hand from costumed characters like Freddy Bear the Teddy Bear (who lives on a mountain made of chocolate cake) and Betty Botter (who needs butter for her batter), make this solid family fare. As a fun sing-along bonus, the DVD has a "subtitle" feature that works much like karaoke, putting the lyrics onscreen.
Joe Scruggs in Concert: Live From Deep in the Jungle (Shadow Play Records and Video, distributed by Big Kids Productions, ages 2 to 11) gives kids a you-are-there, best-seats-in-the-house entertainment experience. This Texas-based singer-songwriter delivers some of his best-loved up-tempo numbers like "Bahamas Pajamas," "Jungle Joe" and "Goo Goo Ga Ga." Monkeys, alligators and other puppets join in the fun. Fans of Scruggs' music (and even those new to his sound) will soon be tapping and singing along. The DVD version also contains a second program, Joe TV: Joe's First Musical Video.
Country Baby (MoPo Home Entertainment, ages 4 months to 3 years) pairs live action footage of animals, babies, toys and household objects with a bit of contemporary country twang. Adults and babies can bop or sing along to countrified instrumental versions of "Old MacDonald," "On Top of Old Smoky," "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and other familiar faves. Along the way, young viewers are introduced to the world of colors via words recited and shown on the screen ("red") and visual examples of each hue (a red wagon, tomatoes, etc.).
Another title in the Jukebox Adventures series is Star-Spangled Baby (ages 8 months and up), which highlights patriotic songs such as "America the Beautiful" and "Yankee Doodle" while helping kids discover various shapes.
Are your kids driving you bananas? Maybe they're ready to go bananas with encouragement from Shana Banana (Tampa Digital Studios, distributed by Big Kids Video, ages 1 to 5). This high-energy kids' entertainer hosts a group of youngsters in a magical tree house for some musical fun. Puppy hand puppets, Hal and Henson, drop by and Shana never misses an opportunity to put on a silly face, hat or costume for the broad humor. Happily, her strong and smooth vocals can compete with all the busy-ness. Kids will quickly master the lyrics and movements for "Let's Go Bananas," "Oooga Booga Dance" and "Pirate Scooteroo" among others.
If you're looking for more traditional sing-along songs (and if you just can't remember the words to some of your own childhood favorites), check out the Wee Sing series (Universal Studio, ages 1 to 6). This line of videos shows happy kids singing and dancing to many of the tried-and-true tunes we all grew up with. Contrived story lines and sometimes below-average production quality aside, lots of toddlers and preschoolers can't get enough of these jolly outings. Grandpa's Magical Toys and Sillyville are two popular choices.
The Disney Sing Along Songs series (Walt Disney Home Entertainment, ages 1 to 8) is another hit with little ones eager to belt out a tune. Energetic kids sing and dance their way through Disneyland and Disney World attractions and other backdrops as lyrics appear on the screen. Disney characters and movie tunes abound, of course, but these titles also contain many beloved childhood songs. Happy Haunting, which features a Halloween theme and songs like "Five Little Pumpkins," is a winner.
Shannon Maughan writes video reviews for United Parenting Publications several times a year. See a complete list of her video roundups.