I have nothing personal against traditional nursery rhymes and children’s songs. My mother sings countless ones to my daughter, and she often goes to youtube to learn or re-learn more. We’ve probably learned them ourselves as children and paid little attention to the words then and now, but have you ever wondered about some of their dark undertones?

Even just taking them at face value is kind of frightening. When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, And down will come baby, cradle and all. How does the baby land? Cushioned by some bushes? With a splat? Why did the woman who swallowed a fly have to die? What are three men doing in the tub (apparently original versions have it as three women)? Mice who were born blind also had to suffer the fate of dismemberment? Is Little Miss Muffett responsible for my irrational fear of spiders? Surely there must be more out there to expose my baby to!

Many nursery rhymes are actually parodies of royalty and political leaders of the day. It is thought that “Bloody” Mary I is referenced in both The Three Blind Mice and Mary Mary Quite Contrary, Georgie Porgie alludes to the sexual inclinations of King Charles I, Humpty Dumpty himself is represented as a canon during the English civil war, and Ring around the Rosie gestures to death by bubonic plague.

One of my favorite Futurama episodes ended with a tear-jerker and this sweet song, Little Bird, by Elizabeth Mitchell. So there are songs out there for us non-traditionalists!

Does anyone else out there have a guitar collecting dust from your college days? I’ve never thought about breaking it out to sing to my baby, but maybe it’s a great idea. Here are the chords and lyrics for Bluebird  by Milkshake:

G D G
Bluebird, bluebird singing me a new song
G D G
Bluebird, Bluebird hello to you.

G D G
Red bird, red bird building up a new nest

G D G
Red bird, red bird hello to you.

C G
Hello to all the flowers in the garden

C G
Hello to all the fish in the pond

C G
Hello to all the trees in the forest

A7 D
Hello to you and me.

Ladybug, ladybug crawling on my finger
Ladybug, ladybug hello to you
Chipmunk, chipmunk chewing on a chestnut
Chipmunk, chipmunk hello to you

Hello to all the flowers in the garden
Hello to all the fish in the pond
Hello to all the trees in the forest
Hello to you and me.

Little friend, little friend coming out to play now
Little friend, little friend hello to you
Bluebird, bluebird singing me a new song
Bluebird, Bluebird hello to you.

Words & music by Lisa Mathews & Mikel Gehl
©2004 Milkshake Music

I’m not big on Bach or Mozart, especially the ones that sound like they were made with 90′s midi software, but movies like Goodbye Lenin and Amelie had great composers. Speaking of a throwback to midi files, there are dozens of Rockabye Baby albums available, covering everything from Bob Marley, to Led Zeppelin, to Kanye West and everything in between. I have friends who swear by the Rockabye Baby Pandora station to calm their babies down, which is where I discovered that Jewel still existed after she went from folksy to an attempt at pop.

Below are some of my favorite unsuspecting lullabies and child-friendly songs:

Little Bird by Elizabeth Mitchell
Bluebird by Milkshake
Milkshake Song by Old Town School Of Folk Music
The Heart Asks Pleasure First by Michael Nyman
Gymnopedies by Erik Satie
Comptine d’un autre été by Yann Tiersen
Dust in the Wind by Kansas
Castle on a Cloud, from Les Miserables
A dream is a wish your heart makes from Cinderella
Dream a Little Dream by The Mamas and Papas
Mr. Sandman by The Chordettes
My Favorite things by Julie Andrews
In my Room by Jewel

What are some of your favorite non-traditional songs for your kids?