Make Your Own Children’s Songbook

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I worked at a magical little camp tucked away in the mountains (hills, really) of Pennsylvania. There were a lot of great things about camp Krislund, but some of my best memories are of singing all sorts of songs, from classic Woodstock-era gems to silly kids’ tunes and even Psalms-songs. Flash forward twenty years…and I want to sing those songs with my kids. I have a tattered old songbook from back in the day, but it’s so special to me that I don’t want to risk my kids trashing it (it’s a spiral-bound songbook with onionskin-thin pages).

Sure there’s Wee Sing and Philadelphia Chickens, which are great, but none of the songbooks on the market included all my favorite melodies. Either there were so many songs in any given songbook that my favorites got lost in the shuffle, or there were too many maddeningly annoying songs that my kids insisted on singing (Row, Row, Row Your Boat or Wheels on the Bus, to name two of the worst…in my (song)book anyway). Or I’d finally find a songbook that included all my favorites, only to open the huge tome and discover that it includes sheet music for piano, keyboard, flute, guitar, violin, ukulele, banjo and vuvuzela. I hold the musically gifted in high esteem, no doubt, but for those of us who just want to sing a couple cute ditties with our kids, there’s some extraneous information there. So I set out to make my own. Here’s how I started:


Make a List Start by making a list of songs that come to mind. Then do a little searching around online for compilations of great campfire songs. There’s a good chance many of your old favorites will surface just using your actual brain – and your other brain, a.k.a. the Internet.

Go Social If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, ask friends and acquaintances to weigh in on their old favorites. You never know what dusty old melodies will turn up. And singing them once again just might conjure up a bit of your happy history. I did this exercise on Facebook and the following songs were recommended:

Boom-Chick-a-Boom Just a Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe Circle Game – Joni Mitchell I Met a Bear The Bear Hunt Taps (Day is Done, gone the sun...) Circle Game – Joni Mitchell The Bear Went Over the Mountain Kumbayah Today (while the blossoms still cling to the vine)

And don’t forget sung prayers! Even if you’re not a churchgoer or religious at all, it’s really nice to have a few songs that teach children to take a moment for thankfulness before a meal. In my family we sing Johnny Appleseed, Thank You Father and Happy Hearts.

Song Photo Book

Add Lyrics & Illustrate Once you have your songs picked out, simply copy and past the song lyrics into a text box within a Mixbook photo book template of your choice. If you’re creating a songbook without photos or just with pictures of your kids’ smiling faces, consider using a fun book theme like The Great Outdoors or Camping Adventures. And if you’ve got artful photographs that capture images of your camp from long ago – or pictures of pristine nature and big-field-bonfires, go with a plain theme like White Portfolio.

Song Photo Book

Customize Words! Once you’ve got your songs and photos in place, play around with creating custom lyrics by either changing a few words here and there or by adding extra verses!

Print multiple copies and gift away!

Song Photo Book

Here’s a longer list of song ideas to add to your custom photo book:

Pass It On Johnny Appleseed Let It Be – The Beatles Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan Our House – Crosby, Still Nash & Young Hotel California –The Eagles Leaving On A Jet Plane – Frank Sinatra Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) – Harry Belafonte Fire and Rain – James Taylor Hallelujah – John Cale Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver California Dreamin’ – The Mamas and the Papas Redemption Song – Joe Strummer & Johnny Cash Talkin’ About a Revolution – Tracy Chapman Daydream Believer – The Monkees Annie’s Song – John Denver Hey Jude – The Beatles Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan April Come She Will – Simon and Garfunkel

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