One of the problems about introducing your kids to the Beatles is assuming that the very obviously “kid-friendly” songs are the ones you should listen to. And while I admit that many children do love “Yellow Submarine,” or “Octopus’s Garden,” or “All Together Now,” let’s face facts. These songs are not cool, and by no means represent why the Beatles are dead-ass one of the coolest rock bands of all time. In other words, those three songs are kind of dopey. (You can throw in “Good Morning, Good Morning” and “Goodnight” while you’re at it.)
If you’re going to listen to the Beatles with your kids, why don’t you actually listen to the Beatles, and not just the songs you think are kid-friendly?
With that in mind here are twelve great Beatles songs that I have tested out on my two-year-old with a vinyl turntable. “All You Need is Love” is not on this list, because that’s not the kind of list we’re dealing with here. These are songs that will make your kid move-and-groove and will remind you why the Beatles aren’t just “brilliant,” but more importantly, why they rock.
“She Loves You”
The catchiest song in the oeuvre of the early Beatles is also the sweetest. If you have a little girl, this song is doubly sweet, but if your kid isn’t a girl, this song can easily be about their mom, their sister, or a good friend. The second-person direct address of this song was actually kind of groundbreaking for pop music in 1964, and for little kids, it’s important for music to be talking to them, the way John and Paul speak to them in this song.
“Please Please Me”
Learning to say “please” is good. Singing about the word “please” a lot is better.
“Twist and Shout”
I know, the Beatles didn’t write “Twist and Shout” (that would be Phil Medley and Bert Berns) but, the Fab Four’s version of this song remains their most enduring cover. Have you ever watch a child discover how to make themselves dance? I’m going to tell you something: My kid has never seen video footage of the Beatles ever, and yet, she shakes her head from side to side like crazy when John Lennon screams his famous WHOOOOAAAOOW! Shake it up baby, indeed.
“Drive My Car”
The chorus of this song is arguably the words “Beep-Beep-Beep-Beep, Ya!” How is this not a children’s song again?
“I’m Only Sleeping”
My kid loves this one. A great song for encouraging kids to make-believe that they are sleeping. Plus, the “keeping an eye on the world going by my window,” line is nice because it encourages kids to look out the window, and hopefully, away from a screen.
Sure, sure, in real life, “Doctor Rober” is supposedly a song the Beatles were singing to one of their drug dealers. Whatever. Your kid doesn’t need to know that. All they need to know is there’s a kooky person named Doctor Robert, and that the people singing the song are saying his name as much as possible and sometimes when you least expect it.
“A Hard Day’s Night”
Though Ringo doesn’t sing this song, Beatles lore claims that the title was suggested by one of Ringo’s strange paradoxical phrases. The concept of day and night as the same thing, plus the mentions of “sleeping like a dog” is enough to make any kid smile. Plus, that famous opening guitar twang is pure toddler ecstasy.
“Everybody’s Got Something to Hide, Except for Me and My Monkey”
Children love monkeys. Children love stories about monkeys, and in my experience, children love an insane nonsense song about a person who has a monkey and absolutely nothing to hide. There’s also a lot of “heys” and “come on-come ons” in this song. My daughter calls this song “the come on come on” song for good reason. (Sidenote: If given the choice, no child loves the Monkees song “Hey Hey We’re the Monkees” as much as they love this Beatles song. I can’t prove this of course, but I suspect it’s true. Children have excellent taste sometimes.)
“Baby, It’s You”
Babies tend to like any song with the word “baby” in the lyrics, but because the Beatles were channeling the Shirelles with this one, I think what my two-year-old loves the most about this song is the “sha-la-la-la-la-las.”
“I Want to Hold Your Hand”
You want to hold your kid’s hand. Your kid wants to hold your hand. Come on. This song is amazing for families.
“Don’t Let Me Down”
Kids like it when you’re proud of them. They also like thinking about disappointment. They also like shouting. This song has all of those things in abundance.
Just forget everything you know about this song’s historical associations. This song is about getting on a slide and going down that slide again and running around like a total maniac. Also, “you may be a lover, but you ain’t no dancer,” is one of the greatest playgrounds taunts your child can learn because it basically doesn’t mean anything and doesn’t actually hurt anyone’s feelings. Living with a little kid is like inhabiting the drumbeat of this song. And yes, the Beatles’ ambassador to children — Ringo Starr — gets the last word in on this song when he sings “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!” Same Ringo. Same.