28 positive and inspiring songs to listen to with your children

There are songs you know that they must have been written with young listeners in mind. It seems to be a special wish and responsibility for many artists to leave a piece of wisdom and guidance behind for the generations to come. We curated a list of R'n'B, Reggae, Hip Hop, and a little bit of Pop and Jazz songs that empower, inspire and uplift children and adults as well. Next to easily accessible and clean lyrics about life, family, friendship and self-love, this collection also features some of the most gorgeous songcraft.

Please leave a comment below with your favorite songs that you like to listen to with your kids!

1. You Gotta Be - Des'ree
2. One Love - Bob Marley
3. Steppin' Up - Capleton
4. The Greatest Love - Whitney Houston
5. I Can - Nas
6. If You Believe - Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey
7. A Whole New World - Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle
8. Everything is Everything - Lauryn Hill
9. Family Time - Ziggy Marley
10. Heal the World - Michael Jackson
11. Just the two of Us - Will Smith
12. Stay Away - Luciano
13. A Song for Mama - Boys II Men
14. Together Again - Janet Jackson
15. Land of Promise - Nas and Damian Marley
16. You've got a Friend - Brand New Heavies
17. Lean on Me - Bill Withers
18. Happy - Pharell
19. Black Butterfly - Sounds of Blackness
20. Strength, Courage, and Wisdom – India.Arie
21. Golden - Jill Scott
22. Hey Mama - Kanye West
23. Three Little Birds - Bob Marley
24. Optimistic - Sounds of Blackness
25. Hey Young World - Slick Rick
26. Man in the Mirror - Michael Jackson
27. Head to the Sky - Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes
28. This Little Light of Mine

 

1. You Gotta Be - Des'ree

Parental wisdom wrapped up in a smooth, soulful blend of pop and R'n'B music.  With the British singer's compelling singing style "You Gotta Be" drops small but powerful gems about navigating through life, reminding us that we have to take on challenges as they come, but to do it with love.

Released: 1994
Album: I Ain't Movin'
Our favorite line: "Herald what your mother said, read the books your father read"

♫ Watch the video

2. One Love - Bob Marley

Bob Marley was a preacher of love, peace and unity, and this song is the universal anthem for it. It’s really a song of just appreciating the human family, which is us.

Released: 1965
Album: The Wailing Wailers
Our favorite line: "Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right"

♫ Watch the video

3. Steppin' Up - Capleton

Known as "the Prophet" in Jamaica, the music of reggae artist Capleton is spiritual, righteous and rebellious, with a voice unmistakably raw and intense. On this track he gives genuine advice to the youth dem and emphasizes learning, in form of education and inner knowledge. 

Released: 2004
Album: Reign of Fire
Our favorite line: "Self-esteem, heart haffi clean, so you cyan run around in red, gold and green"

♫ Watch the video

 Kids on the Wise YouTube Playlist Inspirational Songs

4. Greatest Love of All - Whitney Houston

One of the most powerful songs ever written is a love song to one's self and a compelling affirmation of spiritual devotion. There radiates a special kind of energy from you when you love yourself. It makes competition, doubt, fear and guilt fade away and lets in beauty, confidence, freedom and nobility. So, pull your kids closer, snuggle up and start singing along from the bottom of your heart: "I decided long ago..."

 

Released: 1985
Album: Whitney
Our favorite line: "Teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside"

♫ Watch the video

5. I Can - Nas

"I Can” is conscious Hip-Hop with great value and influence. The narrative encourages pride, confidence, and the desire to succeed, despite adversity, and even educates on historical African culture. Nas created an anthem that reminds kids, that they hold the power. Now imagine schools, where students start every school day by singing that chorus! (Some line may be more suitable to older kids)

Released: 2003
Album: God's Son
Our favorite line: "“Read more, learn more, change the globe”"

♫ Watch the video

6. When You Believe - Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey

Released: 1985
Album: Whitney
Our favorite line: "My heart's so full, I can't explain, seeking faith and speakin' words I never thought I'd say"

♫ Watch the video

7. A Whole New World - Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle

This piece resonates on some deep molecular level, a discrete work of art. As a child you can feel the magical easiness in the song and relate to the excitement of discovering unknown things in life. As an adult listener you remember the true meaning of innocence.

What could this new world be? A new insight, a new talent, a new friend, a new point of view, an overthrown obstacle, a new feeling?

Released: 1993
Album: Aladdin O.S.T.
Our favorite line: "I'll chase them anywhere, there's time to spare, let me share this whole new world with you"

♫ Watch the video

8. Everything Is Everything - Lauryn Hill

Lauryn's teachings at its best. She draws a lyrical picture that life has its inevitable ups and downs, and it is best to find your steady ground to keep a clear picture. Despite the challenges faced in life, you should remain optimistic and dedicated to achieving your goals. 

Released: 1999
Album: The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
Our favorite line: "Tomorrow our seeds will grow; all we need is dedication"

♫ Watch the video

9. Family Time - Ziggy Marley

A bright and sunny melody, easy recognizable lyrics, and a big load of positive energy and you have "Family Time". The playful reggae tune celebrates the wonderful feeling to be together with your loved ones and gets your kids to shake their little bodies

Released: 2009
Album: Family Time
Our favorite line: "Lift up your hearts with a smile; Lift up your feet with a dance
Lift up your spirits with a song"

♫ Watch the video

10. Heal the World - Michael Jackson

True healing starts within, in that little space inside our heart. Everyone should reach into this special place and bring it out for the world.  A powerful sing along ballad to sing together with your kids, especially with the children's choir joining in at the end of the song.

Released: 1991
Album: Dangerous
Our favorite line: "Though it's plain to see, this world is heavenly; be god's glow"

♫ Watch the video

11. Just the two of us - Will Smith

A song that portrays unconditional love from a father's perspective, with a sweet sound and great lyrics. The beautiful message of devotion, protection and guidance opens everybody's heart and makes the struggle and motivation of being a good father more understandable to the rest of us. Daddys, we love you too!

Released: 1997
Album: Big Willie Style
Our favorite line: "Everything I can; Show you how to be a man; dignity, integrity, honor and"

♫ Watch the video

12. Stay Away - Luciano

Luciano is a highly respected reggae artist, the one they call "The Messenjah". He created timeless and inspiring material about spirituality, unity, emancipation and personal growth. With Stay Away the message goes out to the youth to put unity over war.

Released: 1995
Album: Messenjah
Our favorite line: "Remember we are one blood; and we should live in love"

♫ Watch the video

13. A Song for Mama - Boys II Men

The tune of the movie Soul Food is an anthem of gratefulness and the deep reaching love to our mothers, that washes all over our emotions. Listening is like food to our ears. 

Released: 1997
Album: Evolution
Our favorite line: "Mama, I just want you to know, lovin' you is like food to my soul"

♫ Watch the video

14. Together Again - Janet Jackson

Even though Ms. Jackson dedicated this track to friends that passed away, it can also honor the intimate relationship to our ancestors from way back in time. The video strongly suggests it. Bouncing along a gorgeous melody and gentle house beat, Together Again is uplifting and pure. Take the song's mood and find time with your family to connect to your folk's forerunners, grab some photo albums and share their stories with your kids.

Released: 1997
Album: The Velvet Rope
Our favorite line: "Dancin' in moonlight, I know you are free, 'cause I can see your star shinin' down on me"

♫ Watch the video

15. Land of Promise - Nas and Damian Marley

Disney has Zootopia, we have The Promise Land. Nas and Damian Marley paint an inspiring picture of a lush and thriving place for people of color, that unites the best of both worlds, somewhere in between Africa and America. Next to some geographical skills, the song may also inspire for a thoughtful conversation: Is your perfect place a distant wonderland or is it closer than you think?

Released: 2010
Album: Distant Relatives
Our favorite line: "Promise Land no fables, this where the truth's told;
Use them two holes above your nose; to see the proof yo!"

♫ Watch the video

16. You've got a Friend - Brand New Heavies

Friendships are a profound part of childhood. Everyone needs one, and everyone wants to be one. A friend. Beside the comforting words, this track also sounds light, smooth and feels soooo good. 

Released: 1997
Album: Shelter
Our favorite line: "Close your eyes and think of me, and soon I will be there to brighten up even your darkest night"

♫ Watch the video

17. Lean on Me - Bill Withers

When trouble hits the little heart, there is a song that can lift off any weight. It is such a simple song, but the message is so full of love. A perfect tune to bond, uplift and celebrate togetherness. This song feels like a genuine hug from someone who wants you to be okay.

Released: 1972
Album: Still Bill
Our favorite line: "You just call on me brother, when you need a hand;
we all need somebody to lean on"

♫ Watch the video

18. Happy - Pharell Williams

“Happy” is musical fun for kids with a Motown groove. It resonates deeply with their own innocent, squeaky and carefree nature. An ode to feeling good about feeling good. Play it in a room full of kids and they'll go bonkers.

Released: 2003
Album: Girl
Our favorite line: "Can't nothing bring me down, my level's too high"

♫ Watch the video

19. Black Butterfly - Sounds of Blackness

Parental Advisory: Highly recommended. To play this inspirational and gentle encouraging song for your kids is a must. A wonderful tune that speaks directly to the soul, with every word full of truth and spirit. Make it your new theme song to fly high and achieve any goal. 

Released: 1994
Album: Africa to America: Journey of the Drum
Our favorite line: "Freedom comes from understanding who you are

♫ Watch the video

20. Strength, Courage, and Wisdom – India.Arie

India.Arie passes on a key to life with this tune.We all know moments of insecurity, doubt and hesitation. But there are qualities inside of our very being that can cure our everyday struggles. A meaningful reminder of what really lies at our core. It is time to step out on faith to get things done!

 

Released: 2007
Album: Acoustic Soul
Our favorite line: "It's time to step out on faith; I've gotta show my face; It's been elusive for so long; But freedom is mine today"

♫ Watch the video

21. Golden - Jill Scott

A metaphor so easy to catch. Jill Scott portrays life as a supremely sophisticated piece of jewelry that needs to be owned and lived to the fullest, no matter what comes your way. This song is simply poetic, reflective and with attitude. So, get out the golden markers, grab some glitter glue and spell it out: LIFE!

Released: 2004
Album:  Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2
Our favorite line: "I'm taking my freedom; Putting it in my stroll; I'll be high-steppin', y'all; Letting the joy unfold"

♫ Watch the video

22. Hey Mama - Kanye West

The perfect Mother's Day jam. “Hey Mama” is a more tender hip-hop song with a heartwarming instrumental and some well-constructed Kanye beats. Every mother is different, but the words Kanye West found to describe his love for her, every son and daughter can relate.Released: 2005
Album: Late Registration
Our favorite line: "See you're, unbreakable, unmistakable; highly capable, lady that's making loot; a living legend too, just look at what heaven do; send us an angel, and I thank you

♫ Watch the video

23. Three Little Birds - Bob Marley

Bob Marley had many classic songs, but there's one that makes us feel more relaxed and carefree than the rest. So do not bother, enjoy life and enjoy this wonderful, timeless track.

Released: 1977
Album: Exodus
Our favorite line: "Singin' sweet songs of melodies pure and true, sayin', "This is my message to you-ou-ou:"

♫ Watch the video

24. Optimistic - Sounds of Blackness

The throwback tune "Optimistic" is the soundtrack of assurance, inspiration and to always expect a positive outcome! It's a big world for a child, life often asks you to grow and take on new challenges. Keep a big heart and believe in yourself. If you do, the only outcome will be success.


Album: The Evolution of Gospel Our favorite line: "Just think ahead and you'll be inspired; To reach higher and higher"

♫ Watch the video

 

25. Hey Young World - Slick Rick

Uncle Ricky came through with undeniably one of hip hop's most positive songs. He calls on the youth to make the most of their lives, reject the pressures of society, and to respect their parents. Words of wisdom and encouragement coming at you.

 

Released: 2005
Album: The Great Adventures of Slick Rick

Our favorite line: All of them

♫ Watch the video

26. Man in the Mirror - Michael Jackson

Man in the mirror has it all: powerful vocals, socially conscious lyrics, a soulful feel, an overwhelming chorus melody, best-ever use of a gospel choir in a pop song, and a message send from above: You are the one! Every change starts with you.

To emphasize the magnitude a little bit of change can have, Michael Jackson added the greatest key change in pop music history at 2:53 right at the word "Change". Magical! 

Released: 1988
Album: Bad

Our favorite line: "Stand up and live yourself"

♫ Watch the video

27. Head to the Sky – Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes

We saved our favorite for (almost) last with Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes' album "Supernova". An intelligent and beautiful record that supremely delivers deep reaching truths, philosophies and uplift in a strikingly simple and accessible way. With "Head to the Sky" Ms. Lopes puts priceless life lessons for children in one single song, that even features kids' voices. As she retains a child-like gaze at the world herself, she is also on a mission to spiritually educate and empower all the little shorties out there.

We cherish Lisa's wide-eyed innocence and open-hearted love for life, that definitely inspired us many times while creating Kids on the Wise.

 

Released: 2001
Album: Supernova
Our favorite line: "There's more to life than you may ever know; but you must recognize what it means to grow"

♫ Watch the video

28. This Little Light of Mine

Remember back in the days when R'n'B singers would put a gospel song at the end of their albums? To appreciate the good old days, we are putting a gospel song and a children's classic at the end of our little list and send you off, dear reader, with a little light to shine on your path.

As simple and catchy the song is, it might be one of the most important ones to sing. The joy to express your own inner beauty and truth. Keep it shining, kids!

Released: unknown origin
Our favorite line: "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine"

♫ Watch the video

 

Enjoy all songs in one playlist during homework, in the car, for bedtime or whenever you need a little inspiration and uplift:

 

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