Summer camps were truly missed by students and parents during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, but with treatments and possible vaccines on the way, camps and family gatherings in the outdoors will resume to everyone’s delight. If anything, after a summer of not being able to go outside too much because of social distancing restrictions, kids will certainly be ready for summer camps once things get back to normal.
The best thing about summer camps is that they are highly experiential, and the same can be said about family camping trips. Getting the family together for camping means going through various experiences together. When they are carefully organized, camping trips can be inexpensive and filled with positive experience for the whole family, but especially for younger children. Kids who are in kindergarten ages are the most likely to enjoy campfire songs, and what they subconsciously enjoy the most is not really the lyrics or even the melodies but the activity in and of itself; when children sing together with family or friends, they are positively affected by the unified sound of all participants.
At Prodigies Music, we highly encourage family trips to the outdoors, particularly if they involve singing around the campfire. Since we are in the music instruction and pedagogy sector, we see summer campfire songs as an excellent way to get children interested in music; they may not grow up to be singers, but if they find a passion for music, they may choose to play instruments, compose, produce records, or get into the more cultural aspects of musicology. A life with music in the background is nice, but a life with music in the foreground is wonderful. With all this in mind, here are songs we recommend for children when they take go on summer trips to the outdoors; some of these songs will work out better when accompanied by simple guitar performance.
If you have spent any time with Prodigies and our community, you may be familiar with our own Campfire Song and Campfire activities. In Campfire song, we learn all about C, D, and E and practice the solfege hand-signs for Do Re and Mi.
Come By Here
You may know Come By Here as “Kumbaya,” Come by Yuh or Yah, a Gullah word meaning “here,” is the phrase that morphed into kumbaya over time. Despite common misconceptions, Kum ba yah are not African language words. This song is most likely an African American spiritual which originated somewhere in the American south, then traveled all over the world. It is truly a global folksong and a unifying song to sing around the campfire.
Old McDonald Had a Farm
This nursery rhyme is super simple to learn, and it has the added advantage of the various animals along with different sounds. What children love about this song is that each verse presents the opportunity to introduce a new animal and the corresponding sound it makes; it does not matter if the animal sound is out of tune because the next line will bring the song back together with the E-I-E-I-O ending. Children will likely learn this song in kindergarten with piano accompaniment, but there is no need for it. An interesting fact about this song is that it was once sung by British soldiers during World War I as marching cadence.
When I’m Gone
This song was performed by actress Anna Kendrick on the 2012 film “Pitch Perfect,” and it was an instant hit because of its simplicity and pop sensibility. The soundtrack of this comedic film featured one version of “Cups,” which people mostly know as “When I’m Gone” because of the easily remembered lyric. Since it is a song meant to be performed a cappella, anyone can sing it, and there is no way to mess up the simple lyrics. As a very catchy song, “Cups” ended up as the theme song for the 12th edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which culminated with a title for Team USA led by the legendary Landon Donovan. Children tend to have fun singing the backdrop vocals to this song.
SpongeBob SquarePants Campfire Song
Children born on or after 2009 probably know and love to sing the silly campfire song made up by SpongeBob during “The Camping Episode” of the show’s third season. SpongeBob plays the ukulele and sings for his friends at the bottom of the ocean, but he goes so fast that they cannot catch up, particularly when spelling out C-A-M-P-F-I-R-E S-O-N-G. The melody hook is pretty catchy, but the most fun is derived when the song speeds up and everyone tries to catch up. Some families have reported that inverting the tempo of the song is even more fun and challenging, meaning that it starts out a fast pace and gradually slows down; a good way to do this is to have one parent start out very fast, but it will likely require practice.
This is a song that requires group singing and practice, but it sounds great when children provide chorus and background vocals. Although the secret of “California Dreaming” as a pop music wonder is found in its various layers of sound, it works great as a campfire song because it does not require instrumentation. When The Mamas & The Papas performed this hit, they usually brought along a guitar and a flute, but some of their most memorable performances were sang a cappella with just some humming. When you have more than one person harmonizing the chorus, the song sounds better.
The Other Day I Met a Bear
This nursery rhyme follows the same logic as “California Dreaming” with regard to lyrics that work better when they are repeated or appended. This is a long song that is not as easy to learn as the others listed herein, but it is a lot of fun and is often sang by troops of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
In 2016, a South Korean company dedicated to publishing learning materials for young children released “Baby Shark” a highly repetitive song shaped around a simple melody that becomes annoying after a while, but not for children. This has been a campfire song that may have originated in North American and German summer camps in the wake of the 1975 film “Jaws,” directed by Steven Spielberg. “Baby Shark” became a huge hit when the most irritating version was released on YouTube in 2016, probably because it features simple dance moves adequate for preschool and kindergarten activities.
There She Goes
Parents of a certain age will remember this Britpop gem from 1988 by The La’s; however, they probably know the song from various film soundtracks, which means that they remember covers by The Boo Radleys or Sixpence None the Richer. Films such as “The Adventures of Pete and Pete,” “The Parent Trap,” and “Snow Day” are responsible for making this song a new summer camp favorite. The song structure is so simple that it does not present any verses; it revolves around a single chorus that is meant repeated four times plus a bridge that changes the lyrics but not the rhymes.
This clapping song is another favorite of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts troops; it features a challenging gimmick to singers who are expected to skip a letter in each verse and match the number of letters dropped with a clap. Bingo is the name of a dog that lives in farm; since there are five letter in its name, you are supposed to clap five times by the time you get to “O,” but it is easy to make mistakes.