Using World Music To Introduce Children To Other Cultures

By Rebecca McWilliams, Putumayo Kids

Rebecca McWilliams is the Education Manager at Putumayo Kids. Rebecca has graciously written a guest article for Toys at on the importance of introducing children to world music at an early age. Read this extremely enlightening article and enjoy what Rebecca has to say!

World music provides both children and parents alike with a free ticket to travel the globe. Listening to tunes from artists performing in other countries can provide a fun, upbeat and entertaining way to introduce children of all ages to various cultures from around the world.

Educational and at the same time enjoyable, world music is a unique and cheerful tool to engage children in learning about and celebrating diversity.

Finding world music that is appropriate for children may have been a difficult task prior to the launch of Putumayo Kids, a division of Putumayo World Music, based in New York City. Putumayo Kids scours the globe looking for kid-friendly music from other cultures. Today, it has seven children’s titles and two multicultural activity kits that lead children on an authentic globe-trotting musical tour all around the world. Songs span the cultures of the world with tunes ranging from countries such as Senegal, South Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, France, Greece, Haiti and Trinidad, just to name a few. All CDs come with multilingual liner notes and a colorful booklet that contains information about the songs, artists and other fun cultural facts.

Many children’s educational programs throughout the United States have been exploring the joys of incorporating diverse musical tunes into their repertoire. Rhythms of Life, a non-profit foundation that provides self-sustaining in-school and after-school learning enrichment programs based on movement, has recently teamed up with Putumayo World Music to enhance their already unique curriculum.

The partnership offers a duo playground of sorts for both the body and the mind. As children physically move and exercise during a Rhythms of Life program, they are also listening to the melodies, instruments and rhythms derived from countries all around the world. The programs provide a fun, active and educational outlet for all.

Similarly, children’s music performers have recently taken the stage to educate and entertain about other cultures. Asheba, a Caribbean singer, songwriter and storyteller from Trinidad who is based in Northern California, plays concerts throughout the country that share in the joys of neo-Caribbean folk music. In addition to his tremendous talent and enthusiasm, Asheba teaches cultural diversity through his energized performances. He uses world music to get kids dancing and delighting in the culturally rich musical sounds of the Caribbean. One of Asheba’s most cherished moments was when he received a request from a parent in Mill Valley, CA, to perform at her daughter’s birthday party. Although the young girl asked for some of Asheba’s well-known tunes such as his Caribbean versions of “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” and “No More Monkeys,” she made an extra special request to perform with him on “Papa Bua,” his most traditional and folkloric Trinidadian song.

Indeed, Asheba met all of the birthday girl’s demands and watched in awe as she took the stage with him and recited the entire song with a perfect Trinidadian accent. He was both heart-warmed and impressed at her ability to not only embrace the song but also the culture behind it.

While both extremely enjoyable and uplifting, world music also encourages a one-of-a-kind way to educate children about the vast cultures that exist throughout the world. An opportunity for children to learn and have fun during the same journey? Now that’s a trip around the globe worth taking.

Here are some places to find Putumayo CDs and other interesting cultural music and materials:

For more information about Putumayo Kids, please visit
For more information about Asheba, please visit
You can contact Rebecca at or call her at 1-212-625-1400 ext 212 for more information.