If you're a parent of a baby or toddler, you probably have "Baby Shark" at the top of your playlist. But there's another song that's quickly becoming a fan fave for pint-sized kids: Swim aside, baby shark, because “Johny Johny Yes Papa” is getting zillions of plays on YouTube. While everyone may not agree, I'm actually a huge fan of this darling little ditty because kids and parents can have fun with it — and it packs some important life lessons, too.
Like many children’s songs, "Johny Johny Yes Papa" uses basic repetition to tell the story of a little boy named Johny who has an insatiable sweet tooth. When confronted by his dad, he basically lies and says he hasn’t eaten the sugar, but we know all too well that he has.
Despite how popular the song is with the current toddler set, “Johny Johny Yes Papa” has a whole lot of haters, as Vox reported — many of whom I'm guessing are parents. Although the video has garnered almost 2 billion views (yes, that’s billion with a “b”) as of this writing, it also has 2.5 million thumbs downs. (In comparison, Baby Shark has 3.2 billion views on YouTube. The song has inspired bestselling merchandise from bedding to shoes and beyond; a "Baby Shark" Live! tour will be stopping in over 30 cities nationwide.) I totally get the anti-"Johny, Johny" camp, since it’s a song that could easily grind on your nerves after hearing it nonstop. And if you’re trying to get your child to eat his veggies — and he’s watching a video about excessive sugar consumption and lying about it — well, it might make mealtime a mess.
Just in case you don't know what I'm talking about...
So here’s my stance on “Johny Johny, Yes Papa”... I don’t mind it. In fact, I kind of like it. Maybe it’s because it has a similar beat to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (sing the song again and you’ll see what I mean), and it hearkens back to those children’s nursery rhymes that we all know and love. It’s also one of the few tunes (like “The Wheels on the Bus”) with lyrics you can modify to make your own. By varying what Johny eats, you can have fun with your child. For example, I’ll sing the song with my 4-year-old daughter and when we get to the sugar section, I’ll switch it up and say, “Eating broccoli?” and she'll laugh and say, “Noooooo, Mommy!” Then I use it as a teaching moment to explain to her that broccoli is better for her than donuts.
Which brings up another point. “Johny Johny, Yes Papa” is also a great way to teach your kids about oral hygiene. Sure, you might let your kid eat a cookie for breakfast once in a while (who hasn’t?), but would you really let her chow down on every dessert in the house? Probably not. Of course, my kiddo probably thinks Johny’s father is, like, The Best Dad Ever. That’s why I explain to her that eating all that sugar will hurt her teeth, potentially cause cavities, and make her sick.
The song also has teachable moments built into it. Johny flat-out lies about eating so much sugar, and I explain that lying is never a good thing, especially to your parents. How much of the lesson is actually absorbed, I can’t say. But I try at least, and it's a good opportunity to just have a conversation with my kids about what is right and what is wrong.
Perhaps the biggest reason why I don’t mind the song is that hearing my little ones sing it makes my heart, well, sing. Years ago, someone said to me, “A child who sings is a happy child,” and I've never forgotten that. Singing releases feel-good endorphins that relieve stress and just make you feel good, Time reported. So hearing "Johny Johny Yes Papa" being happily sung by my kids for the umpteenth time is truly a sugar rush for me.