Ms. Rachel: 15 Facts About The YouTube Star & Why Kids Love Her

If you're the parent or caregiver of a young child, chances are you've at least heard of Ms. Rachel aka Rachel Griffin Accurso. Depending on your little one's obsession level, you may even walk around with "Icky Sticky Bubblegum" stuck in your head more days than not and you might rely on her iteration of the "Brush Your Teeth" song to get your toddler ready for bed at night. There's no denying that her songs are catchy, her puppets are adorable, and her voice and mannerisms appeal to our kids in ways that we can only begin to understand. 

Unless you've gone on a deep dive into all things Ms. Rachel yourself, though, you may not know much about the overalls-and-pink-headband-wearing YouTube star who has become your kiddo's favorite person (outside of you, of course). Well sit down, sit down, sit ... down, and learn 15 facts you should know about Ms. Rachel and why your kids (and probably you) love her. 

Ms. Rachel grew up in Maine

While her videos take place in and around New York City, Ms. Rachel was born in Biddeford, Maine as Rachel Griffin. She grew up in a village called Springvale in the city of Sanford, Maine where she attended Sanford High School. While many YouTube stars led different lives before becoming famous, music was always Ms. Rachel's passion. She told the Portland Press Herald in 2015: "I wrote music in my head when I was 5 years old. I thought everybody did." Beyond writing songs in her head and accompanying herself on piano, Ms. Rachel was also involved in musical theater and played in the same production of "Annie" at South Portland's Lyric Music Theater that fellow Mainer Anna Kendrick played in. 

By the time she was in high school, Ms. Rachel was part of the school choir and played flute in the school band. After graduating, she went to college at the University of Southern Maine, but it wasn't long before her aspirations outgrew the Pine Tree State and she set off for New York City with plans to work as a nanny while she followed her dreams.

Ms. Rachel originally moved to NYC for her music career

Ms. Rachel's dreams, of course, involved music. While countless hopefuls flock to New York City every year with dreams of making it big, Ms. Rachel found her niche in songwriting, pop music, and musical theater. A two-time winner of national songwriting contests — the "American Idol" Underground songwriting contest and the National Public Radio Historic Songwriting contest – soon after moving to NYC she began recording new music, spending long hours in the studio and even shooting videos for her original music.

Often writing pop songs from the perspective of her roommates and friends, she was featured at The New York City Songwriters Circle in 2013. Soon, she pivoted to musical theater and started writing a musical inspired by her own struggles with anxiety and depression and the stigma associated with mental health. The play, called "We Have Apples," earned her a fellowship with the Dramatists Guild of America. While pursuing her music career, Ms. Rachel also earned a master's degree in music education from New York University.

Ms. Rachel is a real teacher

Ms. Rachel has the educational chops to back up the music education in her "Songs for Littles" videos. Before her career as a YouTube star, Ms. Rachel worked as a music teacher in New York City public schools. While being interviewed for "Good Morning America" Ms. Rachel revealed that while working as a music teacher, she realized the power of music, not only for the kids she was teaching, but the power it had over her as well. 

"I remember I taught at a preschool for kids with disabilities and I went in thinking that I was going to change their lives, I was going to help them, and then they transformed me," she said. "They gave me so much, and I was like, I want to do this forever. I want to help kids. I love kids so much and I love teaching and I'm so passionate about it. It's a joy that, like, sustains you, not a fleeting joy. It's a joy that you can carry with you to serve kids."

Ms. Rachel also earned a second master's degree in early childhood development to give her even more valuable knowledge and experience. 

Ms. Rachel's husband, Mr. Aron, worked on Broadway

Ms. Rachel's husband, Aron Accurso, is also a big part of her videos, not only singing and dancing as Mr. Aron but also being the voice and movements behind the show's adorable, cheeky puppets. His role as Herbie the orange monster, in particular, makes him a near-constant sidekick to Ms. Rachel throughout the show, but during the early days of "Songs for Littles," he had another job, too. Mr. Aron worked full-time as the associate musical director and associate conductor for the Broadway production of "Aladdin." 

It was that job that paved the way for some of the Broadway stars from the show to join the cast of "Song for Littles," including Dennis Stowe, Keisha Giles, and Angelo Soriano, to name just a few of the crossover stars. Who would have thought that the same person who played the villainous Jafar on Broadway would make the perfect Santa in the "Songs for Littles" holiday episodes? Ms. Rachel and Mr. Aron really do see the best in everyone, even Jafar.

Ultimately, the success of "Songs for Littles" actually led to Mr. Aron quitting his job on Broadway to focus solely on creating content with Ms. Rachel. 

She and Mr. Aron share a love for Mister Rogers

Long before there was a Ms. Rachel, another kind adult set the stage for what children's television and entertainment should look like. Fred Rogers, better known as Mister Rogers, forever changed the way children and adults alike consumed mass media when "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" premiered in the United States in 1968 all the way through its final episode in 2001. Virtually every person who watched Mister Rogers and his Neighborhood of Make-Believe was impacted and Ms. Rachel is no exception. While it might seem obvious that her moniker is at least in part influenced by Mister Rogers, it turns out that the television icon might also be responsible for a lot more than that.

On her second date with her now-husband Aron Accurso, he recalled to The New York Times that the woman we now know and love as Ms. Rachel turned to him and said, "Don't you just love Mister Rogers?" It was arguably that shared love of Mister Rogers that cemented the pair's bond (and ultimately set them up for the successful marriage and business partnership our kids benefit from today).

They also compose a lot of their own music

Ms. Rachel didn't stop writing music just because she made the move from pop music and musicals to children's entertainment. In fact, while some of the songs featured on "Songs for Littles" are longtime favorites from children's stars like Laurie Berkner or songs that span back to Ms. Rachel's own childhood, she and Mr. Aron compose many of the original songs for the show. 

The duo co-wrote the "Songs for Littles" toddler hits "I'm So Happy" and "I Love a Rainbow," among others, and it's clear they love working together. Ms. Rachel captioned an Instagram video of them singing "I'm So Happy" by saying, "When you work with your husband and write songs with him and he's your best friend."

Their ease and ability to create beautiful music together is likely the result of the fact that the pair have been collaborating on music since before they were the powerhouse married couple they are today. While Ms. Rachel is responsible for both the music and lyrics for her musical "We Have Apples," Mr. Aron helped write the music, served as musical director, and played in the band. 

Ms. Rachel's mom and stepdad are even involved

Ms. Rachel's husband isn't the only family member you may have noticed floating around "Songs for Littles" — Ms. Rachel's mom, "Nana Zannah," and her stepdad, "Papa Tim," have also been featured in episodes of the YouTube show. Not only does Nana Zannah (more formally known as Zannah Ford, LCSW) have a hand in some of the social-emotional learning lessons on the show through an e-book collaboration with Ms. Rachel, "Breathe Slow and Steady, Teddy," but she and Papa Tim play a large role in the "E for Emotions" video by demonstrating how to handle big emotions after a disappointing event. 

Just like Ms. Rachel and Mr. Aron, Nana Zannah and Papa Tim have some iconic outfits of their own. Papa Tim and his quintessential shirt emblazoned with his own silhouette are also featured in a version of "I Like To Eat Apples and Bananas" with Ms. Rachel and Mr. Aron while Nana Zannah sports her own pair of overalls and complementary headband when she appears.

Songs for Littles was inspired by Ms. Rachel's son

When Ms. Rachel's son Thomas was born, becoming a world-famous YouTube star wasn't on her radar, but when it became clear he had a speech delay things fell into place. She explained to NBC's Gadi Schwartz on "Today" that it was in seeking resources for Thomas that the idea for her show was born: "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if there was a show that really encouraged language development and worked on these important milestones and was slow-paced and a real person and very interactive' and I kept searching for this show for him and we couldn't find it." 

Instead, she decided to create it herself, and "Songs for Littles" was born. In her videos, she uses the skills she said she wished she'd known when first faced with her son's speech delay in an effort to help other kids and their parents. "I think for my son, his brain wasn't really connecting with his mouth so we really needed to see what the mouth was doing," she told "Good Morning America" of the signature close-ups of her mouth while she's teaching a new word or sound.

Her toddler music classes started in person

In the days before the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything and made us all experts at virtual learning, Ms. Rachel's toddler music classes got their start as in-person classes in New York City. Leading groups of young children and their parents in songs and dances were at the time only complemented by her online content, which also served to announce future in-person classes. Once the pandemic forced in-person events to pause, Ms. Rachel pivoted to YouTube classes and incorporated other lessons, including what she called Preschool for Littles complete with preschool staples like circle time, reading, and dancing, to help supplement what young children around the country (and world) were suddenly missing due to the pandemic and quarantine.

While the world may be getting back to normal with in-person school and activities like music classes, there's no denying that Ms. Rachel's YouTube presence has made an impact on the lives of children far outside of New York City, so thankfully it doesn't seem like "Songs for Littles" is going anywhere anytime soon.

She combines music, art, movement, and learning

Ms. Rachel's background in music, musical theater, and teaching have all played a role in the type of content she creates with "Songs for Littles." Not only does she engage little ones with catchy songs, but she also incorporates movement like dancing and hand motions, arts and crafts projects, and many different learning elements like sign language, letters, numbers, and more. While it's all very fun and sometimes silly, Ms. Rachel notes that everything she does is backed by science. 

While modeling some of the things she says and does in her videos on "Good Morning America" she said, "I'm encouraging, one, imitation and imitation is a building block of speech, and I'm encouraging pointing, which is a milestone, and being silly, which is engaging. I'm thinking about a lot of things when I do something simple like that."

Parents love her catchy teaching style that has helped children far and wide communicate and learn, unlike any other resource many of them have tried. Meanwhile, the kids don't even know they're learning. They're just having fun singing, dancing, and responding to their television music teacher. 

She speaks to kids in a way they'll understand

Parents who are brand new to Ms. Rachel will no doubt immediately recognize that her voice, and the voices of others in her videos, are higher pitched than normal, their words are elongated, and everyone speaks quite a bit more slowly than is typical between adults. While some adults may find Ms. Rachel's voice annoying, the truth is that the way she speaks is intentional and is designed to help little kids better understand her.

"I have this sing-songy tone, naturally, but around the world, studies show that parents raise their voice when they talk to babies and toddlers and that helps with their language development," she told "Good Morning America." While she's using her voice as a powerful tool these days, in school she was actually bullied for her voice because it was so high. "Now it's like my superpower," she said. 

Dubbed "Parentese" by many child language experts because parents instinctively speak to their babies in this way, Ms. Rachel's way of speaking not only uses a higher pitch, but also elongated vowels, a sing-songy tone, a lot of enthusiasm, and over-the-top facial expressions that capture young children's attention and helps them learn. 

Her videos are formatted to be a better type of screen time

There's no doubt that too much screen time can impact all of us — even adults — and many pediatricians recommend that parents limit screen time for their kids. Still, the type of screen time matters. One exception to media time limits is video chatting, a change no doubt influenced by more and more kids living further from their grandparents and other extended family members and then bolstered since 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Luckily for tired parents everywhere, much of Ms. Rachel's video content is structured like a video chat. She speaks directly to children and pauses to give them an opportunity to respond. Even her content that isn't exactly structured like a video chat is formatted to be a better form of screen time. Instead of fast-paced, rapidly changing images that are common in a lot of children's media, often dubbed passive screen time because there's no interaction from the kids who watch it, Ms. Rachel's content is interactive. It's probably also no surprise that Ms. Rachel takes an approach similar to that of beloved children's television icon Mister Rogers, who was unique in his approach of prioritizing slow-paced content that spoke directly to children.

Experts love Ms. Rachel

Not only is Ms. Rachel's content a type of screen time that parents are often happy to show their kids, but experts love the way Ms. Rachel teaches in her videos, including her developmentally appropriate language, the way she teaches in the context of play and music (including actually demonstrating different types of play for kids), and the way she includes skills for parents in her videos so they can use the skills outside of screen time as well. 

One pediatric speech-language pathologist who is often asked what she thinks of Ms. Rachel shared on TikTok, "Honestly, I think she's fantastic," noting not only the video chat format of a lot of Ms. Rachel's videos but the content as well. "There is good, solid evidence behind some of the techniques that Ms. Rachel uses in her programming."

Pediatric speech pathologist (and parent of a young child) Deborah Brooks told HuffPost that she likes Ms. Rachel for being interactive and offering children the chance to actually respond to her questions and repeat the new words and phrases. She noted: "The cast is diverse and the subject matter is educational and inclusive. Furthermore, it's a show I enjoy watching."

Her iconic outfit was born out of necessity and fun

As the countless Ms. Rachel Halloween costumes in the past few years have shown us, Ms. Rachel's overalls, pink shirt, and pink headband are iconic and immediately recognizable. While early "Songs for Littles" videos occasionally show Ms. Rachel in a different color shirt or headband, pink is certainly her most common look. While the outfit has become practically synonymous with Ms. Rachel, that wasn't the YouTube star's intent. In fact, the key elements of the outfit were mostly born out of necessity.

In a TikTok, Ms. Rachel answered the question "How did the outfit come together?" revealing that her immediately recognizable look stretches all the way back to when she started her music classes when her son was just a baby. "My hair was like never washed and it was always just doing something, and I needed ... I was like let me just put on a headband because I don't have time to wash or do anything with this," she said, gesturing to her hair. The overalls, she said, made her feel "childlike and fun" while teaching and pink has always been a color she loves. "I just think it's a really pretty color."

She collaborates with other well-known YouTubers and children's entertainers

While Ms. Rachel is no doubt a powerhouse in her own right, she also understands the benefits of branching out and collaborating. In addition to the Broadway stars and musicians featured on "Songs for Littles" regularly, Ms. Rachel has also begun collaborating with other popular children's entertainers. In true crossover fashion, Blippi and Meekah joined Ms. Rachel on "Songs for Littles" while Ms. Rachel hopped over to Blippi's channel to continue the fun with Blippi and Meekah. Ms. Rachel has also collaborated with children's musician Laurie Berkner, who popularized many of the songs Ms. Rachel sang in her early videos, and Australian entertainers The Wiggles. She even has a video in the works with popular children's entertainer and former Wiggle Emma Memma. 

As Ms. Rachel continues to collaborate with other popular children's entertainers, we can't wait to see where she pops up next. We can only hope that perhaps it'll be on an iconic New York street alongside everyone's favorite furry red monster. She did, after all, seem pretty excited to meet Sesame Street's own Alan while at the White House Easter Egg Roll in 2023.