Poems for Kids are not only a great way to help them learn to love literature. They can help them learn to express their feelings and even help introduce them to empathy for other people’s. Poetry is underrated, even in our schools, so if you are looking for great poems for kids, we have them.
Kids love language and wordplay. Their innate connection to natural rhythms begins when they hear their mothers’ heartbeats in the womb; according to Morag Styles, Professor of Children’s Poetry at Cambridge University.
Of course, children also love to laugh, and many poems for kids appeal to their sense of silliness. If you wish to instill a lifelong love of literature in your daughters and sons, read them poems for kids from a very early age. Even if they are too young to understand the meaning, the rhythms will make them feel safe and nurtured.
The Best Poems to Have Your Kids Read
1. Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne
Part of the genius of A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh, was his ability to become one with his young audience. In “Now We Are Six,” he does this from the first two lines: “When I was one, I had just begun.” The poem devotes a short couplet to each year up to age six. It has a simple rhyme scheme and short words, so this is one of the first poems children can read on their own. “Now We Are Six” is easy for children to memorize, so it will be a poem that stays with them as they grow up.
2. The Arrow and the Song by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“The Arrow and the Song,” by early American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, conveys a positive message about giving freely without expecting anything in return. The magic lies in the last stanza where the speaker regains his gifts and a friend as well. The poem has three, four-line stanzas with a simple AABB rhyme scheme, so it tends to make its mark in the memory.
3. “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll
From the imaginative mind that conceived Alice in Wonderland, the poem “Jabberwocky” first appeared in Lewis Carroll’s sequel, “Through the Looking Glass.” This poem has several aspects that are bound to command your children’s attention. Because the Jabberwock is a mythical beast, is has the same imaginative appeal as giants, unicorns and fairies. Also, the poem is a cautionary tale in which a father warns his son about a monster and most children like scary stories. Finally, the son returns a hero, having slain the Jabberwocky, and basks in his father’s praise, just like most children love to do. Carroll made up many of the words in the poem, which will interest kids who like to experiment with language.
4. On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss
As one of the 20th century’s most talented children’s poets, Dr. Suess wrote dozens of classics. “On Beyond Zebra” is one of his zaniest and most inventive. It focuses on a boy who has ventured beyond the standard alphabet to learn new letters that correspond to typically weird Seussian creatures.
5. A Narrow Fellow in the Grass by Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson was a prolific poet and a keen observer of nature. “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass” is about a snake. The poem is easy to read, but a few of the images may inspire some discussion, such as “a Whip Lash, unbraiding in the sun.” This gets your children thinking on a deeper level, beyond first impressions.
6. Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams’ gift lay in his talent for crafting clear yet simple images that are ripe with meaning. “Red Wheelbarrow” provides a feast for your children’s imaginations in only sixteen words arranged in four stanzas. Because the poet relies on rhythm rather than rhyme in the poem, “Red Wheelbarrow” illustrates that rhyme is not essential to a successful piece.
7. Sick by Shel Silverstein
This silly poem is a favorite with kids who love to laugh. Shel Silverstein is among the most popular 20th-century children’s poets for a good reason. He writes about issues that kids care about with the kind of silly wit that appeals to their sense of humor. “Sick” presents a child’s reasons for staying home from school, including complaints that run the gamut from a sliver in the thumb to a caved-in belly button. You are likely to all be laughing by the time you reach the poem’s surprise conclusion.
8. The Duel by Eugene Field
An old-fashioned yet classic children’s poem, “The Duel” tells the tale of a fight between the gingham dog and the calico cat, as told to the author by the old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate. A longer poem with rhyming stanzas, this is a great bedtime read to share with your children. The mystery at the end of “The Duel” leaves them to imagine what became of the duelers.
9. Fish by Mary Ann Hoberman
“Fish” is a celebration of the descriptive power of words and the poet’s craft at its most elemental. Through the use of rhymes, half-rhymes and the visual arrangement of words on the page, Mary Ann Hoberman recreates what she observes in precise terms that immediately capture your children’s attention. Many will repeat the poem to themselves just for fun, thereby committing it to memory.
10. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
A lovely poem that resonates with readers of every age, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” holds hidden depths your child can discover as she grows. Robert Frost’s rider expresses several emotions as he quietly observes a winter scene, some immediately accessible and others that only come to light with further thought. The rhyme, rhythm, and repetition at the end make the poem very accessible to readers.
As your children grow up, they will gain a greater understanding of the poems for kids you read together. They will, ideally, recognize some of deeper issues that lie just beneath the surface of the poems they love. Those works that grow with them are likely to remain in their memories throughout their lives. Start by adding the above poems to your nightly bedtime reading. In time, you will teach your children to love literature.
Image from depositphotos.com.