As a parent, poetry may conjure up bad memories of boring, obscure lessons. Do not let that cloud your vision when it comes to sharing poetry with your children. Modern poetry books are not the confusing tomes that you may remember.
Poetry for babies
The rhythmic nature of poetry is a natural choice to share from birth. Kids respond to the soothing rhythms of language, and if it is repetitive, that is even better. You can start with familiar nursery rhymes and songs that you remember, even jump rope songs will work as poetry. You do not need a large repertoire at this age either, a few favorite poems recited over and over as you change diapers or rock to sleep will be soothing.
Poetry for toddlers
Make up silly poems using rhyming words combined with nonsense words to pass the time with your toddler. Surprise them with a silly rhyme or goofy story as you calm a temper tantrum, or go in to wake them up from a nap. Listening to rhymes and rhythms help children remember vocabulary and the combinations create new connections in their mind.
Poetry for preschoolers
Look for rhyming picture books and those with a sing song rhythm. Preschoolers will greatly appreciate the humor in silly songs and poems. Switch regular story books for rhyming tales or poetry books for a change of pace. Personally I find reading poetry at bedtime much easier for my sleepy brain to handle.
Poetry for grade schoolers
Now is the time to break out all the silly poetry books you can find in a bookstore or library. Shel Silverstein’s classics, or any of the crazy titles from Meadowbrook Press will have your grade schooler wanting to memorize so they can share with their friends. Have the whole family play a poetry game in the car or around the dinner table. Each person has to add a line to the first person’s sentence.
Poetry for tweens and teens
Children this age are most likely listening to a version of poetry through their ear buds. Lyrics to songs may not be your first choice, but for all intents and purposes they most likely are your child’s first choice. Putting a set of poetry magnets on the fridge is a subtle way to play with poetry with your teens. Start a poem and keep it going throughout the week.
Encourage your child to create an Acrostic poem using the first letter of their name. This can provide a glimpse into how they perceive themselves, but it could also just turn into a silly way to express themselves. No matter the age of your child, continually revisit some of their favorites. The familiar rhymes can be soothing even as they head through their teen years. You can even print and frame the words for a nice keepsake to take with them when they head off to their own homes.
More by Sylvie Branch:
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Messy room? What you can do as a parent
9 Ways to Encourage Creativity