I am happy to report that our home has experienced an explosion of poetry, a “poetry renaissance”, if you will. Back in April, I started the Poetry Reading Challenge and it would not be an overstatement to say that it changed our lives. As I reflect on how we have infused our daily life with poetry it became clear to me that poems often have a calming effect on the kids.
Now that is not to say that our home is not a model of peace and tranquility. I do have two boys ages 5 and 9. So I don’t want to get your hopes up for perfection. However, I want to encourage you to include poetry in your kids’ daily literacy diet. Yes, even if you are one of those people who “hates poetry”, or “just can’t get into poetry.”
The following are 8 ways poetry has improved our lives, acted as a calming activity, and helped the kids to stay focused:
1. Make poetry visible. I do this three ways. I hang poems on the wall, leave poetry books lying out and have poetry word magnets. You can see we still have the poems from April tacked up above our dinner table. And note, I didn’t bother to stage a pretty pic, so ignore the messy table.
2. Read poetry everyday. Yes. Every. Day. It’s much easier than you think. Do you have a stack of books by your child’s bed where you read bedtime stories? Stick a poetry book on top and read a poem before the books. It only has to be one. You can read the same one every night if you want.
3. Memorize a poem. This is a biggie, and the following points below are all related to the idea of memorization. I’m looking now at you, mom or dad. If you, the parent, don’t have a poem memorized, do it. It’s easier than it seems. Go ahead and pick something short. Anything you want, even a silly poem! You may even remember a poem you memorized as a child but thought you forgot. I can remember several poems I learned when I was young, including “The Owl and the Pussycat” and “Jabberwocky”. I also have an arsenal of Shakespeare from my acting days, which comes in handy when I want to impress my kids. (Oh, who am I kidding, they are more impressed by “Jabberwocky”.)
4. Create a ritual around reciting the poem you have memorized. I have found reciting poetry comes in very handy when I am brushing my 5 year old’s teeth. But it might work well for bath time, or setting the table, or any other number of mundane, but otherwise boring tasks
you force your child to do your child does.
5. Have your kids memorize a poem. This is much, much easier than it sounds!! My kids memorize poems much more quickly than I do! All that teeth brushing during “Jabberwocky”? My 5 year old can recite it now, too. Here’s a tip. Don’t tell your kids to memorize a poem if they will think it sounds like work. Simply read the same poem every day (see tip 2, above) and they will memorize it in no time. Our next mission is to memorize “Casey at the Bat”. My kids love this poem and I plan to read it once at dinner, working on a stanza each day. (You can even see it there in the photo, above!) Read Amy’s tips on how to memorize poetry with kids.
6. Make up poetry spontaneously. This is especially fun with limericks. When reciting well-heard poems during teeth brushing doesn’t work, I make up a limerick. My son particularly likes it when they are about him. Tip: they don’t have to be good. My limericks are embarrassingly bad. Who else will hear them? (Well, besides the neighbors who share the bathroom vent.) Take our weekly poetry writing challenge if you want a little guidance.
7. Recite poetry in the dark. Does this seem weird? Poetry paints visual images. Turning off the lights can allow kids brains to focus more closely on the words and imagery of a poem. I find this particularly helpful with my younger son, who has always struggled with falling asleep. After we turn off the lights, we lay down and recite “Poem in your Pocket” but you could find another calming bedtime poem that would work just as well.
8. Invest in poetry books. I don’t necessarily mean you have to spend money. You can invest in the time it takes to walk over to the library and browse the poetry section (Dewey Decimal 811) for a quality anthology to borrow. Read from it with your kids every day and leave it lying around your home (see tips 1 and 2). See below for suggestions of favorite poetry books.
Poetry Book Suggestions:
(Note: book titles are affiliate links)
- Poems to Learn by Heart
- A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children
- The Random House Book of Poetry for Children
- Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young
- National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!
- Here’s A Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry
Poetry Book Lists:
- Poetry books to make you love poetry
- Essential Poetry Books (Pleasantest Thing)
- Poetry Books for a Diverse World
- Haiku Poetry Collections
- Douglas Florian: a Poet for Boys (and girls!) (Boy Mama Teacher Mama)
- 10 Poetry Books for Kids (Pragmatic Mom)
More Poetry Resources:
- Read about the Poetry Reading Challenge and get printable versions (free!) of 5 poems to post on your wall.
- Make Spine Poems
- 14 Easy Poetry Writing Ideas
... and may poetry calm your kids and bring joy to your home, too!