How to Write a Poem With Your Kids
Do they like to write?
Want to show them a fun way to express themselves?
Write poetry with your kids!
In this article I’ll show you how to inspire your kids with some fun poetry.
Learn about different kinds of poetry for kids, then write poems of your own and share them. You can present them visually or verbally as part of a family poetry slam.
Parents, you may get in touch with your inner poet, as well.
Why Write Poetry?
Writing poetry allows your kids to express their thoughts and emotions in a fun and creative way. Poetry can also help your kids get in touch with their artistic, soulful side, while playing with words.
Poems can be short or long, and can take as little or as much time as you want to create them.
You can also create a book of poems as a family that you can reread over the years.
The History of Poetry
Poetry and music are closely related. The oldest known poems were chanted or sung. Poetry at that time was not only art; it was also a way to remember law, genealogy and history.
As people began writing words down, poetry could be more formalized and the words used in each poem were more likely to be fixed. Once printing was invented, poems started becoming as much a treat for the eye as for the ear.
Listen to this beautiful poem about gravity spoken by Roundhouse Poetry Slam 2013 runner-up Ben Norris.
In a poem, you can use words in a way that you can’t necessarily do when you’re writing a longer body of work. The words can be strung together because of the beautiful way they look next to one another, the song-like way they sound next to one another or the emotion that arises when you see them together—or just because you feel like putting them together.
Writing poems with your kids can be the launching point for lots of fun activities to do together:
- Create poems on your own or write them together.
- Make up verbal poems in the car on your next road trip.
- Write your poems down—it’s a great way to sneak in some handwriting practice.
- Frame your poems and hang them on the wall.
- Draw pictures to go along with your poems.
- Set your poetry to music and write your own song.
- Create a rhyming sentiment for a special greeting card.
- Enhance them by making them into an illuminated manuscript.
Poetry is good for anyone at any age—so parents, you can write them too! If your kids see you getting into the poetry groove, they’ll certainly want to join in the fun.
So let’s get writing!
#1: Research Poetry and Choose Your Type
The first step in exploring the world of poetry with your children is to talk about the many different kinds of poems. Discuss some of the choices available and let them pick the style they think looks most interesting. More than one kid? You may explore more than one style. Pick a type of poem to write yourself too.
Here are a few to start you off. Go over each section with your kids, read a few poems and choose what kinds of poems you’re going to write.
While many poems are highly formalized, others (called free verse) are written with few or no restrictions. Free verse poetry is great for beginners, because it can follow whatever pattern you want. It can rhyme, but it doesn’t have to.
Poet and author Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic) writes mostly free verse. Sometimes his poems rhyme, and they’re usually humorous.
Many of Shel Silverstein’s poems are free verse.
The meter of a poem relates to the number of syllables involved in a line, the length of those syllables and/or the number of stressed syllables.
Rhyming words, of course, sound like one another. In poetry, they can even be the same word repeated. Rhymes can be placed at the end of a line, but in some poems they are also found in the middle.
The form of a poem is the set of rules a specific type of poem must follow (for instance, the length of the line, the number of lines or the theme of the poem).
Concrete or Shape Poetry
Concrete or shape poetry is another type of formal poem. Poet John Hollandar has some wonderful examples of how to do this.
An example of a formal poem is a limerick. A limerick is a five-line poem. The first, second and fifth lines rhyme and have the same number of syllables. Also, the third and fourth lines rhyme and have the same number of syllables.
Limericks are usually somewhat silly, so they are fun for children—and adults—to write.
Here’s an example of a limerick I wrote:
I’m writing to parents and kiddies
Who live in both country and cities
Read on for more fun
Aimed at everyone
Who likes to write poems and ditties
Use this template and write a limerick.
If you’d like to learn more about formal poetry, the Poetry Foundation provides a great glossary you can explore.
#2: Write Your Poems
Once you’ve decided on the style of the poetry you’d like to focus on, it’s time to write!
Write a first draft of your poems. Then you can erase or cross out words without worrying about ruining the final piece. Once it feels right, copy the final poem onto a different piece of paper. (More on that later.)
Here are some poetry tips to keep in mind.
Not all poems have to rhyme. Children often think that rhyming is a must when it comes to poetry. Make sure they know it’s not necessary for all poems to rhyme.
Be creative. Remember that the words in poems don’t always have to be written out linearly, nor do they always have to follow regular grammar rules. Poet ee cummings did a marvelous job making his compositions sound interesting and look beautiful.
Here is a video with the soundtrack of ee cummings reading one of my all-time favorite poems, “in Just spring.”
Poetry can also be spoken. Pick a theme and make up poetry on the go! Choose a word and have your child speak a poem that’s based around that word. Then have your child provide you with a word, so you can do the same.
You can also speak a poem together and take turns coming up with the next line. This can be done with as many kids as you have. The more kids the better. This can be done in the car, at home, while waiting for the bus or anywhere.
As you introduce your children to the world of poetry, remember to write a few poems of your own.
Write together. Sit down with your kids, agree on a theme or style of poetry and write a poem at the same time. Once you’ve each written your poems, compare your compositions. Talk about in what ways your poems are similar and different.
You can also discuss what they like about writing poetry. Use their answers for inspiration for other activities.
#3: Share Your Poetry
Once you’ve composed your poems, be sure to add the finishing touches. Make sure your kids know that sometimes a poem is a private thing and it’s okay if they want to keep their writing to themselves. If that’s the case, they (or you) can copy the poem into a journal or neatly write up a final draft on a fresh piece of paper and put it somewhere special.
If you want to share your poems, there are a bunch of ways you can do that.
Frame and hang your writing. Write out your poems on medium-sized pieces of white paper. Glue the pieces of white paper onto larger pieces of construction paper. Voilà—your poems have been framed! Hang them on the wall or the fridge for all to see.
Send them. Put your poems in cards or type them up in emails and share them with the special people in your lives. Grandparents will be especially appreciative of this type of gift. It would also make a perfect Mother’s Day or Father’s Day present!
Have your own poetry slam. Have each family member memorize and dramatically speak one of his or her poems aloud. You can even have a contest where participants have to vote for their favorite poem, not including their own of course.
Some Final Thoughts…
Poetry can be fun, creative and intense. It can be solitary or something you do as a group. You can create poems solo or as a family. You can write about the same things or different topics.
When it comes to poetry, there is no right or wrong.
Like art of any kind, what makes a poem a “success” is open to debate. Not everyone has the same style of writing or would use the same combination of words to describe a thing or an emotion or a thought. That’s part of what makes writing poetry so much fun!
What do you think? Have you encouraged your kids to write poetry? Have you written your own poems? I would love to hear some of the compositions you put together. Share some of your poems in the comment area below. And happy writing!
Holly (@HollyChessman) is the co-founder of bozmyn, the secure, private, family-friendly social sharing site that lets you share what you want with who you want – and only who you want. Other posts by Holly Chessman »