I found myself rummaging through some paperwork that I had put away in an old box; circa 1970 something or other, and there they were… my poems from childhood. These weren’t famous or even infamous poems, they were poems I had written during a time of great change in my young life. Re-reading these little snippets I was surprised. I was expecting to find lines filled with depression and uncertainty, fear and sadness (I was an angst ridden 15 year old) but instead there was optimism and hope in a better future. To quote Monty Python - I was looking on the bright side of life.
I remembered the relief I used to feel when I’d take pen in hand and just write. Gradually I moved on to using a typewriter, which made me feel very grown-up. The touch of the key and the clicking of each letter gave me a feeling of authenticity. The automatic swoosh of the return carriage whispered “keep telling your story... you’re not finished yet.”
Children and poetry go well together. It’s good to start small children with rhyming poetry. The silliness tickles their funny bone and the words entertain their imagination. Children as young as 2 or 3 years-of-age can appreciate nursery rhymes. Short poems are better to hold a very young child’s attention. As they grow older you can increase the length of the poems.
You can also use every day events to make-up poems or rhyming sentences such as “Can you hear the pretty bird sing, the one with the blue-blue wing? The pretty bird is such an itty-bitty thing.”
Have your child make up poems too - it’s all about making poetry fun.
As children get older, reading poems out loud is a great way to share time together. Take turns and let your child pick several of their favorites. Shell Silverstein’s poems are fun for kids and adults.
Once your child is a little older, say around 3rd grade, start asking them what they think their favorite poems mean. What do they like about a certain poem, how does it make them feel?
The next step is writing poetry. One theory is that writing poetry doesn’t just stimulate a child’s creativity but also pushes both sides of the brain to work together. The logical, analytical side with the random, intuitive side.
Word play is an excellent way to begin. Have your child write a word, any word, then all the words that rhyme with it such as cat, bat, hat, sat, that, dat, fat, mat etc.
Ask your child to write 4 sentences that end with the rhyme of that word. It doesn’t have to make sense, it just needs to be fun and rhythmical.
Then suggest that your child to pick an object to write about and every detail they can think of about that thing. The next step is to have them take the thing and the rhyming words and create a poem.
When your child moves into the pre-teen and teenage stage, poetry can become more personal and thought provoking. It can provide a deeper sense of the world and what is going on in their life and head. These poems may be a saving grace when times are confusing. They may also be too private to share with anyone – at least for a time.
Poetry can give a voice to the unexpected changes that life throws our way. Poems also can morph into songs. Many a musician began their journey with a simple poetic verse.
I smiled as I read the poems that had been filed away years ago. I was searching for something better, something lighter, something sweeter than the moment I was in – so I wrote it down in a poem. Give your child the gift of poetry and whether they write, type, text or tweet they will have the words they need to tell their story.