Poems to Share with Young Children, photo by Annie Spratt
Books,  Motherhood

The Best Poems to Share with Young Children

“When I say to a parent, “read to a child”, I don’t want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate.”

Mem Fox

Most parents have heard that reading poetry to young children is important but many parents struggle with incorporating poetry into daily life. Choosing which poems to read is another challenge.

Keep a Poem in Your Pocket

Keep a poem in your pocket
And a picture in your head
And you’ll never feel lonely
At night when you’re in bed.
The little poem will sing to you
The little picture bring to you
A dozen dreams to dance to you
At night when you’re in bed.
So 
Keep a poem in your pocket 
And a picture in your head 
And you’ll never feel lonely 
At night when you’re in bed.

-Beatrice Schenk de Regniers- 

The Mouse in the Wainscot

Hush, Suzanne!
Don’t lift your cup.
That breath you heard
Is a mouse getting up.

As the mist that steams
From your milk as you sup,
So soft is the sound
Of a mouse getting up.

There! Did you hear
His feet pitter-patter,
Lighter than tipping
Of beads in a platter,

And then like a shower
On the windowpane
The little feet scampering
Back again?

O falling of feather!
O drift of a leaf!
The mouse in the wainscot
Is dropping asleep

-Ian Serraillier-

Sunflakes

If sunlight fell like snowflakes,
gleaming yellow and so bright,
we could build a sunman,
we could have a sunball fight,
we could watch the sunflakes
drifting in the sky.

We could go sleighing
in the middle of July
through sundrifts and sunbanks,
we could ride a sunmobile,
and we could touch sunflakes—
I wonder how they’d feel.

-Frank Asch-

The Tale of Custard the Dragon

Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.
Now the name of the little black kitten was Ink,
And the little gray mouse, she called her Blink,
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard,
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard.

Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth,
And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,
And realio, trulio, daggers on his toes.
Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

-Ogden Nash

Measurement

Stars and atoms have no size,
They only vary in men’s eyes.
Men and instruments will blunder
Calculating things of wonder.
A seed is just as huge a world
As any ball the sun has hurled.
Stars are quite as picayune
As any splinter of the moon.
Time is but a vague device;
Space can never be precise;
Stars and atoms have a girth
Small as zero, ten times Earth.
There is, by God’s swift reckoning,
A universe in everything.

-A.M. Sullivan-

No Shop Does the Bird Use

No shop does the bird use,
no counter no baker.
but the bush is his orchard,
the grass is his acre,
the ant is his quarry,
the seed is his bread,
and a star is his candle
to light him to bed.

-Elizabeth Coatsworth

The Tree in the Garden

There’s a tree out in our garden which is very nice to climb,
And I often go and climb it when it’s fine in summer time,
And when I’ve climbed right up it I pretend it’s not a tree
But a ship in which I’m sailing, faraway across the sea.
Its branches are the riggin and the grass so far below
I make believe’s the ocean over which my ship must go;
And when the wind is blowing then I really seem to be
A-sailing, sailing, sailing, far away across the sea.

Then I hunt for desert islands and I very often find
A chest stuffed full of treasure which some pirate’s left behind—
My good ship’s hold is filled with gold—it all belongs to me—
For I’ve found it when I’m sailing faraway across the sea.
It’s a lovely game to play at —though the tree trunk’s rather green,
Still, when I’m in my bath at night I always come quite clean.
And so through all the summer, in my good ship Treasure-Tree,
I shall often go a-sailing far away across the sea.

-Christine Chaundler

Jabberwocky

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
    Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
      And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
    Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

-Lewis Carroll-

Don’t be intimidated by the strange words in this poem. It is so fun and children LOVE it. You can look up a video on YouTube of someone reading Jabberwocky to get the correct pronunciations. 

The Library

It looks like any building
When you pass it on the street,
Made of stone and glass and marble,
Made of iron and concrete.
But once inside you can ride
A camel or a train,
Visit Rome, Siam, Or Nome,
Feel a hurricane,
Meet a king, learn to sing,
How to bake a pie,
Go to sea, plant a tree,
Find how airplanes fly,
Train a horse, and of course
Have all the dogs you’d like,
See the moon, a sandy dune,
Or catch a whopping pike.
Everything that books can bring
You’ll find inside those walls.
A world is there for you to share
When adventure calls.
You cannot tell its magic
By the way the building looks,
But there’s wonderment within it,
The wonderment of books.

-Barbara A. Huff-

Please share in the comments what your favourite poem is to read with your children or which poem from the list is your favourite.

Hi! I’m Christy, a happy wife and mother to three boys, a nutritionist, a food lover and a Canadian. Creating and experimenting in the kitchen is my idea of an afternoon well spent. To me, a clean kitchen is an empty canvas of possibility and that means my kitchen never stays clean for long. My dream is that one or more of the recipes I share here will inspire you, perhaps even becoming a cherished family favourite.

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