Unlocking Poetry for Kids with Art

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Introducing poetry to my kids didn’t go exactly as planned. My kids weren’t loving the poems or even understanding what they were reading. So I needed a way to unlock poetry for my kids — and I found it through art.

Poetry can seem so strange. What in the world are these poets talking about? And why do I care?

Once children see that poems are a snapshot of a time and place, an emotion, a state of being, then they start to see the meaning of poetry. And why poetry matters to them.

“Poems are other people’s snapshots in which we see our own lives.” – Charles Simic

Poetry for Kids with Art

1. Set out your art supplies.

2. Gather poems you think your kids might like.

Poetry for Kids with Art

3. Invite your kids to read through the poems you’ve provided and select a poem to illustrate. My daughter decided to illustrate a poem she wrote. LOVE that!

Make sure each child reads the poem out loud. Talk about the images the words make in your mind. Ask what the poem if there is anything that is confusing about the poem. Discuss what the poem is about.

Poetry for Kids with Art

4. Draw or paint the poem’s images. There is no right way to do this. Let your child have free reign on what he or she illustrates.

Poetry for Kids with Art

5. Even if it’s not their best effort, remember that it’s a start. The goal is to help your child unlock the meaning of the poem. The goal is to help your child connect the poem to their life in some way.

Some of the poems that you see illustrated are from the book Poem In Your Pocket For Young Poets book, edited by Bruno Navasky.

Poetry for Kids with Art

I think there is a LOT of power in having children write their own poetry. This helps them understand the poetry they read in a deeper way since they are also poets.

The poem JJ wrote was inspired by an activity in Love that Dog by Sharon Creech and based on William Carlos Williams’ poem called “The Red Wheelbarrow.” We talked a lot about the unusual phrase, “so much depends upon,” and what that might mean. We made up poems out loud in that form. “So much depends upon . . . a child learning poetry, sitting with her mother, on a day home sick from school.”

Here’s the poem she wrote and illustrated:

So much depends upon
the little kitten
laying in the sun
with her mama cat.

Sigh. It’s beautiful to see her writing poetry.

Poetry for Kids with Art
Poetry and Art Activity for Kids

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  1. Oh my goodness, what a great idea! My eldest is a struggling reader who LOVES art. I am definitely going to try this out.
    Thank you for the fresh idea.