Poems for Preschoolers

Amy Rees
September 11, 2012

Kids are a funny bunch. They are often loath to change and anything new. But still, our little ones are open to so much—and so much more than we more ossified parents are! 

Think of poetry: preschoolers happily read and repeat poems with ease and delights. Meanwhile, we grown-ups cannot possibly remember the last time we leafed through a volume of poems just for fun. 

Now is the chance to follow our children's lead, once again. Start reading, remembering, repeating, adoring! Great fun awaits, starting with some of our favorites here:

Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children

We all probably have, somewhere upon our shelves, a weighty anthology of poetry that we last opened when studying for a college English exam. Now that we are parents, it has crossed our minds that our rhyme and rhythm-loving children might enjoy hearing some of those poems that we struggled to parse in English 101. But how to choose? Which ones, of the many thousands? We are lucky indeed that Caroline Kennedy has done the work for us, and given us her selection of favorite poems for children, each beautifully illustrated. No chronological plowing through the centuries here - the poems are arranged according to themes preschoolers know and love: animals and adventure, silliness and seasons, and bedtime of course, among others. But these familiar childhood topics usher in the greatest poets of our language, from Shakespeare to Walt Whitman to Langston Hughes to Sylvia Plath. Reading their words aloud to our little ones is pure pleasure. And small word-sponges that they are, won't our kids be pleased with themselves when it is their turn to take an English exam, and they can conjure William Blake from memories of reading on a parent's lap?

One Fish, Two Fish

It's a silly book. It's a strange book. It's the perfect introduction to Dr. Seuss. In this most nonsensical of nonsense poems, Dr. Seuss teaches rhythm, rhyme and the delights of manipulating language. He also teaches the fundamental precept of Seussian philosophy: "Everyday, from here to there, funny things are everywhere." Our children know that already, but we parents do need the reminder once in a while. Thank goodness for Dr. Seuss!

Dog Days: Rhymes Around the Year

We do revere Jack Prelutsky's poems, even if they haven't been as close to our hearts for as long as, say, Sendak's Chicken Soup with Rice. And when Mr. Prelutsky turns his talents towards the months of the year and works through the perspective of a dog, we are really charmed. This book is funny and sweet and your little one will simply love it. The illustrations are little gems—there are some hidden treats to reward the careful observer, and the whole effect is a true success.

Sylvia Long's Mother Goose

This quite modern take on the classic rhymes is simply breathtakingly lovely. The pen and watercolor drawings just blow us away. Some lesser known rhymes are mixed in, and many of the poems are visually linked through their illustrations (the queen in Pussycat, Pussycat is sitting next to Old King Cole; a frog celebrating the rain is shadowed by a mouse plaintively wishing Rain, Rain, Go Away). The characters are all rendered as animals, and certain especially harsh endings from the original are softened through the kind touch of the illustrations.

From the Parents

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