How to Write Poetry for Children
Writing poetry for children can be tough. You weren’t expecting that were you? I bet you thought that writing poetry for children would be a doddle. Just dash off a few words, maybe make them rhyme a bit and, voila, you’re done. Not so! Writing poetry for children, in fact any writing for children, is a tough job. Children are very discerning customers. They won’t listen to any old rubbish and are not afraid of saying what they mean. So, how do you write a poem for children that’ll have them engaged from the first word to the very last? Read on for tips on how to create the perfect poem for children.
Choose Your Age Group
Poetry for children is usually targeted at certain age groups, such as pre-school, 4-7, 7-11 and 11-15. There’s a very good reason for this too – it helps you to keep in mind the experience that the children will have at that age. What I mean by this is that you cannot assume that what you, or other adults, find funny will be funny to a ten year old. And, it’s likely that young children will probably have a limited understanding of emotional issues, such as death and love so it may be best to avoid these.
So how can you find out what experience children have at a certain age? That’s easy, read other popular books written for children of that age. This is part of your market research and should show you the level of language and ideas and concepts used.
See Life as a Child
This might sound a little strange, but get down on the floor, at the level of your audience and see what the world looks like from down there. It’ll give you a whole new perspective on life. Observe the things around you and you may notice how intimidating a pair of adult legs can seem, how funny the dog’s nose looks from below and just how big the whole world seems. It also helps you remember what it’s like to be a child and may prompt memories of what you loved as a child that you can incorporate into your poetry. You can extend this idea by thinking like a child. Think about what’s important to a nine year old. Do you have family pressures? What do you watch on TV? What toys do you like? What do you wear?
Choosing The Subject of Your Poem
This is where you should have no problems, as pretty much anything can be the subject of a children’s poem. However, there are some areas you should stay away from, namely sex and violence for obvious reasons. Other than that, let your imagination run wild. If you want to earn extra points with teachers, choose subjects that appear on the school curriculum. You can find out what these are by searching on the Internet. Don’t forget, poetry is a great learning tool. The rhyme, rhythm and alliteration can make subjects that would be boring written in simple prose fun and memorable.
Make ’em Laugh
If there’s one thing that gets children interested in poetry, it’s humour. Kids love nothing more than being silly when they read. So, getting them to make ‘moo’, ‘oink’ and ‘meow’ noises is going to be a winner. Laughter will also make your work much more memorable. You could try using slap-stick, puns, funny content or jokes turned into poems.
Choose you words wisely. It’s obvious that there’s no point using words that the children will not understand. So you should make sure your vocabulary is:
concrete – this means using clear, precise words rather than abstract ones
uncluttered – be concise, don’t waste words and cut out small, non-essential words – a nifty trick is to cut out ‘the’
present tense – make the action happen now, rather than in the past. This creates a sense of involvement and tension as the child waits to see the outcome of the action
easy – the child should be able to understand the poem after the first reading. This does not mean you have to dumb-down the vocabulary, rather you should only use words that you know a child of your target age will know and understand. However, this does not mean that you can’t drop in the odd new word; after all, that’s how the vocabulary is expanded.
Keep it ‘now’
Don’t use words that are from a bygone age, such as thee, thou, yonder and so on. The children will have no idea what they mean and they’ll not be impressed. The one exception to this would be if the language is used in a comedic way, for example, what a knight would say to his fair lady.
Don’t Patronise or Talk down to Your Readers
This is possibly the biggest no-no when writing for children. They’ll not appreciate it and will soon fall out of love with your writing.
So, there you have it. Stick to these basic rules and you’ll soon be producing super children’s poems.