Culture Poetry

How to Write a Poem with Kids

Child writing a city poem
Written by Kirstie

How to Write a Poem With Kids

Kirstie Pelling, Poet in Residence for Lonely Planet KidsDo you like being creative? Do your kids like being creative? Do you like being creative with your kids? If the answer is yes, yes and YES! then I’ve got an idea that might grab you. This summer and am the Lonely Planet Kids Poet in Residence. From now until the end of the year I will be writing poems about cities. And part of my mission is to encourage children to do the same. Read on for some ideas on how to write poems with kids…

LPKidsPoetry Where am I

One of a series of “Where am I?” poems I wrote for #LPKidsPoetry

Anyone can be a poet

I live in the place where Wordsworth wrote his poems. Well, not the actual place Wordsworth wrote his poems – I don’t live in Dove Cottage! As a Lakeland poet I follow in the footsteps of Wordsworth. Well, not actually in his footsteps – my feet aren’t THAT big!

Wordsworth was a great poet. But he wrote about simple pleasures like walks and daffodils and clouds. You don’t have to be a poet to write a great poem. And you don’t have to write about wifty wafty, poetic things.

The Beach at Jumeirah Beach Resort Dubai

Some cities are made out of sand… what will yours be made out of? Words??

This summer keep their heads in the clouds

Anyone can write a poem. Kids are especially good at them. And also anyone who likes to make stuff up, like I do. In our world daffodils dance rhumbas and clouds go wandering all over the shop. It’s actually pretty hard to pin a cloud down in my head! Check out this video of when I decided to dress up as a cloud and wander lonely on the hills writing a poem about how to write a poem wandering lonely as a cloud.

This summer keep them busy

At this time of year, kids have a lot of time on their hands. And you don’t have a lot of time on yours. So why not sit down with your children and help or encourage them to write a poem. Or better still send them off to their bedroom or into the outdoors with some gummy bears and a pack of sparkly pens to see what they come up with on their own. Or even better still, send them off to their bedroom or into the outdoors with some sparkly pens and the promise of gummy bears if they come back with a poem. (You may have to test those gummy bears while they are gone to check they haven’t been poisoned by an evil wizard?)

I know from experience that the hardest thing about poetry is getting started. So I’ve written a poem about how a kid can get started. And I also know that a poem is all about a good idea. So this poem is totally geared around the idea. Forget about moody metaphors and silly similes. Don’t spend all your precious time on rhyme. Just create a place that’s unique and exciting and the words will flow and shape themselves. Try reading this poem with the kids then sort them out with that blank sheet of paper and sparkly pens…

Child writing a city poem

How do you write a poem? Sit down with pen and paper and just start writing….

How to write a poem with kids

How to write a poem about a city

Start off by imagining yourself in a space.
If you’re stuck maybe choose a familiar place.
Consider the weather, the hour of the day.
Will the colours be golden, or will they be grey?

A landmark, a grand park, a street filled with people?
Squashed in a church pew, or perched on a steeple?
Think big and think teeny, go dreamy or real.
Try figuring out how this space makes you feel.

Now run through your senses. Smell, touch, and hear.
If others are present then are they too near?
Poke one. Is it friendly? Family or stranger?
Are you feeling ok or do you sense danger?

This fantasy creation or city you know
imagine it shrinking and then make it grow.
Shoot it to Jupiter, spin it around,
could it thrive underwater or under the ground?

Turn down the volume, or set it to loud.
Make it deserted, then add a big crowd.
Flush it with colour, pump up the light
until day is endless. Now switch on the night.

Gunk it and junk it, try making it freeze.
This your city so do as you please.
Inflate it. Invade it. Bury or burn it.
If it isn’t your favourite, why not return it?

When you’ve tossed it and turned it inside out
and you know this place and what it’s about,
where it’s been, what it’s seen, well only then,
I invite you to write it. Pick up your pen…

Tokyo at Night Shinjuku District

Can you capture the feel of a place in your poem?

Next steps

Now your kids should have an idea. Or loads to pick from. Or even a few to mash up. It’s pretty simple from now on. Their work is almost done. Here are three tips for next steps:

  1. Write it down. In lines. On a page.
  2. Share out the gummy bears. (What do you mean there’s none left?)

Well, what are you waiting for? Summer is here! The kids are looking for something to do!

About the author

Kirstie

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

5 Comments

  • Omg.. I don’t think my English is good enough for this. But this idea reminds me a lot of the show ‘Japan Hour’ where guests in some of the episodes write Haikus about places they visit! #CityTripping

  • This is such a great idea – I’m feeling inspired myself! For years, I’ve had this feeling that poetry is complicated, only a handful of talented people (like you!) can do it… my four-year-old, on the other hand, has just discovered the joys of rhyming words and is having huge fun testing that out without worrying about anything else. She might not be quite writing them herself for now, but I’m hanging on to this for the future. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  • Brilliant idea! I used to love writing poetry as a child and teenager. I feel I should pick up paper and pen (a sparkly one of course) and get creative again. Love your film! Very well shot. I feel I need to visit the lakes now as well. Thanks for linking to #citytripping

  • If only my son were still little he would have loved this. He was quite the wordsmith as a child and his poems were always very silly and occasionally rude. I’ve dabbled with verse msyself: I was always given the job of writing leaving poems and songs when people retired/moved on when I worked at John Lewis!
    I love your poetry and hope this venture inspires lots of children to enjoy the fun of creating their own poems.
    #citytripping

  • This is such a great competition. Tin Box Tot is very much enjoying making squiggles with her multi-colour pen but isn’t quite at the stage of writing poetry herself. I used to jot down poetry and song lyrics when I was a kid. I’m sure my girls will catch the same bug for writing in one form or other. Good luck with the residency! #citytripping

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