“Poetry For Children Ages 2 – 5”
From Words to Grow With
“Poetry For Children
© & ® David Russell
I began writing stories and poems for children when my grandson reached age 2. Thinking of what kind of original present to give him, I turned to the skill of writing which had earned me a good living in advertising, corporate and education films for many years. But, this was a different kind of writing. Writing for a 2 year old and for each birthday thereafter with a follow up book till he reached the age of 12, each written, I hoped, in a literary style the equal to what I could buy in a book store. That was the assignment and challenge I gave myself. In the 10 year span, writing each book, I taught myself a lot, mostly the hard way.
At times the words flowed. Other times, they had to be to dragged kicking and screaming onto the page. While I found story writing relatively easy, constructing the poems was a bear. Each poem posed its own struggle, especially the early years ones. Choosing a subject for a 2-year old, then choosing a kid friendly meter and staying precisely within its cadence on subject was at times a torture worse than having a tooth pulled.
Finally, the book for the two year old got done, then came the 3-year old book and all the others up that followed, each in what I hoped was a truly literary style, matching the heroes of the craft, the A.A. Milne’s and Robert Lewis Stevenson’s. That was a big stretch of ego. Just convincing myself that I should try or that I might succeed was a stretch. But, during each year’s struggle slowly the pages filled and by birthday time, I was able to offer a presentation I thought had merit.
At age 2 my grandson and two years later my granddaughter had no way of realizing the sweetest words they could utter were “You read, you read, Pop-Pop”, as they brought me the book I had written. What a reward! Over time the words in the books become familiarly friendly to them. Soon they were pointing out what they liked, saying, “read this one”. That was applause which erased all the creative anguish and which no audience could equal.
One important thing I did learn was that young children were not great fans of word random sophistication, especially with the poems. That came when they were becoming more comfortable with the written word, when they started reading on their own. For their early ages, my sense was they found most comfort with a simple rhyme form such as AABB or ABAB, so that was what I adopted for most of my age 2 to 5 poems.
Now, so many years have passed; he’s 18 and entering college. She’s 16 going on 30 and into her own world. But, the words I read to them still echo at least in my ever-present memory banks where they have recently translated into the thought that those stories and poems might still have value to a world of other children. We’ll soon find out. Two stories, upgraded to commercial book form are about to compete in the library of children’s picture book sales. The first “Pop-Pop’s Magic Chair” should be released into world-wide E-Catalogues in about 6 weeks. “The Loch Lomond Monster”, follows for release before the holiday gift season.
What greatly enhances both books are wonderful illustrations by my long time friend and collaborator, Frank Furlong, who for many years animated for “Sesame Street” and whose work you’ve seen on many Animated TV commercials during the past 25 years.
After those first two story books reach the market, Frank and I hope to turn to poetry, creating books for children ages 2 – 12. Current thought is to split them into two books marketed as a set, with poems for ages 2 – 5 in book # 1 and ages 5 – 8 in Book 2.
Back to the beginning. Earlier, I touched on the challenges of writing poetry for ages two to five. At the earliest age, the first task is to choose a subject with which they are familiar and that you can have fun with while telling in rhyme a story the child will understand. Next, keep the words basic and simple, especially in the younger years. Stealing from the best, they always try to keep their poems light and fun. Here are two attempts to do just that, the subjects picked were the Sun & a Mitten.
Each morning, when I open my eyes,
I see that the sun’s begun to rise.
And, I watch with my eyes wide open
watchin’ the sun, ‘n’ keep a’hope-n
It stays shining bright up in the sky
Oh, I watch it with a watchful eye.
At night, when I rest my tired head
My friend, the sun, also goes to bed
And, when I awake in the morning
The sun’s also begun its dawning
And (YAWN) excuse me, while we’re both a yawnin’.
“A Mitten” was written for my 3-year old granddaughter. One thing she knew growing up in Glasgow, Scotland was to wear a pair of mittens.
A glove with no fingers to fit in, isn’t a glove, it’s a mitten.
So wooly, so soft and so nice-i-ly knit-tin’,
so easy to wear is the wonderful mitten.
Lots of stories you’ll hear about bad little kittens
who always seem to be losing their mittens.
You’ll hear those stories, I’m certain you will ‘til,
by five or six you’ll have had your fill.
And you’ll wonder why so much has been written
about a glove, that is… after all, only a mitten.
That poem attracted many positive comments. But, this next one broke the bank, garnering more than 300 HUB readers to date and counting though it was posted originally March 2. Was it the subject? The fun words? Or this cute picture of child and puppy proving again the adage that there are times when a picture is worth a 1000 words.
Daddy bought me a little puppy,
and the name I gave it is Frisky.
‘cause he’s always running around,
just being kind’a, sort’a brisky.
He likes to dash all over the place
And, then he falls down, right on his face.
That’s my brisky little dog Frisky.
Other dogs chase him hither ‘n yon,
So Frisky hides until they’re gone.
We look for him just everywhere
when, suddenly, he’ll just re-appear.
And, one day, when my Frisky is grown
He’ll chase puppies, ‘til he has his own.
That’s my Brisky little dog Frisky.
The next poem was an experiment. My friend, Frank Furlong who illustrated “Pop-Pop’s Magic Chair” and “The Loch Lomond Monster” lent his quirky mind and skillful hand to “My Own Kind Of Words”.
When you were growing up, weren’t there words you didn’t know the meaning of? Didn’t you try to figure out what those words meant? I know I did. My game was to try to make up my own words for things I didn’t know. A Bagel was a roll with a hole. Change for a dollar meant you gave me a dollar and I gave you one in return. My dad quit on me early. But, my mom went along in a forgiving way. When she didn’t know what I meant she’d tickle my ribs and we’d collapse into a heap of giggles. I was 67 years old when I composed this poem about thoughts which came into my mind when I was about 5 years old.
My Own Kind of Words
© & ® by David Russell
Illustration – Frank Furlong
I like to use my own special word,
Instead of words for things that I’ve heard.
Because it’s much easier for me,
to make up my own words, don’t you see?
A Squirrel to me would be a scurry
and a rabbit, could be a furry.
I’d give them names for the things they do.
I know I would call a cow, a moo.
Kittens would always be a scratchy.
all of my names would be so catchy.
I would do what ev’ry kid would do,
I’d call ev’ry scary ghost, a BOOOOOO!
A Kangaroo I’d call a Hoppy.
And things that fall, I’d call them floppy.
‘course, it could be hard for you to know
what I’m saying, when I call them so.
But, you use big words I’ve never heard,
Why can’t I use my own special word?
It’s so much fun every time I say,
My own special words, in my own special way.
About the time my grandkids reached their 5th year, I sensed the writing had became easier in one way and more difficult in another. The subject became the challenge. Choosing an apt and fitting subject with so many more subjects they knew as they passed out of their early years and then incorporating the new words they had added to their vocabularies, was a selective process. Each year as they became better readers, there were more worlds to conquer. That’s where we’ll pick up in Chapter II, as we discuss writing for ages 5 – 8.
Call this a postscript. Before we leave the wee ones, one final poem. This I wrote with a bit of sophisticated deception built in just for the fun of doing the exercise. What disguised the sophistication was the picture of the two ants and poem shaped like an ant. No easy task.
“Two Little Ants”
Two little ants
climbed up my plants.
I watched them so
A wiggling on
So slow, slow, slow.
I wonder why
those little ants
climbed up my plants?
Where the leaf ends,
you know, know, know
there’s no place for
those little ants
to go, go, go.
Sad little ants
here on my plants.
No place to go, go go.
All that’s left for them
Is to grow,
“Two Little Ants” proved a big hit with my granddaughter when she was three; she liked to giggle a lot. I ate up each and every last one of them.
In Chapter II we move into the later, more challenging years with their task to reach and keep the interest of children whose world had now expanded with the knowledge gained at school and in their now more mature attitude about little things like poems.
Chapter II is writing poetry for children ages of 5 to 8.