The Poetry of Toddlers in 3 Words

If you could describe a toddler in just 3 words, what would you choose? For me- I think the wording would depend on the day. Some days I would choose the words: loveable, inquisitive, pure. Other days? Perhaps I would choose: exhausting, messy, and stubborn. All the ups and downs, ins and outs, tantrums and love fests that come with having a toddler. To change anything would mean to miss the poetry. It sure is true that the days are long but the years are short.

April marks many things, one being National Poetry month. This month celebrates the craft of poets everywhere. It may seem like a stretch to attach poetry to toddlers however, it often goes unnoticed just how many children’s books and songs are actually poems! Can you guess the popular one below?

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are

Jane Taylor, 1806

Reading and reciting poetry supports your child’s development in tremendous ways! The mere act of opening a book helps increase your child’s attention to task, meaning it helps to train them to focus on one thing. The words in the book aid in language development not only in terms of exposure to vocabulary, but also comprehension (understanding). The intonation and rate of your voice while you recite or read helps to train your child to hear and attach emotion to words such as excitement, anger, or boredom. This adds an extra layer of meaning to the story and improves your child’s understanding of what they are hearing.

Reading increases Cognition! Cognition is a fancy word for acquiring and understanding information. Reading and reciting poems help your child to decipher what they hear. Your child begins to understand that words have specific meaning. This helps them to process the language and store the information for future use. Have you ever had your child remember a vague promise you made weeks ago or a toy they wanted at a random store? Yeah- that’s cognition.

Physical movement also goes hand in hand with reading especially in the realm of toddler books. Toddlers LOVE to move! So anytime you can read a book with dancing, instruments, and movement the better! Believe it or not there are tons of scholarly articles that conclude movement strengthens learning, improves memory, and enhances learner motivation.

“When I Move!” by Carole Boston Weatherford

The words “Social-Emotional” seem to be popping up everywhere! What exactly does social emotional mean? defines social emotional development as the ability to:

  • Form and sustain positive relationships.
  • Experience, manage and express emotions.
  • Explore and engage with the environment.

It is important to teach children that emotions are normal. Everyone has them. The importance lies in their ability to express them-which is hard! Books and poetry are amazing resources to navigate these tricky waters! You can find books on just about any emotion and it provides a great opportunity to start the conversation. Poetry about social emotional wellbeing lays the groundwork for when the emotion arises. You can also talk about the ‘big’ emotions even while you are reading. This creates a parallel from the character to your child. For example: “The character in the story looks mad. Remember when you felt mad this morning when you couldn’t wear your snowsuit and pajamas to school?” (true story)


Poems about kindness, friendship, and making good choices

Layering in reading and reciting poems within your day also can increase your child’s early literacy skills. Reading poetry teaches your child about sound, rhyming, and grammar/syntax. Believe it or not, your child is coding what they hear. Grammar skills and sentence structure emerge based on exposure. Repetition, repetition repetition. The more your child hears the verse, the more likely they will retain it.

Parents can take the opportunity to journal and write down the poetry your child expresses everyday. I still LOL when I think of my 4 year old son saying to me “I hugged the Easter bunny, even though I knew it was a costume” Pure poetry! Sometimes the most simple of expressions hold a lot of meaning. The Look-A-Book below is from the Palmer Public Library, reading the book Kyoshi’s Walk, and is about the art of the Haiku. A Haiku is a traditional Japanese Poem with the following rules:

Traditional Haiku Structure

  1. There are only three lines, totaling 17 syllables.
  2. The first line is 5 syllables.
  3. The second line is 7 syllables.
  4. The third line is 5 syllables like the first.
  5. Punctuation and capitalization are up to the poet, and need not follow the rigid rules used in structuring sentences.

Below is the Haiku I wrote about my son, aged two. We were on a ‘walk’.

No walk or stroller

Stubborn little boy standing

His fierce spirit shines

Celebrate National Poetry Month by incorporating some poetry into you and your little one’s lives. Haiku’s are really fun to write because they are short and simple yet because of the ‘rules’ you have to be concise to get your point across. Write some Haiku’s of your own and share them with us! We would love to hear from you!

Check out the books below for some more poetry inspiration. Click on them to find out more.

I love this endearing and fun activity from A wonderful gift for yourself or anyone in your child’s life. Guaranteed to make grandma cry with love. May just be me though? Sometimes I cry over everything.

Handprint poem printatble

Lastly, I will leave you with a poem.

Messy Fingers

© Debra S. Higginbotham

Published: February 2006

Sticky fingers, tangled hair,
scattered crayons everywhere.
Fancy artwork on the wall
drawn by little ones three feet tall.
Tell me why and tell me how.
That was mine, I want it NOW!
Fix my bike. Buy me gum.
If you have it, I want some.
Dirty faces, grass-stained knees,
learning words like pretty please.
Endless hugs and goofy wet kisses,
learning respect with ‘Mr.’ & ‘Mrs.’
Scraped-up hands from falling down.
Tender tugs – – on my night gown.
Need more paper for Santa’s letter?
I wasn’t so bad, but I’ve been better.
Watching a movie again and again.
Mommy, please put the tape back in.
Messy fingers, hair gone wild,
all in the life of a precious child!



Your Nurture Notetakers,

Jaime Sinift-Heimer M.S. CCC-SLP/L

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s