Celebrating Poetry in Early Years

Toddlers and pre-schoolers love rhymes, making poetry a fun and educational way to spend time with your child.

Hearing poetry can help children to develop phonological awareness, a skill that’s important for learning to read, as well as introducing new vocabulary and an understanding of background knowledge. Poetry for nursery-aged children can come in the form of rhyming picture books, nonsense poems, and nursery rhymes, to name a few.

To celebrate the art of poetry, we’ve chosen a few of our favourite poetry books for nursery-aged children and highlighted why poetry at a young age is so beneficial.

Why Poetry is So Important

We love that poetry can be incorporated into a young child’s life from the very first days, by parents reciting nursery rhymes while bathing, eating, and at bedtime. Even if your little one doesn’t understand the words, the rhythmic flow of the words and actions such as clapping can captivate and enthral young children, and create a love for poetry from the very start.

We know that reading to children is important to help their development, and poetry can be even more so. That’s because hearing poetry creates pathways in children’s brains that hearing other types of language doesn’t.

Before children learn to read, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work, and this is where poetry can help. Poems help teach children the sounds in spoken language through chants, rhymes, and poetry.

Memorable rhymes and rhythmic language can engage concentration and help your child to develop an ear for language and vocabulary. Poetry for young children allows them to have fun with the sounds and meanings of words, which can help them understand narrative structure, enabling them to recall their favourite poems again and again.

Poetry allows children to experience reading in small passages made up of easy-to-understand words in a repetitive structure. Simple, fun and engaging poems make the perfect stepping stone from beginner books to more substantial reading and could help create a lifelong love of reading.

The Best Poetry Books for Nursery-Aged Children

Here are our top 5 poetry books to enjoy with your little one.

‘If You Go Down to the Woods Today’ by Rachel Piercy ‘If You Go Down to the Woods Today’ by Rachel Piercy

This sweet and charming book will make a gorgeous addition to your little ones' book collection. The illustrations are just beautiful and have a nostalgic quality you’ll love. The poem takes you on a journey through the seasons at Brown Bear Woods and touches on occasions and events in a child’s day.

There are checklists of things to spot and the poems are short and simple to read, making it easy to keep young children’s attention.

‘Poems to Perform’ By Julia Donaldson ‘Poems to Perform’ By Julia Donaldson

Beloved author of The Gruffalo, Stick Man, and Room on the Broom (to name a few) Julia Donaldson, has chosen a brilliant selection of poems that are wonderful to read aloud or perform.

In the collection are classics by the likes of Edward Lear and T S Eliot, and more contemporary pieces written by Michael Rosen and Julia Donaldson herself. We also love the illustrations in the book, which are lino-cuts by Clare Melinsky, and Donaldson even gives tips and ideas on how to perform the poetry for others, making this a fun book for the whole family to enjoy together.

‘Out and About: A First Book of Poems’ by Shirley Hughes Out and About: A First Book of Poems’ by Shirley Hughes

It’s hard not to fall in love with any book graced with the comforting illustrations of Shirley Hughes, and this sweet collection of poems is sure to become a favourite to read with your little one.

The poems are also written by Hughes and follow Katie and her little brother Olly as they have adventures outdoors, enjoying the weather and the changing seasons. From jumping in puddles and trips to the seaside to exploring in the mud, the poems are written simply and are perfect for reading together.

‘Little Poems for Tiny Ears’ by Lin Oliver ‘Little Poems for Tiny Ears’ by Lin Oliver

This lovely book is full of short poems that can relate to the youngest of children. From going for a walk in a buggy, exploring belly buttons, splashing in the bath, playing peekaboo, looking in the mirror, and playing with food, each lovely poem looks at everyday things that will keep your child entertained.

The poems rhyme beautifully and are full of fun, bouncy language, and colourful illustrations to keep your child amused.

‘I Like Myself!’ by Karen Beaumont ‘I Like Myself!’ by Karen Beaumont

It’s never too early to teach your little one to love themselves and this funny poem by Karen Beaumont does just that.

Following a sassy and happy little girl as she celebrates everything she likes about herself, from the inside, outside, and even upside down! Beaumont uses affirming and celebratory language to describe the little girl, announcing that she loves her body and personality and doesn’t care what others think, as it’s what she thinks that matters.

Parents and children alike will love the catchy, funny rhymes and the colourful illustrations and the important message it brings.

Further Information:

Nursery Rhymes

Early Writing - Essentials for Practice

Our Favourite Books to Read with Children

Ways to Encourage Children to Read