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20 Popular Poems for Kids of All Ages

These lovely poems for kids will get the little ones excited to read stanza after stanza

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poetry written on lined notebook paper with some markers scattered around and origami butterflies made with poetry pages floating above; light blue background
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The best poems for kids that delight and enrich

Adults are no strangers to poetry. After all, there’s a seemingly endless supply of poems in the world, whether you’re looking for swoon-worthy love poems (or even specific love poems for her or him), side-splitting funny poems, short poems that still pack a punch or even hilarious limericks that make you chuckle (here are some examples, in case you’re curious). Poetry isn’t just for grown-ups, though; in fact, there are plenty of poems for kids that are both entertaining and enlightening.

And, if you think about it, children are surrounded by poetry every day, between nursery rhymes, storybooks (especially Dr. Seuss) and singalongs. Besides bringing joy to kids, poetry aids in your child’s cognitive development by helping them understand patterns, enriching their vocabulary and enhancing retention skills. Ready to get the poetry train rolling? Read these children’s poems with your kiddo and unlock the best parts of their imagination.

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"The Mountain and the Squirrel" by Ralph Waldo Emerson
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“The Mountain and the Squirrel” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The mountain and the squirrel
Had a quarrel,
And the former called the latter
“Little prig.”
Bun replied,
“You are doubtless very big;
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year
And a sphere.
And I think it no disgrace
To occupy my place.
If I’m not so large as you,
You are not so small as I,
And not half so spry:
I’ll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track.
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut.”

This is one of those nature poems children can learn a lot from. Emerson’s poem was first published way back in 1846 and emphasizes the place of both the big and small things in nature. The main point: Everything in nature plays an important role in making the world go around.

"The Crocodile" by Lewis Carroll
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“The Crocodile” by Lewis Carroll

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
With gently smiling jaws!

You may know Lewis Carroll as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but you may not be aware that he is truly a master of quirky poems. Although the story of Alice falling down the rabbit hole may be a bit advanced for your little ones, get them reading with some of the best children’s books ever written.

The Purple Cow" by Gelett Burgess
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“The Purple Cow” by Gelett Burgess

I never saw a purple cow,
I never hope to see one,
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one!

Children’s poems like this one could be why these people believed these hilarious things as kids.

"About My Dreams" by Hilda Conkling
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“About My Dreams” by Hilda Conkling

Now the flowers are all folded,
And the dark is going by.
The evening is arising …
It is time to rest.
When I am sleeping I find my pillow full of dreams.
They are all new dreams:
No one told them to me
Before I came through the cloud.
They remember the sky, my little dreams,
They have wings, they are quick, they are sweet.
Help me tell my dreams
To the other children,
So that their bread may taste whiter,
So that the milk they drink
May make them think of meadows
In the sky of stars.
Help me give bread to the other children
So that their dreams may come back:
So they will remember what they knew
Before they came through the cloud.
Let me hold their little hands in the dark,
The lonely children,
The babies that have no mothers any more.
Dear God, let me hold up my silver cup
For them to drink,
And tell them the sweetness
Of my dreams.

Did you know this is a poem that was actually written by a child? Seriously! Hilda Conkling spent the tender ages of 4 to 14 writing several poetry books.

"Hey Diddle Diddle" by Walter Crane
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“Hey Diddle Diddle” by Walter Crane

Hey diddle diddle!
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow skipt over the moon;
The little dog laughed to see the fine sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

This children’s-poem-turned-nursery-rhyme is adorable, but if you’re looking for something that shows a mother how much you care, check out these sweet Mother’s Day poems.

"Bed in Summer" by Robert Louis Stevenson
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“Bed in Summer” by Robert Louis Stevenson

In winter I get up at night 
And dress by yellow candle-light.  
In summer, quite the other way,  
I have to go to bed by day.  

I have to go to bed and see         
The birds still hopping on the tree,  
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet  
Still going past me in the street.  

And does it not seem hard to you,  
When all the sky is clear and blue,  
And I should like so much to play,  
To have to go to bed by day?

Fun fact: Stevenson wrote Treasure Island, a classic children’s book that has been adapted to film several times—including in Disney’s classic family movie Treasure Planet. 

"There Was an Old Man with a Beard" by Edward Lear
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“There Was an Old Man with a Beard” by Edward Lear

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said “It is just how I feared—
Two Owls and a hen,
Four Larks and a wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!”

Want to get your kids to laugh without having to memorize these kids’ poems? Try learning some of these short jokes that are much easier to remember.

"The Star" by Jane Taylor
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“The Star” by Jane Taylor

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

When the blazing sun is set,
And the grass with dew is wet,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Then the traveler in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see where to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.

As your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the traveler in the dark,
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

We all know the first stanza of this poem! It’s the foundation of the beloved children’s song “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Check out more inspirational poems that will warm your heart.

"Star Light, Star Bright" (author unknown)
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“Star Light, Star Bright” (author unknown)

Star light, start bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

Perfect for an evening with a clear sky to get your kids believing in magic even more than they already do. Fairy tales are just as omnipresent in children’s lives as poems for kids are, and these are the most popular fairy-tale stories of all time.

"Mary's Lamb" by Sarah Josepha Hale
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“Mary’s Lamb” by Sarah Josepha Hale

Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow,
And every where that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go;
He followed her to school one day—
That was against the rule,
It made the children laugh and play,
To see a lamb at school.

And so the Teacher turned him out,
But still he lingered near,
And waited patiently about,
Till Mary did appear;
And then he ran to her, and laid
His head upon her arm,
As if he said—”I’m not afraid—
You’ll keep me from all harm.”

“What makes the lamb love Mary so?”
The eager children cry—
“O, Mary loves the lamb, you know,”
The Teacher did reply;—
“And you each gentle animal
In confidence may bind,
And make them follow at your call,
If you are always kind.”

Interesting fact: If this poem sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the first published version of the popular nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb.

"Leap Year Poem" by Mother Goose
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“Leap Year Poem” by Mother Goose

Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone.
And that has twenty-eight days clear,
And twenty-nine in each leap year.

Psst … don’t forget to read up on these quirky leap year facts!

"Who Has Seen the Wind?" by Christina Rossetti
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“Who Has Seen the Wind?” by Christina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

This is a great short poem for kids to read in the fall; it could also double as a Thanksgiving poem, reflecting the holiday’s chillier weather.

"If All the World Were Apple Pie" by Mother Goose
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“If All the World Were Apple Pie” by Mother Goose

If all the world were apple pie,
And all the sea were ink,
And all the trees were bread and cheese,
What should we have to drink?

This fun children’s poem by Mother Goose appears in the book Children’s Poems That Never Grow Old, compiled by Clement F. Benoit.

"The Mulberry Bush" by Walter Crane
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“The Mulberry Bush” by Walter Crane

Here we go round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush;
Here we go round the mulberry bush,
All on a frosty morning.

This is the way we clap our hands,
This is the way we clap our hands,
This is the way we clap our hands,
All on a frosty morning.

Looking for something other than fiction for children? Check out these great nonfiction books for kids.

"Little Things" by Julia Abigail Fletcher Carney
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“Little Things” by Julia Abigail Fletcher Carney

Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean,
And the pleasant land.

So the little moments,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages,
Of Eternity.

So the little errors,
Lead the soul away,
From the paths of virtue,
Far in sin to stray.

Little deeds of kindness,
Little words of love,
Help to make earth happy,
Like the Heaven above.

Bring this fun poetry fact to your next trivia night: Julia Abigail Fletcher Carney wasn’t just a poet; she was also a teacher.

"At the Zoo" by William Makepeace Thackeray
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“At the Zoo” by William Makepeace Thackeray

First I saw the white bear, then I saw the black;
Then I saw the camel with a hump upon his back;
Then I saw the grey wolf, with mutton in his maw;
Then I saw the wombat waddle in the straw;
Then I saw the elephant a-waving of his trunk;
Then I saw the monkeys—mercy, how unpleasantly they smelt!

Your child will be begging to go to the zoo after hearing this poem. You can even recite it in the car on the way.

"The Boy Who Never Told a Lie" by Anonymous
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“The Boy Who Never Told a Lie” by Anonymous

Once there was a little boy,
With curly hair and pleasant eye—
A boy who always told the truth,
And never, never told a lie.

And when he trotted off to school,
The children all about would cry,
“There goes the curly-headed boy—
The boy that never tells a lie.”

And everybody loved him so,
Because he always told the truth,
That every day, as he grew up,
‘Twas said, “There goes the honest youth.”

And when the people that stood near,
Would turn to ask the reason why,
The answer would be always this:
“Because he never tells a lie.”

Moral of the story: Don’t lie!

"The Canary" by Elizabeth Turner
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“The Canary” by Elizabeth Turner

Mary had a little bird,
With feathers bright and yellow,
Slender legs—upon my word,
He was a pretty fellow!

Sweetest notes he always sung,
Which much delighted Mary;
Often where his cage was hung,
She sat to hear Canary.

Crumbs of bread and dainty seeds,
She carried to him daily,
Seeking for the early weeds,
She decked his palace gaily.

This, my little readers, learn,
And ever practice duly;
Songs and smiles of love return,
To friends who love you truly.

We bet this canary is one majestic bird.

"Happy Thoughts" by Robert Louis Stevenson
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“Happy Thoughts” by Robert Louis Stevenson

The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

This short poem for kids can also double as a happiness quote—share away!

"There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" by Mother Goose
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“There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” by Mother Goose

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread,
Kissed them all fondly and sent them to bed.

Mother Goose may be the most known anonymous creator of all time. As the author of many children’s nursery rhymes, her poems for kids are justly some of the most popular. Next, read these quirky limericks for your kids that even you will find funny.

Additional reporting from Emma Taubenfeld.

Kelly Kuehn
Kelly Kuehn is a former editor for Reader’s Digest who covered entertainment, trivia and history. When she’s not working you can find her watching the latest and greatest movies, listening to a true-crime podcast (or two), blasting ‘90s music and hiking with her dog, Ryker, throughout the Finger Lakes.