Celebrate National Poetry Day by Reading Nature Poems to Children

Father laying on a sofa with his son reading a book

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The following six poems are favorites in this writer's kid-filled house.

In recent weeks, my kids and I have started reading poetry together before bed. We have several books of poems geared toward young children, and every night we flip through them to find cute, engaging rhymes to read aloud. My kids sit spellbound by the rhythm, the humor, the distilled descriptions of a world they know and love, and beg for more. Their favorite poems are about nature, animals, and the weather.

When I discovered that today, 4 October 2018, happens to be National Poetry Day, it felt fitting to share some of my family's favorite read-aloud poems, specifically those that celebrate the natural world. If you have little ones in your life, you too may want to read these aloud. They're catchy, quirky, and beautiful, and anything that can foster a love of nature in the next generation is a worthwhile investment.

1. RAIN by Spike Milligan

There are holes in the sky
Where the rain gets in,
But they're ever so small,
That's why rain is thin.

2. THE CATERPILLAR by Christina Rossetti

Brown and furry,
Caterpillar in a hurry;
Take your walk
To the shady leaf or stalk.

May no toad spy you,
May the little birds pass by you;
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.


I'm glad the sky is painted blue,
And the earth is painted green,
With such a lot of nice fresh air
All sandwiched in between.

4. AT THE ZOO by William 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!

5. THE PASTURE by Robert Frost

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha’n’t be gone long — You come too.

I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha’n’t be gone long — You come too.

6. A BIRD CAME DOWN THE WALK by Emily Dickinson

A Bird came down the Walk —
He did not know I saw —
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass —
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass —

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all around —
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought —
He stirred his Velvet Head

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home —

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam —
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
Leap, plashless as they swim.

Do you have favorite poems to read with children?