Our lives have never been so pared down. To stop the spread of coronavirus, many of us are spending more time indoors with our family than ever before. This means that our time in nature is more precious than ever. Now, when we take our children outside, we need to help them absorb it like a sponge, soaking it in, so they can take the benefits of nature with them wherever they are.
One way that we love to soak in nature with our kids is through nature poetry. Don't be intimidated if you don't consider yourself a poet. Anyone with feelings and sensations and memories can be a poet. Nature is one of the best sources of inspiration as it is alive and surrounds our senses with stimuli. A breeze on our face. The passing smell of Lily of the valley. The bright colors of a cardinal flying overhead. Nature is brimming with sights, sounds, textures, colors just waiting to inspire little poets.
Creating nature poetry can be done anytime and from anywhere. Start with finding a spot in nature that appeals to your child. You can go out to a nearby park or to your backyard. If you’re indoors, you can focus on a plant or a view of something natural from a window.
Now your child should decide what inspires them most in this setting. That is their subject. Once your child has chosen their subject, ask them to study it for a few minutes. Remind them to tune out distractions in their head and in the surrounding space but to focus on their subject like it's just the two of them alone in the world.
Now they should start to write down what they notice, opening up all of their senses and being as specific as they can. They should use as many images and descriptive words as they can. You can help them here by asking these questions:
What do you see? Notice colors, shapes and movement.
What do you feel? What parts of your object are smooth, bumpy or prickly?
How do you feel in this space? Calm, peaceful, curious, energized, happy, sad?
Ask your child to write down any metaphors they can think of as they describe their subject. Remind them that a metaphor is a figure of speech that is used to make a comparison between two things that aren't alike but do have something in common. A metaphor is very expressive and it is not meant to be taken literally.
Some examples of nature metaphors include:
The stormy ocean was a raging bull.
The wind was a howling wolf.
The snow is a white blanket.
You might want to read the poem "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer to help them understand metaphors more clearly.
Trees by Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Once your child feels they have written down all of the descriptive words and phrases they can, it's time to turn it into a poem. Remind them that a poem often makes the reader feel some kind of emotion and does not always need to rhyme. For more on the structure of a poem, see this resource. They can start with a statement or a question about their subject if they wish, adding sentences as they fit. They can turn their descriptive words and phrases into sentences. And then to revise and shorten those sentences and turn them into a poem. Remind them to add line breaks to let the reader know when to pause. Line breaks also give rhythm to a poem and contribute to its meaning. All they need to write a good poem is rhythm and their own imagination.
For added bonus, start a poetry journal and have your child add a new poem each time they head outside or are inspired by nature. They can add artwork to their poem as well!