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Short Poems For Children

10 of the Best Short, Rhyming Poems to Teach Your Kids

What Makes a Good Poem?

“The poet's aim is to blend in one the delightful and the useful.”

– Horace

"The poet's aim is to blend in one the delightful and the useful" - Horace. A good poem will both gratify and teach. It will bring pleasure, as well as instruction, to its reader. Memorizing and reciting poetry can be an ideal activity for you and your child.

How to Choose Your Poems

One of your primary objectives will most likely be to cultivate a love and appreciation of poetry in your child. You’ll want to give him a positive experience with it. Short poems that get to the heart quickly, and rhyming poems that maintain interest, are ideal.

Remember too that many years from now, your children may very well look back fondly on the days when you used to read poetry to them before tucking them into bed. Finding a poem on a topic that is meaningful to both you and your child will make reading poetry together special. As a starting place, the following is a list of the best time honored poems appropriate for children. These are poems that rhyme, are short, and have instructional value. Enjoy!

Related Poems

List of Poems For Kids

(Poems not listed in any particular order)

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

- Julia Fletcher Carney
Little Things

Little Things

by Julia Fletcher Carney

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

Thus the little minutes,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages
Of eternity.

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

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

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of.”

– Ben Franklin quote on time


The Boy Who Never Told a Lie

The Boy Who Never Told a Lie
"I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little hatchet"
by Anonymous. Honesty is a supreme virtue. This short poem encourages youths to strive for this virtue. In reading it you may be reminded of the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. While the story of young Washington chopping down the cherry tree and then confessing the deed in honest candor to his father is a fictional account, the noteworthy part is that Washington's character was such that many who knew him believed the story to be true when they heard it, and thus the story lived on as a "true account." We would do well to strive for that kind of honesty and character. The story of Washington and the cherry tree is included below.

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."

The Story of George Washington and His Hatchet

When George Wash-ing-ton was quite a little boy, his father gave him a hatchet. It was bright and new, and George took great delight in going about and chopping things with it.

He ran into the garden, and there he saw a tree which seemed to say to him, "Come and cut me down!"

George had often seen his father's men chop down the great trees in the forest, and he thought that it would be fine sport to see this tree fall with a crash to the ground. So he set to work with his little hatchet, and, as the tree was a very small one, it did not take long to lay it low.

(Young George Washington illustration.  George Washington is confessing chopping down the cherry tree with his hatchet.)

Soon after that, his father came home.

"Who has been cutting my fine young cherry tree?" he cried. "It was the only tree of its kind in this country, and it cost me a great deal of money."

He was very angry when he came into the house.

"If I only knew who killed that cherry tree," he cried, "I would—yes, I would"—

"Father!" cried little George. "I will tell you the truth about it. I chopped the tree down with my hatchet."

His father forgot his anger.

"George," he said, and he took the little fellow in his arms, "George, I am glad that you told me about it. I would rather lose a dozen cherry trees than that you should tell one false-hood."

Story written by James Baldwin


Love Between Brothers and Sisters

brother and sister getting along
Brother and Sister
by Ernő Béli Vörös
by Isaac Watts. Watts' very short poem instructs siblings to love one another and not to fight.

Whatever brawls disturb the street,
There should be peace at home;
Where sisters dwell and brothers meet,
Quarrels should never come.

Birds in their little nests agree;
And 'tis a shameful sight,
When children of one family
Fall out and chide and fight.


The Violet

Humility and the violet.  An illustration of a Violet flower.
The Violet (viola)
by Mary E. Eaton
by Jane Taylor. This short poem paints a picture of humility as displayed by the violet.

Down in a green and shady bed
A modest violet grew;
Its stalk was bent, it hung its head,
As if to hide from view.

And yet it was a lovely flower,
No colours bright and fair;
It might have graced a rosy bower,
Instead of hiding there.

Yet there it was content to bloom,
In modest tints arrayed;
And there diffused its sweet perfume,
Within the silent shade.

Then let me to the valley go,
This pretty flower to see;
That I may also learn to grow
In sweet humility.


A Farewell

Farewell to a child
The Youngest Son's Farewell
by Adolph Tidemand
by Charles Kingsley. Kingsley's short poem instructs us on putting our good intentions into action.

My fairest child, I have no song to give you;
No lark could pipe to skies so dull and gray;
Yet, ere we part, one lesson I can leave you
For every day.

Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever;
Do noble things, not dream them all day long:
And so make life, death, and that vast forever
One grand, sweet song.


The Ants

Hardworking ant illustration
Industrious Ants
by Jane Taylor. We humans have long applauded ants for their hearty work ethic. This short poem goes a step further and commends one particular ant for also being good natured and kind. Let us learn from this ant.

A little black ant found a large grain of wheat
Too heavy to lift or to roll;
So he begg'd of a neighbour he happen'd to meet,
To help it down into his hole.

"I've got my own work to look after," said he;
"You must shift for yourself, if you please;"
So he crawl'd off as selfish and cross as could be,
And lay down to sleep at his ease.

Just then a black brother was passing the road,
And seeing his brother in want,
Came up and assisted him in with his load,
For he was a good-natured ant.

Let all who this story may happen to hear,
Endeavour to profit by it;
For often it happens that children appear
As cross as the ant, every bit.

And the good natured ant who assisted his brother
May teach those who choose to be taught,
That if little insects are kind to each other,
Then children most certainly ought.


The Days of the Month

Beautiful Illustrated Calendar
Antique Calendar
by Anonymous. This classic rhyme has been used for generations to memorize how many days there are in each month - practical information to remember.

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
February has twenty-eight alone.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting leap-year—that's the time
When February's days are twenty-nine.


Kindness to Animals

Abraham Lincoln saving an animal
Abraham Lincoln showing kindness to an animal
by Anonymous. This old poem teaches the virtue of showing kindness and regard for all living things. The principle is further illustrated in an old Abraham Lincoln anecdote his friends recorded about the time when he stopped to save a young robin.

Little children, never give
Pain to things that feel and live:
Let the gentle robin come
For the crumbs you save at home,—
As his meat you throw along
He'll repay you with a song;
Never hurt the timid hare
Peeping from her green grass lair,
Let her come and sport and play
On the lawn at close of day;
The little lark goes soaring high
To the bright windows of the sky,
Singing as if 'twere always spring,
And fluttering on an untired wing,—
Oh! let him sing his happy song,
Nor do these gentle creatures wrong.

The Story of Abraham Lincoln and the Robins

One day in spring four men were riding on horseback along a country road. These men were lawyers, and they were going to the next town to attend court.

There had been a rain, and the ground was very soft. Water was dripping from the trees, and the grass was wet.

The four lawyers rode along, one behind another; for the pathway was narrow, and the mud on each side of it was deep. They rode slowly, and talked and laughed and were very jolly.

As they were passing through a grove of small trees, they heard a great fluttering over their heads and a feeble chirping in the grass by the roadside.

"Stith! stith! stith!" came from the leafy branches above them.

"Cheep! cheep! cheep!" came from the wet grass.

"What is the matter here?" asked the first lawyer, whose name was Speed. "Oh, it's only some old robins!" said the second lawyer, whose name was Hardin. "The storm has blown two of the little ones out of the nest. They are too young to fly, and the mother bird is making a great fuss about it."

"What a pity! They'll die down there in the grass," said the third lawyer, whose name I forget.

"Oh, well! They're nothing but birds," said Mr. Hardin. "Why should we bother?"

"Yes, why should we?" said Mr. Speed.

The three men, as they passed, looked down and saw the little birds fluttering in the cold, wet grass. They saw the mother robin flying about, and crying to her mate.

Then they rode on, talking and laughing as before. In a few minutes they had forgotten about the birds.

But the fourth lawyer, whose name was Abraham Lincoln, stopped. He got down from his horse and very gently took the little ones up in his big warm hands.

They did not seem frightened, but chirped softly, as if they knew they were safe.

"Never mind, my little fellows," said Mr. Lincoln "I will put you in your own cozy little bed."

Then he looked up to find the nest from which they had fallen. It was high, much higher than he could reach.

But Mr. Lincoln could climb. He had climbed many a tree when he was a boy. He put the birds softly, one by one, into their warm little home. Two other baby birds were there, that had not fallen out. All cuddled down together and were very happy.

Soon the three lawyers who had ridden ahead stopped at a spring to give their horses water.

"Where is Lincoln?" asked one.

All were surprised to find that he was not with them.

"Do you remember those birds?" said Mr. Speed. "Very likely he has stopped to take care of them."

In a few minutes Mr. Lincoln joined them. His shoes were covered with mud; he had torn his coat on the thorny tree.

"Hello, Abraham!" said Mr. Hardin. "Where have you been?"

"I stopped a minute to give those birds to their mother," he answered.

"Well, we always thought you were a hero," said Mr. Speed. "Now we know it."

Then all three of them laughed heartily. They thought it so foolish that a strong man should take so much trouble just for some worthless young birds.

"Gentlemen," said Mr. Lincoln, "I could not have slept to-night, if
I had left those helpless little robins to perish in the wet grass."

Abraham Lincoln afterwards became very famous as a lawyer and statesman. He was elected president. Next to Washington he was the greatest American.

Story written by James Baldwin


Try Again

If at first you don't succeed,
Try, try again;

- Anonymous
Try, Try Again
by Anonymous. "Try Again" is a time honored short poem that teaches a life lesson which all children should learn: persistence in spite of failure.

'T is a lesson you should heed,
Try, try again;
If at first you don't succeed,
Try, try again;
Then your courage should appear,
For, if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear;
Try, try again.

Once or twice though you should fail,
Try, try again;
If you would at last prevail,
Try, try again;
If we strive, 'tis no disgrace
Though we do not win the race;
What should you do in the case?
Try, try again.

If you find your task is hard,
Try, try again;
Time will bring you your reward,
Try, try again.
All that other folks can do,
Why, with patience, should not you?
Only keep this rule in view:
Try, try again.

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

– Thomas Edison quote on failure


The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Excerpt

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This excerpt is one of the most memorable and poignant lines from Coleridge's famous poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." This short poetry excerpt is an excellent choice to commit to memory.

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best who loveth best
All things, both great and small:
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.


To a Child

by William Wordsworth

Small service is true service while it lasts:
Of humblest friends, bright creature! scorn not one:
The daisy, by the shadow that it casts,
Protects the lingering dewdrop from the sun.

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