A selection of fun poetry books aimed at toddlers.
It’s never too early to introduce your toddler to poetry. Of course, I’m not talking about Keats or Wordsworth here! But there are many reasons why reading poetry is great for a child’s development. For a start, listening to rhyme has been shown to help babies expand their understanding of language and foster their later reading skills, and many picture books for toddlers use rhyming text to tell their story.
In addition, the structure and imagery within a poem teaches young children that we can have fun and play with words. Even if they do not understand the entire poem, toddlers will respond to the rhythm and build up an overall picture in their imaginations.
ToddlerGirl and I have been reading poems together for a while now. Here are some of the books we have discovered that have become firm favourites.
Wriggle and Roar
Julia Donaldson & Nick Sharratt
The brilliant Julia Donaldson teams up with the equally brilliant Nick Sharratt – what’s not to love?! This was the first poetry book that I found for ToddlerGirl; we’ve had it since she was just under eighteen months and it has been a hit from the start. The poems cover a variety of topics, such as animal noises, nature and the weather, and range from short and sweet to longer verses. They are wonderful to read aloud and ToddlerGirl seems to enjoy nearly all of them. The illustrations are as bold and bright as you would expect from Sharratt, bringing out the text perfectly. Highly recommended!
Mother Goose’s Playtime Rhymes
The other half of the Gruffalo duo also has a book of verse for toddlers, although this one is a collection of traditional nursery rhymes. I have to admit that I’m not all that keen on many nursery rhymes. But ToddlerGirl absolutely loves this book. She has been selecting it from the book basket regularly and will ask me to read it two or three times in a row. There is obviously a reason that these tales have stood the test of time! Despite my ambivalence to nursery rhymes in general, this is a lovely edition to read; the illustrations are sweet, in Scheffler’s distinct style, and there is a running narrative with Mother Goose and her three little goslings that breaks up the rhymes and is a story in itself.
Mad About Minibeasts
Giles Andrae & David Wojtowycz
This is a great collection of poems about the various minibeasts you may find in your garden, including odes to the snail, centipede, caterpillar and spider. The poems are very short and humorously written, with the colourful illustrations matching this style perfectly. In addition, they tend to highlight a certain trait of the insect in question, so it is a lovely starting point to learning more about minibeasts. We had a period of reading and rereading this book multiple times a day during a recent illness, which led to a small obsession with minibeasts on ToddlerGirl’s part. Have a look at my post Making minibeasts for some lovely craft ideas to pair with reading the book. Andrae has written a couple of other poetry books in this vein, Rumble in the Jungle and Commotion in the Ocean, which we also have and really enjoy.
Jill Bennett & Nick Sharratt
Bennett has collected together a number of different poems from various authors on the theme of the seaside and the ocean for this lovely book. Many are funny (ToddlerGirl’s personal favourite is the Flip Flop Frolic) while others are beautiful and thought-provoking. This is one of the reasons I love this book so much, as it’s a great introduction to a more ‘grown up’ style of poetry, while still being completely accessible for toddlers. Sharratt once again provides the illustrations, making it a visual treat also. We have a library copy that ToddlerGirl is absolutely refusing to return at the moment, so that’s a pretty good endorsement!
Animal Exercises: Poems to Keep Fit
Mandy Ross & Sanja Rescek
This collection of poems about different animals is a lot of fun. Each one focuses on the movement of the particular animal, hence the title. As well as being entertaining to read, the poems also lend themselves perfectly to an ‘animal exercises’ activity and ToddlerGirl likes to bunny hop and donkey cokey around our living room as we’re reading!
This one is a short board book, suitable for reading with younger toddlers but which ToddlerGirl still enjoys now. A haiku is a short poem, written in a distinctive verse form consisting of three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. They are often inspired by nature and include strong imagery. This makes them perfect for reading with little ones. ToddlerGirl is entranced by this beautiful book, which features six haiku about the weather and the seasons. The gentle style makes this lovely for a calm bedtime read.
You can also find a lot of poetry for children online. The websites below provide a good starting point:
- Classic poems for children
- The twenty best poems for children
- Poetry suggestions, books and articles about poetry for children from The Poetry Foundation
What poetry books would you recommend for toddlers?
Make a beautiful under the sea discovery bottle for toddlers…
This is probably my favourite discovery bottle that I’ve made for ToddlerGirl. I find it really theraputic to swish the contents around and she enjoys rolling it along the floor and spotting the various items as they float into view.
How I made it:
- Take one clean plastic bottle and part fill with water
- Add a few drops of blue food colouring
- And a spoonful or two of play sand
- Drop in a number of objects to suggest the sea. I used green curling ribbon for seaweed and some shells of different shapes and sizes. I also cut out a couple of fish shapes from orange craft foam
- Top up with water
- Secure lid tightly (I used brown tape but you can hot glue it down too)
The bottle is ready for swirling, shaking, investigating and rolling!
We have this out all the time and have also used it as part of our under the sea themed book nooks and for other watery themed play :)
Days are long at the moment. I’m virtually awake for the full 24 hours, which gives a lot of time for thinking and a lot of time to run the full spectrum of emotions.
Lack of sleep is probably the biggest challenge – my mood is completely affected by how much rest I’ve managed to get. BabyGirl hasn’t been settling in her bed, so my nights have felt endless. And lonely here in hospital by myself, without the family support I receive during the day.
I am worry, worry, worrying about everything. Is the treatment working? Is my BabyGirl going to be ok? How am I going to make it through on so little sleep? How can we cope as a family? Is there too much pressure on my husband and mum as they pick up the slack? Is my ToddlerGirl ok? How can I make sure she gets enough from me during this time?
I have moments of real despair when it all feels too overwhelming. I want to run away or hit pause but of course I can’t. Three weeks feel like an eternity. I cry and cry and think I can’t deal with it all but realise I have no choice but to.
I give myself a talking to and get practical, trying to make plans for managing these tough weeks, for structuring our days, for ensuring some normality for ToddlerGirl and some breaks for the rest of us.
I feel hugely grateful for what we have. BabyGirl seems to be doing well. I have wonderful support. This will hopefully be a short term blip in our lives.
I see the children and families on the long term ward and feel guilty for feeling so sorry for myself. They are dealing with something even bigger, I should be able to cope with our situation.
I feel a deep fear that our situation will become worse, that BabyGirl will suddenly become very ill and we will be one of those families. Or worse. A fear I can’t bring myself to verbalise in any way.
I feel enjoyment in small moments, pockets of normal life. Playing with ToddlerGirl. Sitting in the sunshine. Seeing friends. Writing.
I long for some quiet, just silence with no beeps or voices. Hospitals are 24 hours a day noisy places. I feel guilty for wanting to crawl into bed on my visits home rather than play with ToddlerGirl.
I feel helpless watching my BabyGirl poked and prodded every day. Seeing her flinching and crying as yet more needles are stuck in her. Telling myself how necessary it is, that she won’t remember all this.
I feel joy and so much love getting to know my BabyGirl. Watching her discovering the world around her. Seeing her first smiles, wonderful huge grins spreading across her face, responding to me, her daddy and big sister.
I am emotionally exhausted as well as physically so. I am up and down and all over the place. I have to hang on and get through this for the next three weeks and hope hope hope we are back home and back to normality then.
This week has been a struggle. We’ve been trying to get our heads around this strange landscape we find ourselves in.
There is a constant worry that BabyGirl could be seriously affected by this virus; I am scrutinising her physically and her behaviour, looking for signs that something is wrong.
She has had some very unsettled, fussy periods, including one night where she didn’t settle at all between 7pm and 1am, and another night of her awake and grizzly from 3am-6am. Is this normal newborn fussiness, a reaction to the prodding and poking and meds, or a sign that something is seriously wrong?
I have barely been sleeping, so am completely loosing all perspective. I spent a solid two hours crying in the early hours one morning, unable to settle her in her bed, unable even to hold her and cosleep. I have been feeling very alone in hospital at night, dealing with these unsettled periods where I can’t put her down and fearful that it’s a sign the virus is starting to affect her significantly.
The idea of doing this for three weeks has been scary, with me seeing no way of coping with such extreme sleep deprivation and worrying about the knock-on impact on my husband and parents as they all struggle to pick up the slack.
My thoughts are also on ToddlerGirl. My baby absolutely needs me here in hospital with her but my ‘big girl’ isn’t so big after all and needs her mummy too. I’m trying to reassure her when I see her and want to find a way to spend some more time with her. I worry that all this upheaval will affect her sense of security and her behaviour, although I know she has her daddy and grandparents looking after her.
With all of this, I’ve been feeling fairly bleak.
And then, as a little ray of sunshine, we’ve been told we can go out of hospital between treatments in the day. Suddenly things are seeming brighter as we make plans for either me alone or with BabyGirl to visit home in the afternoons.
Today, the husband, ToddlerGirl and I went to the park. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the air smelt fresh. ToddlerGirl giggled in delight as we played. I chased her, twirled her, cuddled her. It was all so much like our normal, every day life that I wanted to cry. But then again everything makes me want to cry when I can count how many hours of sleep I’ve had over the last five days on one hand!
Sitting on the grass, feeling the sun on my face, listening to my girl laughing… It felt good. It was rejuvenating. A dose of normal life to get me through the day, to be repeated daily until we can all be home together, living our normal life all the time once again.
It’s been a hell of a couple of months… Anyone glancing at this blog would think it was life as normal, thanks to scheduled posts that I set up over July in preparation for the birth of our daughter. I believed I would have no time for blogging, dealing with sleepless nights and adjusting to life with a newborn.
Well, it’s true I’ve had no time for blogging. Our little BabyGirl took us by surprise and arrived two and a half weeks early. My scheduled c-section went out the window and I ended up having an unexpected (and amazing) VBAC. Week 1 was tough but in the usual way: trying to establish feeding, juggling ToddlerGirl’s needs with a baby.
Week 2 threw a curveball, with BabyGirl needing phototherapy treatment for severe jaundice. We were admitted back to hospital so she could go under the lamps for a couple of days. It was hard to go back, unsettling for ToddlerGirl and I admit to feeling fairly sorry for myself.
Week 3 and it felt like normal life was resumed. BabyGirl turned into a feeding machine. I started to attempt to get back into the swing of things. I struggled with the demands of being a mum of two, feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing enough for ToddlerGirl as sleep deprivation really kicked in.
Week 4 and I started to despair over the feeding issues. How long could I keep breastfeeding when it was such hard work. You don’t have the luxury of camping out on the sofa with baby number two. Issues at ToddlerGirl’s nursery meant we needed to take her out. I felt overwhelmed.
Then came week 5. ToddlerGirl had a temperature, a seeming 24 hour bug. It looked like BabyGirl picked this up as she had a high temperature too. We ended up in A&E overnight, as any temperatures over 38 degrees are treated with caution in newborns. We were admitted to hospital again. Our poor little girl was stuck with needles for a canula and a lumbar puncture. We realised this was going to be more than a quick trip to the hospital as she was placed on 48 hours of IV antibiotics…
We weren’t unduly worried as her temperature was coming down. All test results were clear – meningitis was ruled out. We thought we were heading for discharge.
Then, we were told our BabyGirl had a virus that had been found in her spinal fluid. Suddenly things got a lot more serious. She was put on a course of antiviral medication for 3 weeks. We were in shock. 3 weeks in hospital? I wondered how on earth we would cope. I felt a bit sorry for myself again.
Then I Googled the virus. Then I got very scared. The words ‘life threatening’ and ‘brain damage’ leapt out at me. A cold fear gripped my heart and I felt sick. Our shock and dismay at the 3 week stay disappeared as we realised the necessity of the treatment.
Week six… Well, I’m still adjusting to week six. A near complete lack of sleep so that I worry how I can carry on. Missing my ToddlerGirl hugely and worrying about the impact this is having on her. Trying to get into a routine to see us through. Realising over again what an amazing husband and parents I have. Being so touched by all the messages from friends.
And my BabyGirl? She’s doing OK. It’s heartbreaking watching the doctors putting canulas and long lines into her. I want to take all the pain away and feel it myself. I have to keep reminding myself how important the treatment is. She’s showing no scary symptoms so the doctors are very positive – and also a little baffled as to why this virus has been detected with no other signs. The theory is that it has been picked up super early. We are relieved and on high alert in equal measure.
And she is smiling, right on cue at the six week milestone. She is guzzling milk and, I am sure, continuing to put on weight.
I am taking it a few days at a time, as three weeks is too overwhelming.
We are surviving and doing our best to keep going, to get through these three weeks and get home, back to normality…
A great fun sensory tub from The Imagination Tree that is simple to put together and provided us with a whole afternoon’s entertainment…
I spotted this idea for a baking sensory tub on The Imagination Tree a little while ago and have had it in the back of my mind since then as an easy activity to do with ToddlerGirl one afternoon.
It was very straightforward to set up. I filled a plastic storage tub with dried rice and lentils and then added some baking themed equipment to play with. I’m not much of a baker but managed to rustle up quite a few items:
- Flower shaped cookie cutters
- Wooden and plastic spoons
- A lemon squeezer
- A few tin cake pans
- Some silicon cupcake cases
- A mixing bowl
The Imagination Tree also included weighing scales, a recipe book, an empty egg carton and an empty flour packet. I didn’t have the flour packet so substituted an empty rice box and then our little flour bottle ‘shaker’ that I made for her a while ago.
This was all laid out on a large white blanket and left for ToddlerGirl to explore.
She was immediately absorbed by it and particularly loved putting the rice and lentils onto the weighing scales. I talked to her a little bit about how they worked and we pretended to do some weighing of our ingredients before adding them to the mixing bowl. We consulted our recipe book to see what other ingredients were needed, adding a shake of flour here, a couple of pretend eggs there – plus some more unusual ingredients for cake baking that ToddlerGirl decided to include, such as carrots, hummus and garlic!
The mixture was placed in the pans and then moved to a corner of the blanket which had become the ‘oven’. When it was cooked, ToddlerGirl carefully scooped it onto plates and we had to ‘eat’ it. This procedure was repeated many, many times! There was a lot of scooping, pouring, weighing, transferring from one dish to another, all narrated by ToddlerGirl as she explained to me what was going on.
When her interest started to fade, I brought out some decorative cupcake picks, which ToddlerGirl enjoyed sticking into the cupcake cases. She discovered that she had to fill the case a certain amount otherwise the picks didn’t stand up on their own and it took a little bit of experimenting to find just the right amount to put in. I always find it’s worth holding back a couple of the play items for these type of activities as it can help to extend the fun and give it an extra lease of life!
When we’d finished playing, I packed everything away into the storage box so we could bring it out again another day.
This was a great activity with lots of different elements to it: sensory play, pretend play, learning about concepts such as weighing and measuring. Most of all, it was a huge amount of fun for ToddlerGirl. Thank you The Imagination Tree for a lovely Playtime Pinspiration!
Use petals from your fresh cut flower displays before you throw them out to create a simple and engaging sensory tub for toddlers.
I was lucky enough to have a beautiful bunch of roses recently, which looked gorgeous on our dining room table. ToddlerGirl was very interested in them, so when the petals started to fall and it was time to move the flower display, I decided to use the roses in a sensory tub for her.
This couldn’t have been easier to set up:
Plastic storage tub on a huge white blanket I use to define the play area and contain the mess
Handfuls of the rose petals
Various tools and containers for exploring the petals, including a magnifying glass, some cupcake cases, a heart shaped box, a couple of cardboard tubes, some spoons
This was an incredibly tactile sensory tub. ToddlerGirl was immediately fascinated by the texture of the petals, which felt velvety and soft. Even I couldn’t resist plunging my hands in!
We spent some time feeling the petals and then examining them a bit more carefully, holding them up to the light to see the faint veins, with ToddlerGirl using her magnifying glass to get a closer look.
She had fun just swishing her hands around in the tub and scooping the petals out with the spoons, piling them into the boxes, dropping them down the cardboard tubes and carefully spooning them out into the cupcake cases to make ‘special treats’ for Mummy.
Of course, this being my little ToddlerGirl, she eventually had to clamber in to get the full body experience! Soon, the socks and leggings were off and she was pretending to be in a rose petal bath (very decadent!).
After a while, the petals came out of the tub and were scattered all over the blanket. This is why I like to use some sort of floor covering, as it makes the clean up a lot easier! It also really helps to define an area to keep the play within and ToddlerGirl understands that any mess creeping off the blanket means ending the activity (after a warning or two).
This was really a spur of the moment activity but this simple sensory tub kept her engaged for well over half an hour. When her interest waned, I kept back some of the petals and we made some sensory/discovery bottles.
We filled three bottles with water and ToddlerGirl added a few handfuls of petals to each one. Then we added red food colouring: quite a lot to the first bottle, so that it turned a deepish shade of red, and a lot less to the second, so that it was a faint, rosy pink colour. We also sprinkled some glitter in for good measure! The third bottle we left plain, so that we could see the contrast between all three.
They looked very pretty with the light shining behind them and ToddlerGirl has been playing on and off with them since then, shaking them up and rolling them around and having a good look at them through her magnifying glass.
This was a great way to use up a beautiful bunch of flowers when I was ready to throw them out and ToddlerGirl absolutely loved her petal sensory tub!