How to Get Your Kids into Poetry: Granny is a Vintage Cheese

I’ve been a lifelong fan of poetry. My love of it was instilled in me by my dad who called it ‘poultry’ and for years, I thought the written word was closely linked to chickens.

When he wasn’t reading poetry aloud in a wildly theatrical voice, my dad would be listening to it and crying.  33rpm vinyl Dylan Thomas crackled into my childhood dreams as he played the records at midnight.

My father left behind reams of his own poems, written in his spidery handwriting, the wiry, right-leaning slant of which I inherited. It is because of him that I love words, and it’s something I wanted to pass on to my own children.

This is a great game to play with your kids as soon as they have developed any kind level of symbolic imagination. I call this game, Granny is a Vintage Cheese. I find it works best from about age 6 plus, but it depends on your child.

Here is what you do to play Granny is a Vintage Cheese

  • Grab a pen and paper.
  • Ask your child to think of a person they know and keep them in mind. Get a photo out if it helps.
  • Then ask your child what colour that person makes them think of .
  • What kind of weather would the person be?
  • What kind of road, fruit, sound, flower, music, country, smell, sky, animal, temperature would they be? What kind of journey, what texture?
  • Write everything down.
  • Ask any questions that inspire your child to think symbolically.

You will end up with a list something like this ~ The Biscuit Thief aged 6 describing one of her friends:

Yellow, Strawberries, Bells, Scotland, Sunny day, A muddy path through a field, Chilly, A cup of tea.

Then, you put the images into some kind of shape like this:

MUDDY FIELDS

I loved that sunny day in Scotland,

When the yellow light helped the wild strawberries grow.

We ate them until our cups of tea,

turned chilly in the wind.

We walked home;

a muddy path through the fields,

to the sound of distant bells.

Voila! You have a poem by a 6-year-old (with a little help).

Give the poem title by picking one of the images, or just using the person’s name. Obviously, the more images you get out of your little one, the richer the symbols in the final poem will be.

The poems make great presents by the way! (Unless the all the associations seem to be about poo, wee, and plop.) Just print them off or get your child to write them out and then frame them.

Here’s another one, based on the images the Biscuit Thief associates with me:

MUMMY, by the Biscuit Thief, aged 6.

I ate old bananas,

In the heavy rain storm.

The pig smelled of roses

and an old rusty car that had broken down

In Guernsey.

Thanks Biscuit. Please add yours in the comments…I would love to see them!

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7 thoughts on “How to Get Your Kids into Poetry: Granny is a Vintage Cheese

  1. My daughter’s 3 so a bit young for this, but I thought we’d still have fun giving it a go as just like you, I want to pass on my love for words to her. She wanted to do her poem about her Daddy. The words she suggested were: pink, rain, oranges, “sss” (sound), daisy, piano, manky (smell!), giraffe, hot, car. We’ll work on the poem tomorrow!

  2. Brilliant idea and so nice to get my DD (aged 6) thinking like this. She thought about Kafka, our cat and these were her words, Grey-lilac, thunder, kiwi, pitta-patter, violin, Fiji, soft. We gave the poem a try,

    HERE COMES THE RAIN
    We woke to thunder
    in a grey-lilac scene
    Then came pitta patta, and the sound of the violin
    So soft was the kiwi that I ate in Fiji

    But, more excitingly, this project spurred another two poems, as DD really wanted to do some rhyming. Here they are:

    ZIME CRIME RHYME

    One day when we were walking
    There was an old man
    And he wouldn’t stop talking
    He went chitter chatter all the time
    and he said, if I eat a lime, I forget the time
    Because lime time rhymes and I am a Zime
    (because he forgets everything and he calls it a Zime)
    I think Zime is a CRIME

    FIDDLE-DE-DEE, I’VE LOST MY TROUSERS, BEE

    Out of the pavement popped a tree
    And do you know what happened?
    An old man said fiddle-de-dee
    That tree is in the pavement, see

    I tried to pull the tree out
    and I fell on my bum
    So my friend gave me a clout
    Oh, fiddle-de-dum
    I’d better go and put my trousers on.
    It’s ten o’clock, silly.

  3. What an amazing idea! I’m going to try this out with my four-year-old, and if they work, maybe pass them out as holiday gifts!

    And your father sounds lovely.

  4. What a fabulous idea – so the written talent really runs in your family then! This is such an imaginative way of getting a child to think of someone and then turn it into written art – very impressed with the Biscuit Thief (with a little help from you!) I am gonna favourite this post so I can refer to it when Little A gets a little bigger!

  5. Pingback: Little I’s first princess story | mummymcauliffe

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