Last week, I took Little Miss Muffet (age 2) and Little Bo Peep (nearly 6 months) to the park for a poetry picnic. It was a pretty last-minute idea. I was reading randomly selected poems to Bo Peep the night before while she had her bottle, and Miss Muffet said she also wanted to hear some poems. I asked her if she would like to read poems over lunch outside and thus, the idea for the poetry picnic was born.
In retrospect, I think it would have been more useful to leave myself a few days for planning. As it turned out, I had to spend over an hour on the morning of the picnic figuring out which poems to read, and which books we needed to take with us. In the ensuing chaos, a sippy cup was packed upside down in the bag containing the books, and as a result, Come Hither by Walter de la Mare will never be the same. Next month - since I plan to do this at least monthly throughout the warm weather months - I will get the poems picked ahead of time, and possibly even print them out in a single disposable booklet so as to avoid further book-related disasters.
In the end I chose 12 poems, and we ended up reading 13. Some of the original twelve selections were based on subjects Miss Muffet said she wanted to read about - lambs, spiders, grasshoppers, grass, bathtubs, and birds - and all of the others were poems on a Spring theme. All of the poems I read are listed below in the order in which we read them. All poems that are available online are linked.
From Come Hither:
- The Lamb (#94) by William Blake
- This Is the Key (#483) (Note: The linked version is slightly different from the one we used.)
From Piping Down the Valleys Wild:
- The Prayer of the Little Ducks by Carmen Bernos de Gasztold (This was the one I had not planned to read, but which caught my eye at the last second.)
- The Bird's Nest by John Drinkwater
- The Owl by William Jay Smith
- Mrs. Spider by Myra Cohn Livingston
- Spring is When
From Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young
- Singing in the Spring by Ivy O. Eastwick
- Before the Bath by Corinna Marsh
- An Explanation of the Grasshopper by Vachel Lindsay
From National Geographic's Book of Nature Poetry:
- Stars by A.E. Housman
- I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud by Williams Wordsworth
- The Pasture by Robert Frost
Some of the poems, such as "The Lamb," "Stars," and "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" - were way over Little Miss Muffet's head, but it didn't seem to make a difference to her. She listened just as eagerly to these more complex pieces as she did to the shorter, more accessible ones. (And she actually did get the gist of the lamb poem, as she keeps telling me that "God made lambies.") I read the shorter poems twice, just as I would sing a song or perform an action rhyme in story time, and I think that helped her engage with them a little bit more. On the way home from the park, she said that her favorite poem was "Before the Bath," but in telling others about the picnic days later, she has spoken mostly of the poems about birds and the photograph of a rainbow that happened to share a page with "The Pasture."
Little Bo Peep spent the duration of the picnic in the carseat, which I took out of the stroller and set down in the grass. She likes the rhythm and rhyme of poetry and was perfectly happy to sit and listen but she didn't have much of a reaction beyond sitting contentedly. I expect this will change as we go on, and as she becomes more mobile and more interested in active participation.
All in all, I would say our first poetry picnic was a great success. I'm looking forward to planning our next one soon!