5 Classic Poems to Share With Grandchildren

Some Grandparent Favorites That the Grandkids Will Like, Too

poem about swinging to share with grandchildren
Swinging and poetry are great fun to share with grandchildren. Photo © Mint Images/ Tim Pannell | Getty Images

Although Robert Louis Stevenson died over 100 years ago, many of his poems are ageless classics, such as this one from 1913's A Child's Garden of Verses. The language is easy and not outdated, and it's about everyone's favorite kind of outdoor fun. You can even teach the grandchildren to recite it while they are swinging! "My Shadow" is another fun one for children. You could also have an outdoor treasure hunt in honor of Stevenson's Treasure Island!

Swing

Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

I memorized this poem as a child, and I can still recite it today. The author is a minor figure, but she created a poem with irresistible rhythm and imagery. Fun fact: The author's daughter married Christopher Robin Milne, whose father A. A. Milne wrote him into his famous Winnie the Pooh books.

Lone Dog

Irene Rutherford Mcleod

I'm a lean dog, a keen dog, a wild dog, and lone;
I'm a rough dog, a tough dog, hunting on my own;
I'm a bad dog, a mad dog, teasing silly sheep;
I love to sit and bay the moon, to keep fat souls from sleep.



I'll never be a lap dog, licking dirty feet,
A sleek dog, a meek dog, cringing for my meat,
Not for me the fireside, the well-filled plate,
But shut door, and sharp stone, and cuff and kick, and hate.

Not for me the other dogs, running by my side,
Some have run a short while, but none of them would bide.
O mine is still the lone trail, the hard trail, the best,
Wide wind, and wild stars, and hunger of the quest!

I once received extra credit from a college professor because I could recite this poem from memory. It is probably the most famous nonsense poem in all of literature, but there's enough of a narrative to capture a grandchild's interest. As a follow-up activity, ask your grandchildren to draw a picture of what they think the Jabberwock looks like. (I have more ideas about experiencing art with your grandchildren.)

Jabberwocky

Lewis Carroll

’T was brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’T was brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

You may have to provide a prop in order for your grandchildren to understand this poem. Modern children may not comprehend how one could get tangled up in a telephone; Your grandchildren will enjoy this clever poem, even if you have to explain it. It's also a good introduction to portmanteau words. And while you're thinking about them, pick up the phone and call a grandchild. Or text them, Skype with them, or use Facetime to talk to them.

My, how times have changed.

Eletelephony

Laura Elizabeth Richards

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! no! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I've got it right.)
Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I'd better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

If Edgar Allan Poe's a little too spooky for your grandchildren, they'll still enjoy the touch of mystery in this poem, which is notable for its masterful use of rhyme, repetition and onomatopoeia. Ask the grandchildren whether they think the visitor was real or just the author's mind playing tricks on him.

Some One

Walter de la Mare

Some one came knocking
At my wee, small door;
Some one came knocking,
I'm sure - sure - sure;
I listened, I opened,
I looked to left and right,
But naught there was a-stirring
In the still dark night;
Only the busy beetle
Tap-tapping in the wall,
Only from the forest
The screech-owl's call,
Only the cricket whistling
While the dewdrops fall,
So I know not who came knocking,
At all, at all, at all.