Baby & Toddler


My First Poems: 12 Great Poetry Books for Kids Ages 0 – 4

by Jennifer Ridgway

Sometimes it gets lost that a lot of the amazing books we read to children, especially infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, are actually poetry. With rhythm and rhyme, the stories that unfold across the pages of these picture books are oftentimes their first introduction to poems. Reading poetry has numerous benefits for building early literacy skills, including rhythm development and recognition, voice inflection and pitch, memorization skills, self-expression, and vocabulary enhancement. I’ve rounded up 12 great poetry books for the littlest of children — some are rhyming tales with single storylines and some are poetry collections, and all make great additions to the family library.

  • Ages 0 - 2

  • Fox in Socks

    by Dr. Seuss

    Dr. Seuss's books are known for their silly words and wonderful rhymes, and this abridged version of Fox in Socks is a wonderful introduction to the classic author. With bright illustrations, simple text, and tongue twisters, the sturdy board book (perfect for little hands!) will have babies and toddlers laughing with — and at — their parents as they try to wrap their tongues around the words. (Looking for another good choice to introduce your little reader to the world of Seuss? Try Oh, Baby, the Places You’ll Go!, an adaptation by Tish Rabe of Dr. Seuss’s classic work.)

  • Haiku Baby

    by Betsy E. Snyder

    This sweet board book features seasonal spreads with haikus, providing a great introduction to the Japanese poetic form of 17 syllables in a 5-7-5 pattern. Each haiku features a part of baby’s natural world, including the sun and water. The tabbed format allows you and your child to quickly find specific pages.

  • Little Poems for Tiny Ears

    by Lin Oliver, illustrated by Tomie DePaolo

    This collection of 23 original poems highlights the joy and wonder of being new to the world, making it extremely baby- and kid-friendly. From DePaolo’s happy artwork to Oliver’s short poems about childhood, it is a lively read-aloud that serves as a wonderful first book of poetry.

  • Llama Llama’s Little Library

    by Anna Dewdney

    This collection of four little board books introduces young readers to the lovable character Llama Llama, created by Anna Dewdney. The books are very short and have simple, entertaining rhymes that are perfect for children under two years old. The illustrations are in the classic, sweet style of the Llama Llama series.

  • The Swing

    by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Julie Morstad

    This book features a classic poem from poet and novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, paired with timeless illustrations by Julie Morstad. The story perfectly captures the joy of swinging — familiar to both children and adults — and is easy to memorize. Morstad’s beautiful artwork features diverse girls and boys having fun on swings.

  • Digger, Dozer, Dumper

    by Hope Vestergaard, illustrated by David Slonim

    If your child is obsessed with trucks (as both of mine were!), this is the perfect book to read together. It contains 16 poems that celebrate both the jobs and mechanics of different vehicles. The fun illustrations feature children operating the machines, and Slonim gives the trucks personalities with his visuals of headlights, bumpers, and other parts. Plus, as someone with both a boy and a girl who loved trucks, I appreciated the fact that half of the vehicles are called “he” and half are called “she.”

  • Ages 3 - 4

  • Giraffes Can’t Dance

    by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees

    My family recently “rediscovered” this book on our shelf. The story of Gerald, the titular giraffe who can’t dance, inspires kids to find their inner voice to overcome their fears and do their own thing. It has bright illustrations of African animals and a rhyming schema that makes it really fun to read aloud.

  • The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury

    selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Meilo So

    Prelutsky has quite a number of children’s poetry collections, all of which are great choices. This one includes 211 poems from the 1900s — when children’s poetry, according to Prelutsky, stopped being so syrupy sweet and condescending toward children — by 137 different poets. Most of the collection is upbeat, and So’s watercolor illustrations really bring the poems to life. After working your way through this book, check out The Random House Book of Poetry for Children, which is also curated by Prelutsky.

  • Shout!: Little Poems that Roar

    by Brod Bagert, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa

    Bagert’s 21-poem collection is particularly relatable to young children because he writes about their world in an energetic and fun way, often inspiring action from the reader. Yoshikawa’s colorful illustrations show children having fun, featuring a lot of smiles and perceived movement.

  • My Village: Rhymes from Around the World

    collected by Danielle Wright, illustrated by Mique Moriuchi

    This collection includes 22 nursery rhymes from around the world. What makes it truly unique is that in addition to the English translations, it also has the poem in its original language and lists its country of origin. The illustrations, created with cut paper and textured paint, highlight the diverse cultures of the nations depicted.

  • The Neighborhood Mother Goose

    by Nina Crews

    Many of us are familiar with Mother Goose rhymes like “Pat-a-Cake,” “Peter Piper,” and “Little Miss Muffett”, and there are many collections of these classic poems out there. In this version, Crews has collected over 40 Mother Goose rhymes and photos of an urban neighborhood to bring the poems to life in a modern, relatable way (for example, “Pat-a-Cake” is printed with an image of two young girls playing pat-a-cake in front of a bakery window in Brooklyn).

  • BookSpeak!

    by Laurie Purdie Salas, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon

    This award-winning title from an award-winning author is all about books. The poems highlight the journey of reading and are each as different as the types of books they describe. They have a variety of rhythms and rhyme patterns, introducing kids to different styles of poetry in an amusing way. The author also plays with words, creating jokes and fun twists along the way.

Does your family have a beloved poetry book? Tell us about it below!