Poetry gets a bad rap. Maybe it was force-fed at school. Taught by a less-than-enthusiastic teacher. Or perhaps the instruction got too technical. Too sappy. Too goofy. All of the above? The best way to cut to the FUN of poetry is simple. Play a game! Engage kids in word play with poetry games to grow a love of language and poetry. Here’s a run through of my favorite poetry games for kids (and grown ups!).
Word Play with Poetry Games
The more I try to “teach” poetry, the more convinced I am we should treat it like learning a foreign language. Create an immersive experience and have fun! Make poetry part of everyday life. While there’s always a place for the grammar and technical beauty of poetry, it’s not where you start with children (and not where you need to stay as a grown up!). Instead, have a little fun with words in a poetic style. Try a little word play with poetry games, and you’ll see poetic lines floating all over the place… even coming out of your kids’ mouths!
Metaphor Dice Poetry Game
Coming across Metaphor Dice has been the best find of my life. I always struggled to explain to students how a metaphor worked in a way they could grasp. It was easier to stick to similes which are more obvious (using “like” or “as” is a pretty big tell!). Taylor Mali, poet, teacher, and teacher advocate created this game set that makes word play tactile and gives fresh understanding to the creation of metaphors.
The twelve dice come in red, white, and blue (that’s easy to remember, right?). The Red dice have CONCEPT words printed on them, the White dice have ADJECTIVES, and the Blue dice have OBJECTS. Roll the dice and pick a red, a white, and a blue die that appeal to you and line them up (or keep rolling!). Now… you have set up your metaphor much like a math equation:
CONCEPT = (is a/an) ADJECTIVE + OBJECT
Then use the phrase “which is to say” to explore and extend the meaning behind what you just said. Like this one I rolled (and I had to pick “home” because after all, I write so much about it!):
Here’s my Metaphor Dice Poem
HOME is a GENTLE BLESSING…
which is to say…
quietly disguised as laundry piles,
and dishes dirty with dinner,
or loud as that squeak on the stair–
Satisfaction lives here.
See? I only intended to write the metaphor but somehow a stanza of a poem popped out!
Metaphor Dice is an open-ended game that stretches your mind! You can play alone or in a group. Playing with Metaphor Dice will spur amazing class discussions or encourage fun dinner table talk with kids at home. The ability to connect concepts with objects in a meaningful way makes beautiful and revealing discussions.
My nine-year-old and I played together, and although the concept was new to him, he loved tinkering with phrases. (A kid’s version would be great, but… a new Erudite expansion pack releases soon filled with high-level, SAT-quality words, excellent for building vocab in high school students! Check out the Kickstarter to be the first to grab this pack!
Donate a Metaphor Dice set to a teacher, by purchasing a “gift set” which will be given to a teacher on Taylor Mali’s teacher list. It’s a great way to “pay it forward” to teachers everywhere!
(Oh and slightly off topic, I’m loving Mali’s book What Teachers Make – excellent read!)
Word Play with Magnetic Poetry
I’ve been a fan of Magnetic Poetry sets for-like-ever. Each set contains hundreds of words waiting to be strung together into poetic phrases, lines, or full poems. Put a set on your fridge, a cookie sheet, or their special stand up magnet boards and let your kids move them around to create poetry.
Magnetic Poetry is very interactive and the temporary nature of using magnets makes it non-threatening to kids. Add onto a line already on the board, or create your own. Use the prefixes and suffixes (word fragments) included to refine your lines.
You can get the original set, or the many variations available. I have the hedgehog poet set filled with words for little hedgie lovers, like gentle, cute, nocturnal, quill, and scurry.
The Kids’ Kit includes a blend of simple words for young readers, and fun “big” words they’ll want to write about like dinosaur and castle. The REALLY BIG WORDS kit has eighty-six jumbo sized magnet tiles perfect for tiny hands.
Simple, but powerful, Magnetic Poetry will show any reluctant poet that they, too, have a poet within! Best of all, it fosters a love of word and language in all who play.
Paint Chip Poetry Sparks Creativity
Oh, only the most crafty way to make poetry. Yes, for any crafty mom, paint chips are always handy, but did you know they could inspire poetry? The Paint Chip Poetry game from Lea Redmond of Leafcutter Designs not only stops us all from stealing from paint stores (thank you!), but it also provides a rainbow of creativity to for word play. There’s a gazillion (give or take) paint chip cards in the box, each one with a descriptive name, just like real paint chips. Kids will build vocabulary (and may ask you about a lot of pop culture references!) playing this game.
To play, select twelve paint chips at random, then pick a prompt card which will tell you the topic. Using your topic, arrange your paint chip words to create a pleasing idea or description. Feel free to insert words and phrases between the paint chip words to make your poem work. Voila! Poetry! Write it down!
Plus, you can use the Variation cards to adapt the play such as creating a group poem, getting extra chips, or focusing on just the colors and not the words.
Paint Chip Poetry is a fabulous game to get kids to think beyond rhyme and strict forms. It pushed me to create phrases I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise (read my paint chip poem here).
Haikubes Prompts Visual Poetry
When teaching poetry, you can’t ignore the haiku! Deceptively simple, yet high impact when done well, haiku are fun to write and read.
The idea of Haikubes is to make poetry as tactile and entertaining as possible. This set gives you the words to play with so you will have a jumping off point for your poem. So, it’s throwing all the pebbles into the pond and seeing which ripple lasts the longest. Is this blog post getting too poetic for you?
Haikubes comes with two prompt cubes you roll to get inspiration for your haiku. Then you roll all the dice and flip over any blank sides (those are just for display purposes later). Use the words on top of the dice to create your haiku (remember that’s three lines of 5-7-5 syllable count!).
Perfect for quick word play time, to leave out on a side table for extra time, or to play as a family. Haikubes also looks fabulous on display! When you have created a haiku, place it into the box, and arrange the blank sides of the other dice around your lines.
More Word Play with Poetry Games!
- 7 Ways to Share Poetry With Children
- 7 Ways Children Learn From Poetry
- Teaching Poetry with Fingerplays
- Exploring Poetry with Onomatopoeia Activities
- Poem in your Pocket Day Printable Booklet
Enter the Giveaway for a Paint Chip Poetry Game!
My partner Leafcutter Designs has offered a free game to one reader. So I’m giving it away – enter in the form below for your chance to win (come back daily to get more entries!)
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Shop this Post for Poetry Games
Metaphor Dice Starter SetMagnetic Poetry – Original Kit – All The Essential Words for Your Refrigerator – Write Poems and Letters on The Fridge – Made in The USAMagnetic Poetry – Kids Really Big Words Kit – Ages 5 and Up – Words for Refrigerator – Write Poems and Letters on The Fridge – Made in The USAMagnetic Poetry – Kids Kit – Ages 5 and Up – Words for Refrigerator – Write Poems and Letters on The Fridge – Made in The USAPaint Chip Poetry: A Game of Color and WordplayHaikubes: Create Captivating Haiku With a Roll of the Dice!The Random House Book of Poetry for ChildrenNational Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!