Poetry Friday: Nursery Games

Pat-a-CakeA big part of looking at children’s literature, no matter what your focus is, is the way kids themselves interact with it. That infuses the whole field and can’t be ignored because if kids weren’t interacting with it, it wouldn’t exist. There are a lot of ways kids interact with stories and books, so it would be impossible for me to look at all of them, but since I also spend a lot of time looking at and working with games I tend to look at how kids play with books, like they play games. How does this get back to poetry? Poems are often the earliest games kids play! We play “Pat-a-cake” with babies, teach “Ring a Round the Rosey” and “All Around the Mullberry Bush” to toddlers and are still playing “London Bridge is Falling Down” in preschool. These are all classic Mother Goose rhymes that have long since had games attached to them because their words and rhythms lend themselves well to it (it’s almost hard to forget the words to “Pat-a-Cake” once you’ve learned them).

One of the funniest things about Nursery Rhyme games is that not only do they stick with you, but you start to forget which ones were games and which ones really weren’t. As I was thinking about doing this post I remembered “Sing a Song of Sixpence” being my favorite, but then on reflection I realized that there was really no game along with it, it was just a poem. It’s the same with “Little Miss Muffet” and “Little Bo Peep” and numerous other Nursery Rhymes. But there were a lot that were games. The thing was, as little kids, you alternate them pretty much randomly because they all seem like games. For kids, they can all be games. They don’t need something to have actions and things that happen for it to be a game. Something can be a poem (or a story) and a game at the same time, with nothing more than the words we see on the page. How do we lose that as adults?

Other people have great poems to share today, so go check it out at the round-up over at Mentor Texts, Read Alouds & More so go check it out!

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