10 of the Best Family Friendly Poems 

Some of the poems on this list, ‘The ABC’ and ‘The Race to Get to Sleep’ among them, were written with a young audience in mind. While others, such as ‘Mother to Son,’ were penned with the intention of depicting the warmth, strength, and unbreakable bonds of family relationships.  No matter their time period or intended audience, all these pieces speak on themes of love, togetherness, and the power of familial relationships. 

 

The Son by Mary Oliver 

Within ‘The Son’ Mary Oliver describes the tension within her own mind as she considers her father’s expectations of her being born a boy. She learned to be the kind of kid her father wanted. This involved fighting, shooting, and getting lost like “a boy”. This time of her life is passed though, she’s come to terms with her own body, her own existence and doused aside her family’s expectations. Now, she embraces her “soft body” and her “long and shining hair”. She has finally come to know herself. 

 

If I Were King by A.A. Milne 

In ‘If I Were King’ A.A. Milne channels a speaker who dreams about being king. The poem begins with the speaker telling the reader that he often considers being king and all the activities he’d like to participate, or not participate, in. These include keeping wild animals, like elephants, not wearing his hat or brushing his hair and thinking of “lovely things to do.” His humorous words convey his desire to gain control over his life and those around him. The funny, yet poignant, desires of the speaker are widely relatable to any child reading the text, making this piece a great example of children’s poetry.

 

Television by Roald Dahl

Dahl uses ‘Television’ to craft a humorous, hyperbole-rich description of the dangers of television. He speaks amusingly on what a parent can do to save their child. If I child watches too much TV he says, their brain will melt. The speaker continues throughout the poem to plead with the parents to do whatever they can to get their kids away from the televisions. He knows the kids will not react well to this change but it will be in their best interest. Eventually, they will have no choice but to turn to the books that should have always covered their walls. Once the change is made they’ll thank their parents and love them more than ever. 

 

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes 

This poem was first published in December of 1922 in the magazine, Crisis. It was also included in Langston Hughes’ collection, The Weary Blues, published four years later. Within the text, Hughes uses the metaphor of a staircase to depict the difficulties and dangers one will face in life. The major themes are determination and wisdom. 

 

The Stick-Together Families by Edgar Guest

‘The Stick-Together Families’ describes the main reason that some families, rich or poor, are happier than others. The poem begins by stating that the most “gladsome” families are those that stick together. They do not let circumstances separate them for any reason. If a family stays true to this way of being then they will, rich or poor, be joyful. 

Separate brothers and sisters will only find barren fields and joyless homes without one another. The poem concludes with the speaker appealing to a “brother” to stop wandering and return home. It is only among his family members that he will find true happiness. This poem might be read alongside Maya Angelou’s ‘Human Family’. They speak on similar themes of unity and togetherness. 

 

The Race to Get to Sleep by Brian Patten

‘The Race to Get to Sleep’ is a simple, funny poem written to inspire children to get to bed quickly. A parent might read this poem t their child and then would be willing to race to bed with increased enthusiasm. In the first lines of ‘The Race To Get To Sleep,’ the speaker begins by starting a reface between two children, Penny and Matthew. They strip off their socks and trousers and run to the bath. Together they jump into the water.

By the end of the poem, they’re both in the pyjamas and racing into the bedroom. They make it into bed at the same exact time and the speaker declares this race to be the “hardest ever”. 

 

Human Family by Maya Angelou

Within ‘Human Family’ Maya Angelou expresses her appreciation for the difference between families and espouses the connections which bind everyone together. She takes “note” of how some families are “serious” and others “thrive on comedy”. There are those who have dark skin, others “pink and beige and purple / tan and blue and white”. Her words celebrate these differences and her expectation that no two people on earth are the same. She concludes the poem by stating that “We are more alike, my friends / than we are unalike”. 

 

On The Ning Nang Nong by Spike Milligan 

In this piece, Milligan makes use of humorous nonsense language while also creating a make-believe world made primarily of noises. The poem begins with the speaker giving the reader a few very strange lines about a place called “The Ning Nang Nong.” There is a great emphasis placed on onomatopoeic language. Within almost every line there is an exclamation of sorts that is meant to surprise and please the reader. The focus on sound is very common in children’s literature. 

 

Life’s Scars by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

‘Life Scars’ is an upbeat, perfectly rhymed poem that speaks on emotions, the little and large hurts of life, and what is really worth our time. The first lines compare the earth to a square that gives “many little hurts”. The next, depict “wrath” as a “passing ill” and pain from those we love as much longer-lasting. Wilcox goes on to compare the time we spending flattering those “we scarcely know” and the way we treat those who “love us best”. The poem concludes with a reminder that love is uncommon and that we should love the best those who love us too. 

 

Dirty Face by Shel Silverstein 

This poem contains numerous amusing explanations from a child speaker as to why their face is so dirty. The child’s parent asks them directly what’s going on, and then the response follows in perfectly rhymed lines. They go through a variety of fantasies, adventures, as well as probable and improbable answers to the question. 

These range from exploring dark caves and silver mines to eating blackberries right off the bush. The poem concludes with the young speaker reminding the parent that it doesn’t matter what they’ve been doing. Rather, they’ve been having more fun than the parent has.

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