Children's poetry. Features and differences from adult poetry

Term Paper, 2004

22 Pages, Grade: 2


Table of contents


1. Children's poetry

2. Elements and structures of children's poetry

3. Boundaries between children's and adult poetry

4. Investigation of the poem "Es Führt dich meilenweit von dannen" by Friedrich Schiller




The present work deals with the characteristics and characteristics of children's poetry, especially in contrast to adult poetry. The idea of working out this topic arose in a lecture in which the question was raised whether the poem "Es führt dich meilenweit von dannen" by Friedrich Schiller, taken from a book of poems for children, was actually a children's poem.

In this work, it should become clear which characteristics indicate that a poem belongs to children's poetry or is suitable for children.

At the beginning of the work, I define the concept of poetry, especially that of children's poetry. I will briefly go into how difficult it is to find characteristic features that only describe children's poetry and explain why children's poetry is still an independent area of poetry.

I give an overview of structures and elements that are often used in children's poetry in chapter 2. For individual properties, sample poems can be found in the appendix.

In chapter 3 I explain the difference between children and adult poetry. For this I compare a children's and an adult poem.

In chapter 4, I specifically address the childish reader and describe which factors play a role in addition to the structure of the text, so that a child understands the content of a poem. Here I describe in particular the problems that children have when reading the above-mentioned poem " Es führt dich meilenweit von dannen ".

1. Children's poetry

1.1 Lyrics

On the basis of different rules of design and structure, literary texts are assigned to the following three genres: Epic, drama and lyricism (Greek lyra: lyre). Characteristic features of poetry are speech rhythm, rhyme, as well as verses and stanzas segmented into lines.

1.2 Definitions of terms Children's poetry

Children's poetry, although it has similar components to adult poetry in terms of structure, is an independent area of poetry. However, giving a valid definition of children's poetry is difficult, if not impossible. No common lexicon defines the concept of children's poetry. Only children's song or nursery rhym can be found. In order to make it clear how different such definitions can be, I would first like to explain two definitions from common encyclopedias before I go into magda Motté's considerations.

"Children's songs and Nursery rhymes today form the most lively and diverse gatt. of the folk song. They were saved from extinction or oblivion mainly because they still fulfil a living function and are closely linked to the life of the child.

A distinction is made between: 1) songs for children sung by adults, for example sullabies; 2) the eigtl. K., e.g. Mocking songs, name corner rhymes, ortsneckereien, scherzerzählungen, chain fairy tales, lie poems, language games and fast speech rhymes." (Brockhaus Vol. 9, p.302)

" Nursery rhymes, simple verses, often accompanied by a simple melody. Nursery rhymes (such as counting rhymes) are mostly used for play. Every now and then they also have didactic significance." (Microsoft® Encarta® Professional 2002)

Magda Motté distinguishes 3 forms of children's poetry: poetry written for children, poetry written by children and poetry written by children. In this work, I only deal with the poetry that was written for children.

1.3 How do you recognize children's poetry?

Are there any universal features that characterize children's poetry? A closer look at various children's poems and songs shows that neither form nor function represents a characteristic that can clearly be assigned to children's poetry. Sound, rhyme and rhythm are important formal elements of children's poetry, but they also characterize the poetry of adults. Also, the play function can not be a tangible sign of children's poetry, since it can never be predicted how children deal with poetry.

Children's poems addressed directly to children are also not always suitable for children. Thus, this point of view can also be excluded as a clear feature.

1.4 Children's poetry as an independent genre of poetry

Children's poetry shows no differences in sound, rhythm, motif, language use, intention, etc. from general poetry. The characteristics that I will describe in chapter 2 can only ever be an indication that it is children's poetry, as they can also appear in adult poetry. Thus, children's poetry cannot be described as a subgenus of poetry. "The decisive difference to poetry for adults lies in the lower degree of abstraction" (Motté, 1983, p.50). In addition, never only one factor is decisive for the assignment of a poem to children's poetry (or adult poetry). Several factors always meet. "Children's poetry is – parallel to poetry for adults – an independent genre in the broadest sense, insofar as it takes into account the childlike reader in substance, style, form, intention and degree of abstraction" (Motté, 1983, p.50)

2. Elements and structures of children's poetry

2.1 Themes of children's poetry

Lyrical texts for children have a variety of themes. However, it should be noted that in some children's poems the content is only secondary. Sound elements or rhythm often predominate or even take on the decisive role, as in language games.

Nevertheless, there are a number of popular themes in children's poems. For children of preschool age, lyrical texts often refer to the immediate environment, such as their own body. Later, they deal with the extended environment. "This describes above all the beloved play equipment such as doll, ball, wind turbine, soap bubbles or rocking horse and the animals, which the child first encounters and with which it immediately feels essentially related, such as dog, cat, chicken, cow, donkey and horse" (Franz, 1979, p.56). More exotic animals such as the elephant, the mouse or the crocodile follow. "Especially the "talking animals" (already the title of a famous picture book by C. Reinhardt in the 19th century) are an important part of the child's reality" (Franz, 1979, p.57).

The animals are followed by plants, the seasons, fruits and other phenomena of nature. Her portrayal in children's poetry gives the child a deeper insight into nature.

If, in the course of the child's development, other reference and authority figures appear alongside the parents (such as relatives, teachers or persons of other professions), these are also treated in children's poetry and sometimes mocked.

Furthermore, there are a lot of children's songs to various festivals and events, such as Christmas, birthday or lantern running. Characters such as goblins and fairies or other fairytale creatures still occupy their place in children's poetry.

It is striking that nursery rhymes are often quickly adapted to current topics or well-known people. An example of this is the rhyme "comes a Sputnik flown" (see Appendix 1.), which children wrote shortly after the start of Sputnik, based on the song "kommt ein Vogel geflogen".

Socio-critical topics also have their place in children's poetry. For example, hunger, war, poverty or racial problems are presented in a differentiated way.


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Children's poetry. Features and differences from adult poetry
University of Bremen
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children, features
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Mareike Duensing (Author), 2004, Children's poetry. Features and differences from adult poetry, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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