Haiku, a Fun Way to Do Poetry With Children

Observing and feeling nature, describing what we see, what moves and amazes us... Discover haiku as a way to enjoy poetry with children.
Haiku, a Fun Way to Do Poetry With Children

Last update: 04 August, 2021

Haiku is a type of short Japanese poetry that alludes to nature. But it is, at the same time, a fun way to do poetry with children.

The classic haiku is composed of 17 syllables distributed in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively, although nowadays, there are some variations in terms of lines and themes. Do you want to know more about this type of poetry? Do you want to learn how to write haiku with and have fun with your children? Here’s how.

The origin of haiku

Haiku is a type of short Japanese poetry. Its popularity in Japan began in the mid-17th century, thanks to the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō. He was followed by other poets, such as Yosa Buson and the great master of haiku, Kobayashi Issa.

“Haiku is simply what is happening in this year, at this moment.”

-Mastsuo Bashō-

A father reading a book outdoors with his toddler son on his lap.

However, for years now, haiku’s no longer a type of poetry that’s exclusive to the Japanese. Through the Mexican poets José Juan Tablada and Octavio Paz, haiku spread throughout Latin American literature and became the shortest universal poetry style.

Metrics and subject matter

As we said in the beginning, a haiku consists of 17 syllables distributed in three lines. The first line is composed of 5 syllables, the second of 7, and the third of another 5 syllables. This is the metric of the classic haiku. Although the syllables between the lines can vary, the total must be 17.

Haiku isn’t only the combination of words, but they must transmit a feeling and must conquer the reader. For this reason, for a haiku to be considered really good, you must choose words that, together, produce emotion.

There are many haiku on a wide variety of themes. However, the main theme of classical haiku is nature. At the same time, their authors reflected the feelings they experienced when observing and contemplating the environment. So, if you want to preserve its essence, it’s best to think of a natural environment.

What’s more, one of the requirements for composing a haiku is the introduction of kigo, a word that refers to a season of the year. You don’t necessarily need to name the season of the year, but something that represents it, such as “the icy dawn of winter”; “dry leaves”; “flowers being reborn”; “the warm summer sun”, etc…

Names of animals and plants can also be used, since, as we’ve said, these short poems can be about anything. In fact, haiku offers as many possibilities as one’s creative capacity can come up with.

How to enjoy poetry with children through haiku?

Children have innate creativity, which is essential for creating haiku. They can instantly catch an image and describe it in their own way by turning it into a haiku. They have an amazing ability to discover the little things that we adults miss. Therefore, they should be encouraged to observe nature, imagine and describe what they see, what excites and amazes them.

Simply by teaching them to experience the moment, to observe, and to assimilate the environment around them through their five senses, we can create a lot of fun haiku with our children.

Besides practicing creative writing and being an enriching activity, through haiku, little ones will improve their reading skills and expressiveness and they’ll learn vocabulary and metrics. But most valuable of all, they’ll get a taste for poetry.

Recommendations to start writing haiku

  • Read other haiku. If you’re not familiar with this type of short poetry when, before you start writing, it’s best to read haiku together with our children. This way, we’ll be able to see the essence they contain. Of course, you should choose haiku according to their age so that they can understand them.
  • Contemplate everything around you. Although we may not be aware of it, the environment around us transmits emotions and sensations. For example, have you ever stopped to think about what you feel when you see snow behind the windows of your house? And when you see the sunset on a summer night or a huge cloud of birds? In all of us, there’s an emotion behind what we see and live that we can capture in a haiku.
  • Tell something. Writing a haiku isn’t about putting words together and making the lines rhyme. If they don’t tell us anything, it’s not a haiku. We have to create a very short story that makes sense and also moves us. It’s not an easy task, as by saying very little we must communicate a lot of meaning. But with practice and imagination, children will create fabulous haiku.

Some examples

To have a more overall idea of what a haiku is, here are some examples of well-known writers.

Moonless night.

The tempest is shattering

the old cedars.

-Matsuo Bashō

The butterfly

will remember forever,

that it was a worm.

-Mario Benedetti

A girl dressed up with an old fashioned hat and dress, writing on a paper with a feather.

On the sand,

writing of birds,

memories of the wind.

-Octavio Paz-

Yesterday has passed,

today has passed;

Spring is leaving.

-Yosa Buson-

Recommendations on haiku to enjoy poetry with children

Now that we’ve seen how to make haiku and the possibilities that exist, we invite you to practice this type of poetry with your children. They’ll surely come up with amazing poems that will surprise you! What are you waiting for to enter this poetic world with your children?

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  • Hernández-Esquivel, C. E. (2017). Haiku: tradición poética de Japón. La Colmena, (73), 75-79.
  • Chamorro, F. M. (2017). Haiku. La vida y el espíritu de la poesía japonesa. Proyección: Teología y mundo actual, (266), 249-266.
  • Cid Lucas, F. y Criado López, I. (2012). “EL LENGUAJE ASEQUIBLE DEL HAIKU COMO ALICIENTE PARA SU EMPLEO EN EL AULA” en Observatorio de la Economía y la Sociedad del Japón.