Top 10 Worst Poem Ideas for Kids

When it comes to writing poems, I NEVER discard an idea, no matter how strange it seems. I always believe that if I can just catch the right brain wave, I can turn it into a rock star poem.

I recently dug through my scrap files as I transferred all of my poetry work into Scrivener (which I highly recommend, by the way). Upon doing so, I rediscovered many promising ideas that I had long forgotten, some of which I’ve since turned into structural sketches or actual drafts. BUT … I also came across a sizable number of objectively terrible ideas for kids’ poetry. In some cases, I cannot believe that these ideas were ever actually bouncing around in my brain, or that I thought them compelling enough to write down at the time. But, as I think the saying goes: “One man’s snot is another man’s soup” (I don’t much care for treasure analogies), so I now present to you:

Ed’s Top 10 Worst Poem Ideas for Kids

These are the ten worst kids’ poem ideas that I’ve ever seriously considered developing, in descending order of terribleness. For each, I am including my working title (I always give my ideas a recognizable title for indexing purposes), all raw/unedited notes, and in some cases a few regrettable lines of draft verse. Fair warning: these notes may (read: do) contain references to adult language, potentially disturbing imagery, and other perceived improprieties. Read at your own risk.

10. “Hair Devils”

Notes: Dig into garbage of hair cuttery to steal the bags of hair and do something funny/gross with them

9. “Churchball”

Notes: It’s a very quiet secret sport that only children know how to play. Get points by counting how many people turn and glare when you scream. The silent “good kid” up front is just the scorekeeper. Little kids yelling … get points for length, strength, pitch, # people annoyed and giving dirty looks, # people in the general area, etc.

The kids in this poem have to be young children under 3 years old (otherwise it’s a bad lesson to teach)

8. “The Filling”

Notes: About going to the dentist and requiring them to fill a cavity. This could be really scary to kids, so do I give them the detail and make it sound even scarier (to convince them to brush their freaking teeth and floss and such) or do I give them the detail and make it funny (so that they’re not so scared when they have to go to the dentist)?

Embarrassment of having put yourself in the position of needing a filling … Topical numbing to make it easier for the injection numbing … immediate sensation of the beginning of the numbing process … you’re now sitting alone wondering just how numb you’re going to get … how much numbing is enough? How much is too much? Should I be able to feel the tip of my tongue? … Dentist explaining what he’s about to do; “you will feel scraping but no pain” (oh, that’s nice) … Hearing the drill … Feeling the hot drill spin and splash bits of tooth around your mouth as you try to breathe through your nose but you can feel yourself breathing in your own tooth dust– it’s like being alive and dead at the same time … You can smell the hot metallic smell; it smells like when one of your friends lights something on fire that he shouldn’t … It’s over – faster than you thought – but that’s only half of it … You can’t see what it looks like, but you know there’s a big hole in your tooth right now; exposed nerve, waiting for the dump truck to back in with the filling. … Then the dentist needs to go back in with the filling … Stupidly, you peak at the instruments that he is using (overexaggerate here) … The filling requires four separate drillings to make sure it is in there compactly; it is my job to bite and grind on command to make sure it is in there properly. … Success! … But, the numbness now will not wear off. Hours go by, still numb, so dumb, can’t eat or drink until it wears off, either.

7. “Good Job”

Notes: How much did you pay for that job??? I used to think that dad had to pay to have such a good job. Because why would anyone want to work in a crappier job? That’s why dad had to pay more to get the good executive job with free coffee and a secretary and an office downtown. What else was I thinking about this at the time? I didn’t understand the process of work and earning money … I thought you had money by nature (because I DID have money without doing anything) and then you used that money to obtain a cooler job that didn’t require you to work too hard all day.

6. “Defenestration”

Notes: About a kid who exercises his anger by throwing everything he owns out the window. Why is he angry? Maybe his brother did something to him? Maybe something happened to him at school and he doesn’t know how to deal with it. Beware violence/tantrum overtones.

That’s how you defenestrate.  Da DA da DA Defenestrate (last word) (scheme/meter = -/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/)

5. “Grammar Family”

Notes: Kids are named Syntax and Gerund

4. “Ant Romp, People Stomp”

Notes: When all of the kids went onto Grandpa’s back porch and stomped and killed hundreds of ants every weekend. Man, I can’t believe we actually did that. Were we wearing shoes? I just remember doing it, but not any details. Probably a good thing. Hmmm, somehow I think that’s not a good story for children.

3. “Luke Warm”

Notes: A character named Luke Warm, struggling to figure out what temperature he really is …

12/29/08: This makes me laugh every time I read it, even though I have no idea how to turn it into a poem (b/c I haven’t really thought about it).

6/11/11: actually this is just a really bad pun.

2. “Turducken”

Notes: About eating turkey/duck/chicken. If you can manage to write a clean poem rhyming the words pluckin’ and turducken, you will undoubtedly be considered one of the best children’s poets of all time (by at least one person, possibly an illiterate one)

1. “The Medicine Ball”

Notes: All sorts of different medicines interact as if they are dating, and in the end the reader finds out that everyone is at the medicine ball. I don’t believe in ever completely scrapping an idea, but if so, this would be the first to go (b/c kids have no idea what a medicine ball even is – this would be meaningless to them, and not very funny for adults anyways). This is a truly awful idea.


Anyone who writes a coherent poem on any of the above topics and puts it into the comments gets a gold star, and anyone who publishes a poem called “The Medicine Ball” that matches the synopsis above gets free health care for life (courtesy of Prescott Pharmaceuticals).

I actually still hold out some hope for the first five if I can come up with a different angle, but the rest are dead to me.

Okay … mostly dead.


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Thank you to Jim Hill for hosting POETRY FRIDAY this week.

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  • Greg Pincus

    The thing about a turducken –
    It’s really not worth all the pluckin’.
    It won’t matter whether
    You get every feather
    It’s foul, and you’ll be up-chuckin’.

    yours in a fowl mood :-)

    Greg, reducing your list to nine!

    • Ed DeCaria

      It just occurred to me that I have no idea how to embed a gold star in the comments as promised, but if I could Greg would have earned one for his turducken poem. The loosely metered limerick is the perfect form for this, too — the awkwardness of a turducken captured perfectly in form and phrase!

      Thanks, Greg!

  • Jim Hill

    Boy do I relate to this list. Just yesterday I was trying to write a poem about boogers and nose picking. I read a couple of stanzas to my wife. She was not amused. Which makes me think I might be on to something!

    “If you have a booger
    That refuses to let go
    Reach in to your knuckle
    And pull it out real slow”

    You might think it’s poetry, but it’s snot. *rim shot*

    • Ed DeCaria

      Jim, you must know better than to preview questionable poems with family members. At those trying times, you must forge ahead alone!

      Thanks for stopping by and for hosting this week …

    • Lori B

      You made me remember a booger poem i wrote about 40 years ago.
      It was in the early 70s (when i was in h.s.) and most of my poems were about serious matters like war, discrimination/integration and love.
      along with those serious poems, this one was published in our h.s. literary magazine. i should be embarrassed, but i find it is the only one i can still recite, word-for-word. ha!

      I wonder

      i wonder how big the pile gets
      on the side of the bed by the wall
      where countless boogers fall on endless nights
      when it’s too cold to get out of bed for a kleenex.

  • Tabatha

    Enjoyed your list, although the ant one was kind of disturbing. The “Luke Warm” idea makes me smile, and so do kids named “Gerund” and “Syntax.” At The Medicine Ball, would the laxative and the imodium repel each other or would they be like a Romeo and Juliet kind of thing? It just wouldn’t work out. Nice poem by Greg!

    • Ed DeCaria

      Tabatha, do not be seduced by “the medicine ball” … now matter how hard you try, it cannot be turned into a publishable kids’ poem … for your own sake, do not spent another minute thinking about it … just let it go …

  • Linda Baie

    Great to see all the bad ideas. I’m not sure I record them, but maybe if I went back to old journals & looked? I actually like the idea of “Luke Warm” & immediately think of a love poem about a relationship that needs some ‘heating up’. You’ve inspired some thinking anyway!

    • Ed DeCaria

      RE: “went back to old journals & looked” … Oh you should! 1) it’s fun, 2) you might actually find something usable, 3) you’ll almost certainly be impressed with how much better Linda 2012 is at writing than Linda circa whenever you wrote that journal entry.

  • Ms. Yingling

    You asked for it. I might as well do something to get a gold star today, but it’s not very good! I do love the word “defenestration”.

    Billy got so angry when Bobby took his toys.
    He plotted his revenge–So first, without a noise

    He crept up to the window and flung it open wide,
    Peered down upon his brother malingering outside

    And then tossed all his marbles,an airplane, and some jacks,
    A teddy bear, some skates,and games in sneak attack.

    “Take that!” he said, and flung the objects to the ground–
    Out rained all of his brother’s toys that he could find around.

    The next time that his brother Pondered confiscation
    He stopped when he remembered The Great Defenestration.

    • Ed DeCaria

      I, Ed DeCaria, hereby bequeath to the mysterious Ms. Yingling my idea for a kids’ poem about toy defenestration.

      Nice draft! I think you should keep at it. We share the same POV on meter, so you know that that could use some work — but once I get a poem to this stage, it is only a matter of time (as long as it takes) before I wrestle the meter to the ground. Make it happen!


      p.s. I still reserve the right to craft my own poem about the more disturbing act of human/animal defenestration.

    • Seth Christenfeld

      I am not Ed, but it’s worth noting that the word “malingering” has a specific meaning that is not synonymous with “lingering,” so it’s worth looking for a different word there.

  • Katya

    The hairdevils under my couch
    Have come to life
    They seem to crouch
    In a most menacing display
    And that is why
    I didn’t clean or dust today.

  • Ed DeCaria

    Nicely done, people! #10, #6, and #2 have been conquered(ish).

    Any more takers?

    #4, #3, and #1 are still the toughtest, I think.

    For #4, ants could of course be a good topic, but killing them in mass — not so much.

    For #3, Luke Warm seems like it could work as a topic, but “lukewarm” is a very odd word. It has very few rhyming partners (norm, swarm, dorm, storm, form) and I think zero that actually have the same accent pattern, so proper meter/flow is next to impossible. I’d be very curious to know if any poem has ever used the word “lukewarm” — it is the opposite of poetic in almost every sense (which is probably why it is so tempting a puzzle to solve).

    #1 remains hands down the worst poem idea that I’ve ever generated. Most people don’t know what a medicine ball is. Even if they did, it’s a bad pun. Even if it was a good pun, the story would then be about various Rx/OTC/recreational drugs. And even if THAT was okay in general, this poem idea requires the personification of said drugs in the form of dancing teens and pre-teens.

    Worst. Idea. Ever. It has to be. Unless any of you wants to share a worse one? (And I don’t mean one that you go out of your way to think of now — one that you actually recorded at some point in a true creative moment.)

  • david e

    i’m thinking of naming my next cats syntax and gerund, once i know their personalities. but i also see an epic ballad in that paring as well.

    • Ed DeCaria

      There’s a great Stephen Wright joke about naming his dog “Stay”.

      “Come, Stay.”
      “Come, Stay.”

      “Come, Stay.”

      “Now he just ignores me and keeps on typing.”

  • Mary Lee

    Sometimes it’s a GOOD thing to cruise the PF roundup on Sunday. What a hoot to read your “dud” ideas and then have three of them conquered in the comments!

    • Ed DeCaria

      Thanks for coming back to visit, Mary Lee. Glad you enjoyed the post. Great that people decided to take up the challenge …

  • Bill Kirk

    Wow! I thought I was the only one with really wierd ideas. The scary part is all of these actually appeal to me. I’m really grooving on Syntax and Gerund. It could be a terrific learning tool for grade school (or college) English teachers. And the Luke Warm idea is a stroke of genius. The dark father could be Fahrenheit and the boy could make pocket money by earning a cent a grade in school.

    OK. I’ve divulged too much about how my brain works. I’m glad I stumbled on your blog (still finishing up the Comment Challenge list). By the way, I had this strange idea a few years back about anatomical rhymes—skeleton, muscles, skin, brain, etc.—and it is now being published as a series (THE SUM OF OUR PARTS). So, I wouldn’t necessarily toss out your ideas. You never know where they may take you….

    • Ed DeCaria

      Sounds like you’d like to make a play for two gold stars, Bill …

      Thanks for visiting, and congrats on your “strange” series. I’ll check it out.

      And I agree with your point — the point of this post was that just about any crazy idea has some merit. Worst case, I turned my bottom ten into a blog post that led to this bit of fun.


  • Neal Levin

    Not exactly the rhymes you requested,
    But here’s another take on your concept:

    Turducken’s a curious word:
    One bird ate a bird ate a third.
    A bird in a bird in
    A bird is a burden.
    Too much in one word is absurd.

    • Ed DeCaria

      Love it. Thanks, Neal!

  • Quinette Cook

    Love this! I’m still recuperating from the Madness, but love the challenge so I may have to take a break from my other writing and tackle one of these.

  • Emily Dickinson

    Greg, leave out “really” for a better rhythm. (v funny)

  • Emily Dickinson

    Ed, you don’t need to write ‘em; they’re funny enough in prose.