How to write a poem for kids: tips from an award-winning Nature Detective

Image of Adam sat in his garden.
Spending time outdoors inspired Adam to write an award winning poem. (Photo thanks to supporter Tracey Holmes)

Nature is a great inspiration for creative writing. Poems give kids a fun way to work on their language and writing skills and getting outdoors to get ideas flowing gives them some fun screen-free time.

One Nature Detectives member who put his love for woods and trees to paper is Adam, 9, who won the Ted Hughes Young Poets Award 2018. His winning entry, I will plant 9 trees, was written in response to the Hughes poem My own true family. It describes the trees that are important in his life and his ambition to plant 100 trees by the time he turns 17. 

We interviewed Adam to find out more about his inspiration and he gave us some great tips for writing a poem, as well as his message to other Nature Detectives. Make sure to read to the end for the award-winning piece!

So Adam, in your poem you speak about your lovely garden, what else inspired your love for trees?

I enjoy my time in gardens and parks. I see the forests when I travel to different places. I love them because I know how important they are in our lives. If this planet had no trees, we would all be dead.

A magical ancient woodland with sunlight coming through the leaves
Trees are a precious resource, for us and all of nature. (Photo: Phil Formby/WTML)

What made you so passionate about protecting and planting trees?

Trees give us shade and a home for many birds and creatures. I love to see green and enjoy seeing new green shoots and leaves grow. I know about deforestation around the world and want to tell people to stop.

Do you have a favourite tree?

I have two favourites. The red oak, Quercus rubra, and the cherries at the back of my garden – Prunus avium. The red oak has beautifully-shaped leaves, like Christmas trees. This was the first red tree I ever saw. The cherry because I love filling my hands with blossom and picking the cherries that birds leave behind. Our cherry trees have the most amazing trunks, with rings going up. They turn a shiny dark purply-brown in the rain.

Red leaves of the red oak in autumn.
Adam loves the bright red leaves of the red oak in Autumn, we do too! (Photo: Riccardo Mancioli/Alamy)

What are your top tips for writing a poem?

  • Be inspired and only write when something inspires you, otherwise your story will be a bit 'bore-y'!
  • Write what you know, so your ideas will flow more quickly.
  • Write about what you see, hear and smell around you.
  • Imagine yourself in the story.
  • You don't have to use super-hard words.

What is your message to other Nature Detectives looking to help woods and trees?

Try to protect everything from new young shoots to ancient giants but do not be so protective that people cannot get close to trees. It would be too obsessive to put electric fences around our trees. We have to be able to be near them.

I will plant 9 trees

by Adam Rafael Holmes

 

Right, now I am 9, I will plant 9 trees.

If each year I plant my age

Then by the time I am 17,

I will achieve one of man’s life’s aims.

No, not to drive my heirloom Z3,

But to plant 100 trees!

This is more than the promise I made

When the Oak Tree set me free.

 

Travelling to my garden in Sussex

Massive forests and mountains of trees

Rush past the train windows

And as I now know,

It is the willows who are moving

When our train slows.

They travel to visit friends

In other forests and by the sea.

The first sight of them means fresh air

Relief from our coughs

A space for grasshoppers and bees.

 

I walk through the gate

Smell the brambles and bark

Fresh air and shade

The relief of a place cool and dark.

 

I love the way the leaves sway

When the wind pushes through.

The little birds hatch and play,

Fighting off cats

Attacking their habitats.

 

The rustling,

chirping of the birds,

The thud now and again in the wheelbarrow below

Of apples crashing down

As the trees say hello.

 

The oak stands solid

A trunk topped by a green elfin hat.

Birds line up on his branch

And with a wiggle and tickle,

Make his long arms wave.

The tree answers with a whirlpool

Tossing the birds deep inside

Landing on a soft bed of moss

The birds try to hide.

The woodpecker makes a hole

For them to fly out and begin again.

Now, where have my magpies gone?

The tree asks if he has won.

 

In the Spring shoots appear,

Leaves are forming

So the trees are green

With many twigs and sticks in between.

Later in the Summer,

The trees are full of delight,

Each like a big green balloon

Reaching its ultimate height.

Now, Summer’s ended, the balloons can swell no more

Autumn will turn the leaves yellow, orange and red.

The balloon very nearly bursts

But then in Winter,

The trees will stretch and rest their heads.

The air slowly seeps out

With the leaves dropping from the tree.

Spring will bring new life and its green canopy.

 

I don’t want people to chop down more trees.

There is no need to use wood for homes or heating

Or palm oil for eating.

You can use concrete or painted cement.

Yes, plastic is bad for all life on Earth

But deforestation to use paper instead

Will take away our oxygen, shade and much food

An end to the forest animals’ birth.

 

Feeling motivated to save some trees?

Become a family member today to get natural inspiration for kids and families. Nature Detectives means kids get exciting seasonal mailings in the post chock full of fun ideas and awesome activities, all while supporting the protection of our native woods and trees.

What are your tips and tricks for writing poetry?

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