Creativity Magazine

Children and Metaphors

By Maliasa
Children and  Metaphors


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Metaphors reflect processes of thinking and they appear not just in language but also in vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. The use of non-linguistic metaphors is common in art. And metaphors based on perceptual similarities such as colour, shape and texture, are often seen as a sign of creativity. Commercials also often rely on metaphors to convey a message.

Almost as soon as they start to talk children produce utterances that have the appearance of a metaphor. Your two-year-old may say “Apple, apple!” when she sees a red ball. “Sock swimming” may be used while pushing a sock along the bathtub.  Little older children may exclaim when they see a winding river, “It's like a snake." These expressions are called children’s metaphors. A child refers to something by using a different name from the objects literal name. She may also compare two objects that belong to different categories. Some researchers suggest that children make these metaphors by accident. A child may make a mistake and she may put objects into the same category by accident. This type of thinking could be seen because of symbolic imagistic thinking a characteristic of a child in the pre-operational stage according to Piaget. Other believes that young children make a conscious violation of a rule and that they are using metaphors in an “adult” sense of the word.

You can a get metaphor by substituting a literal expression
  • Lisa is sweet.
  • Lisa is a lollipop.


Another idea is that you get a metaphor by comparing two terms – Lisa and lollipop.  Finally, you can also get a metaphor by seeing a relationship between the two words.
You can describe a metaphor as a comparison of two unlike things. Metaphors  are used to help us understand the unknown. Scientists and artists use metaphors to enhance understanding of their ideas and views of the world. 
A simile is also a comparison between two things and you use words such as “like” or “as to show that it is a direct comparison. A metaphor becomes stronger in a child’s mind. She says that an animal is something else. A dog is not like a friend. It is a friend.
Searching for metaphors is books are a great place to start making up your own. Metaphors that can be found in children’s books and fairy tales are:


  • The king had a heart of stone.
  • A blanket of snow covered the street.
  • The boy’s home was a prison.
  • The boy put his heart in the bottle.
  • The witch brain was a spider web.
Below are two examples of book with metaphors. 
Little Monster Did It!By Helen Cooper

A new baby can be an upsetting time and Amy’s channels all her feeling through a stuffed monster toy. The toy is a metaphor for the “little” monster inside us.


Children and  Metaphors

The Heart in the Bottle By Oliver Jeffers. 

 This book is a little treat and the bottle is a metaphor for the ‘walls’ we put around ourselves. Go here or here to read a review about this book and some other books written by Oliver Jeffers.

Children and  Metaphors

Photo: "Girl Doing Cartwheel In The Grass" by imagerymajestic

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