Activities to Teach Metaphors to Children

By Stacey Chaloux
Metaphors can help make children's writing more interesting.
Metaphors can help make children's writing more interesting.

As children learn to write, parents and teachers want to give them tools to make their writing more compelling. One of those tools is figurative language such as metaphors. Metaphors are a way to compare two objects that are similar without using the words "like" or "as." Instead, a metaphor states that one thing is another or has the same characteristics as the other.

Simile or Metaphor?

Another type of figurative language that is similar to a metaphor is a simile, and these two literary devices can be easily confused by children. Help your child practice identifying each from a list of similes and metaphors. You can create your own list of metaphors such as "Your room is a pigsty" or "The moon is a lantern in the sky." Also include similes such as "She swims like a fish" or "The baby is as sweet as sugar." offers worksheets that can help you find lists of similes and metaphors as well. Remind your child that a simile will use the words "like" or "as" to compare two objects, but a metaphor will not.

Metaphor Search

One of the best ways to learn about metaphors is to find compelling examples of them as you read. Make reading together a part of your daily routine, and be on the lookout for metaphors as you enjoy a story. The Teaching With Kids' Books website suggests several books that include strong metaphors such as "Word Builder," by Ann Whitford, and "Pop's Bridge," by Eve Bunting. Make a chart on large paper to keep track of the metaphors you find and the books they are from.

Write a Metaphor Poem

To give your child practice writing some metaphors, create a fill-in-the-blank poem for him to complete. Choose a familiar animal or character such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Write the beginnings of several metaphors about your chosen character. For example, "Rudolph's nose is " and "His antlers are ." Include as many features as you think are appropriate for your child's age. Then have him decide how to finish each metaphor. He might say "Rudolph's nose is a cherry," or "His antlers are bare branches." Encourage him to explain why he chose each metaphor to check his understanding.

Metaphor Matchup

Make learning fun with a metaphor matching game. Write the names of several familiar objects or animals on index cards. Include some that can be compared to each other. Give your child the set of cards and have him read each noun and then pair them up to create interesting metaphors. On a large piece of paper write several blank metaphors, such as "A ** is a** _." Your child can put an index card in each blank to complete the sentence. For example, he might put the word "cheetah" with the word "rocket" because both are fast. After your child has created several metaphors, see whether any you have other ways to rearrange the cards to make different meanings.

About the Author

Stacey Chaloux is an educator who has taught in both regular and special education early childhood classrooms, as well as served as a parent educator, teaching parents how to be their child's best first teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from Graceland University.