A metaphor is a figure of speech that is used to make a comparison between two things that aren't alike but do have something in common. Unlike a simile, where two things are compared directly using like or as, a metaphor's comparison is more indirect, usually made by stating something is something else. A metaphor is very expressive; it is not meant to be taken literally. You may have to work a little to find the meaning in a metaphor.
For example, a river and tears aren't very alike. One is a body of water in nature, while the other can be produced by our eyes. They do have one thing in common, though: both are a type of water that flows. A metaphor uses this similarity to help the writer make a point:
As a river is so much larger than a few tears, the metaphor is a creative way of saying that the person is crying a lot. There are so many tears that they remind the writer of a river.
Metaphors help writers and poets make a point in a more interesting way. They also help the reader see something from a new perspective. By describing tears as a river, for example, the writer found a creative way to describe how great the girl's sadness was and helped the reader see a similarity between tears and a river that they might not have noticed before. This makes reading more fun and interesting.
Similes are another way to compare two different things, but a simile does so more directly, using the words like or as. For example:
In this case, the simile tells the reader that the tears are similar to a river, but not the same. A metaphor, on the other hand, says that something is something else; that is, the girl's tears are equal to a river. A metaphor is not exactly true. It's meant to be understood as a figure of speech, not a factual statement.
While simple metaphors make a direct comparison between two things, saying that one thing is the other, not all metaphors are as easy to understand. Implied metaphors don't directly state one of the objects being compared. Instead, they describe one item with the words you would typically use to describe another. For example:
In this case, the girl is being described as something else, but what is it? The word stalked and the phrase pouncing on her prey give a clue. These words are often used to describe predatory animals, such as a tiger or lion. By describing the girl this way, the writer is making an implied comparison that the girl is like a big cat, without actually coming out and saying it.
Implied metaphors can be difficult to figure out when you're first learning about them since they have to trust their imaginations to understand what the comparison is about. This is a skill that can be learned over time, but it's best for most kids to start with direct metaphors for practice.
Now that you understand how metaphors work, take a look at this list of simple metaphor examples for kids, that are perfect for showing this type of figure of speech. Look for the comparison being made. And watch the video below the list to learn more about metaphors.
These examples of direct metaphors will help children understand that metaphors make writing more fun and interesting, and can bring a subject alive for a reader.
Now that you know some good metaphor examples for kids take a look at these other useful Metaphor Examples to see how metaphors can become more complex. Don't forget to download our handy PDF explaining the differences between metaphors and similes.