Figurative language is a way of using language that the units of meaning (semantics) are not related naturally but have relevant parts and common characteristics. We use figurative language to express feelings and ideas that ordinary words of the language cannot convey, for example, “You are my shining star”.
Figurative language includes metaphors, idioms, similes, sayings, sarcasm and other forms. It is linked to academic achievement and social problem-solving skills in children and adolescents. Children with problems in this area may experience difficulties in their schoolwork and their relationships with their peers or adults.
In typically developing children, learning figurative meanings of words and phrases help to develop meaning-making strategies called ‘semantic processing strategies.’ Learning figurative language starts from preschool age and continues through adolescence, in ages 2 through 25. These meaning-making strategies help children to develop skills to better understand social interactions and the language that is used in poetry, songs, and movies. They will also better understand the indirect nonliteral meanings that appear in books or other written materials. These skills are very important for school readiness in childhood, and for school success, social communication, and social-emotional development.