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Teaching Kids about Symbolism in Literature

Do you spend a lot of time driving your kids around in the car? Here’s something fun (and educational) to do the next time you’re stuck in traffic.
Play the “Symbols in Stories” game.

First talk about basic symbols with your children. The cross, the star of David, the peace sign, the dollar sign, etc. Make sure they understand that symbols carry deeper meanings.

Then just start using your imagination.

Example 1: There’s this kid named Rex. His family has a lot of money. His mom packs him really great lunches, that he usually takes for granted. He’s also got super fancy gold sneakers, and even a golden backpack. His little sister always gives him a big hug when he comes home from school. One day Rex finds a magic coin that grants him a wish. He decides to wish for a new bike. But not just any bike, the best and most expensive bike ever. So poof! There’s the bike. But one day when Rex is at school, his little sister sneaks out with the bike and gets really hurt. That’s when Rex realizes that things aren’t as important as people.

Question for kids: What myth does this story remind you of?

Example 2: A little girl has a dog. Every day she and the dog play in the front yard in front of a maple tree. In summer, the tree is really shady and the girl and the dog both take naps in the grass. In fall, the leaves start to fall off from the tree. That’s when the girl notices that her dog isn’t feeling very well. So she takes the dog to the vet. It turns out, that the dog is really sick. By winter, all of the leaves have fallen off the tree, and the girl sits in the living room and stare out at the empty branches. The dog sits in her lap, and she holds him while he sleeps. But by springtime, there are new leaf buds on the maple tree and the dog is feeling better. The girl and her dog go on a slow walk around the neighborhood and enjoy a beautiful day together.

Question for kids: What types of symbols were at play in this story?


  1. cr oliver says:

    Misspelled a word- “But by springtime, there (not their-not possessive)are new leaf buds…”

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