Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Toddler dream interpretation

On Monday morning, le Petit woke up crying. This is rare. He only wanted Mommy to help him out of bed, and luckily I hadn't yet left for work. This is less rare: he's very, very Mommy at the moment. I hugged him for a long time, and then told him that he'd just had a bad dream. It, whatever it was, wasn't real, just a nightmare.

Then, as I was getting him dressed, he actually told me about his dream. "Il y a un chien !" he said. A dog. It made perfect sense, for we've cultivated a perhaps-more-than-healthy respect for the dogs we see at the park. It was the first time he'd explained one of his dreams to me, and I was pretty amazed, as I am with all his firsts.

He pointed at his crib, "Le chien, dans le lit."

"That must have been pretty scary, a dream about a dog in your bed," I agreed, "But it wasn't real. Mommy and Daddy would never let a real dog into the house. You're safe in your bed."

On Tuesday morning, le Petit woke up happy, but still early enough (groan) so that I had not only not yet left for work, but not yet even gotten out of bed. I was still genuinely happy to spend some time with him before heading off.

"Did you have a nice sleep?" I asked. He smiled as I fluffed up his hair. "Did you have nice dreams?" He looked at me, confused. "A dream is when your mind tells you stories in your head while you sleep," I explained, not terribly lucidly. Le Petit looked even more confused.

Then he ran over to a stack of books, picked one up, and tried to balance it on his head.

"On your head!" he said.

Makes perfect sense, of course.

(And if anyone has any tips on explaining such abstract concepts to an almost-three-year-old, please let me know.)


caramama said...

Man, these are tough concepts! We've been working on them, too. I've talked with my girl about pictures in her head and imagination. I will admit that I used what happened in a Blue's Clues to help me explain imaginating things.

My girl is over 3 now, and doesn't explain her dreams at all. I'm very impressed with Le Petit!

Cloud said...

I've got nothing on explaining the concept of dreams to little ones.

My 3 year old daughter has dreams about animals in her room. That is all we've managed to gather from what she's told us. That, and the fact that these are not nice animals.

And yeah, she only wants me to come in and comfort her after a bad dream. She says Daddy has a smelly nose. We're not sure what that means, but it is also why he is not allowed to snuggle her to sleep.

Marcia said...

It's very common for children to dream about "not nice" animals. There's a theory that this is because we evolved the ability to dream in prehistoric times as a way of learning how to deal with threats that were real at the time, such as being attacked by wild animals.

Children have these kinds of dreams more than adults do because adult dreams have more of everyday life (jobs, relationships, etc.) intrudig in them.

Although dreams of adults also tend to be overwhelmingly negative, which reinforces the idea that dreams are a way of teaching us how to cope with difficulties in life.