What do Children Dream About?


It’s hard to imagine what our littlest ones may be dreaming about when they are sleeping. Could it be eating ice cream or riding their bikes? When they have bad dreams, especially when children are only beginning to speak and can’t articulate what exactly they dreamt about, as a parent you wonder what possible bad experience that would cause this bad dream, especially when their life experiences is so small.

How frequently do children dream? A study done by David Foulkes showed that only 20% of children are reported to be dreaming when woken up from being asleep where as adults will report to 90% of dreaming. While it is probable that babies do dream, for obvious reason we cannot know what they are dreaming about but with preschoolers who are just starting to talk will speak of dreaming about things such as seeing an animal or thinking of doing an activity. Their dreams tend to be static and plain. There are usually no social interactions, very little feeling and no characters. Most preschoolers also do not report fear in any of their dreams. Yes, there are children who do have night terrors and display an intense fear but it is usually from waking up disoriented by not fully waking.

When people sleep they go through 5 stages of a sleep cycle. One of these stages is REM sleep which is referring to active sleep. This is when your dreams begin. Your brain is actually as active during this sleep stage as it is awake. While adults are only in this phase for 20% of their sleep time babies spend time in this stage more frequently, about 50-80%. During this stage sleep is so important because this is when babies will develop new brain pathways and later will develop language. When they are sleeping they are process everything they have learned when they were awake.

It isn’t until the ages of 5 to 7, dreams start to be longer though they are still not common. Their dreams will begin to contain characters and interactions in a sequence of events. Around the ages of 7, dreams become more frequent and longer. Now they involve feelings and thoughts where the child becomes a participant in their dreams. They start to have a structure and can contain sporadic memories.

It is hard to really understand if and what young children begin to dream as they cannot verbally express and communicate what they are fully. It has been argued that children do dream, no matter the age but do not remember their dreams or do not have the verbal skillset yet to communicate what they are. It is thought that dream recall is not based on a child’s verbal skills but their skill in mental imagery abilities. Children with the most developed mental imagery and visuo-spatial skills report the most dreams.

If you have older kids do you discuss their dreams?


  1. I am not sure either of my boys dream – I will have to start asking them. My 11 year old might, but now I am curious. I am a VERY vivid dreamer and almost always remember my dreams.

  2. My daughter had night terrors when she was a child. My son luckily didn’t. He didn’t talk much about his dreams, but boy, my daughter did.

  3. My youngest will tell me he’s had bad dreams, but can’t tell me what they are about. My oldest giggles and talks in his sleeps so I wish I knew what he was dreaming about!

  4. Well, I know what I dreamed about as a child and it was usually my dolls coming alive to attack me…no joke! My kids have dreams of my dad who passed away a lot and flying adventures.

  5. When I was younger I had a lot of repetitive, and sequential, dreams. My favorite were the ones where I was a super hero- they seemed to continue like a story from one night to the next, though they never occurred back to back.

  6. We have an almost daily conversation about dreams and nightmares with our two boys who are eleven and four. I’m finding my four year old will talk about them more now but mostly nightmares.

  7. This is pretty interesting. My kids aren’t old enough to really understand what dreaming is or to speak about it, but I’m sure they are having dreams.

  8. What an interesting article. My children tend to tell me about dreams that are weird or something crazy happened in them. They dream the most amazing dreams at times.

  9. My teen daughter does talk about her dreams. Mostly when she gets woken up from one that was really good and she’s sad she missed the ending!

  10. This is such an interesting topic. I did one of my senior papers or blind people and dreams, and learned a lot. The only time my daughters talk about their dreams are when they are frightening.

  11. We typically only hear our kids’ dreams when they were particularly scary or funny. I need to get into the habit of asking. It’d be a fun peek into their heads.

  12. My 8yr old has woken up laughing. He then started telling me what he was dreaming. It was about an event we’d done earlier in the week. :)

  13. My first born used to have night terrors. She dreamt and saw shadow people. It was scary. My sons don’t remember their dreams, usually. I love hearing about what they dream but sometimes wonder why they have such scary or creepy ones.

  14. Some times my girls tell me their dreams especially if it is something really silly or scary. They have always heard me talk about my dreams, so I am assuming they feel like they have to do the same too.

  15. I was actually wondering about this recently because my two year old was crying in her sleep and woke up scared. So I imagined she was having a bad dream! I ask my 7 year old but he never remembers.

  16. Fascinating information about dreams. I have one daughter who always seems to remember her dreams and shares them and another daughter who never seems to remember hers.

  17. My youngest tells me about her dreams and she has some odd ones. She is also having night terrors lately although she usually won’t tell me about them

  18. Children don’t have the same broad array of life experiences to pull from, so it’s not surprising they don’t have exciting dreams! That must develop as they get older and experience new things!

  19. My eldest son always tells me of his dreams where his deceased grandfather would speak with him. It is only during those times when he gets in trouble at school, or when he does something that I disapprove of. Maybe my dad is guiding him to do the right things.

  20. The dreams of our children can be so unique & mostly something exciting as most times you can see them smiling in sleep. But I agree there are some scary dreams that could wake them at mid-night for which they need some time to come out of it.

  21. My husband was getting ready for work a few weeks ago and heard my five year old laughing in her sleep. She woke up when he checked on her and told them she was dreaming that she was hiding balls from her aunt and uncle. She still giggles about it. lol

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