We all know that children DREAM BIG… but when does nighttime sleep translate into vivid, meaningful, or even frightening dreams?
Studies indicate that for the first 2-3 years of life, young children are likely dreamless. They don’t possess the language or abstract thought needed to process through dreams. Once dreams accompany REM sleep, around 3-4 years old, prompting your child to recall and tell you their dreams may give you important access to their inner thoughts and feelings!
One study yielded some interesting insights into the dreaming abilities of young children:
Younger preschoolers reported significantly shorter dreams. Three-year-olds, contrary to previous research, were able to report dreams. Over 80% of the preschoolers’ dreams included specific actions, and over a third of the dreams included three or more actions. More than 36% of the dreamers encountered and struggled with a “monster” protagonist. Family members, human strangers, TV/movie characters, and friends were prevalent in the dreams of young children.*
Here are some ideas for encouraging dream recall and investigating the dreams of your child:
-Keep a family dream journal: draw or describe your dreams! Re-read your entries and share your funny, or even frightening/thrilling nighttime adventures.
-Talk about your dreams: over breakfast or right after waking up – does your child remember their dreams? Ask open-ended questions about what happened.
-Keep in mind that as your child receives positive reinforcement for sharing their dreams that they may begin to make up or embellish their re-telling: this is ok! They are still tapping into their imagination and perhaps expressing things in their subconscious.