75+ Examples of Idioms for Kids

What Is an Idiom?

An idiom is a figure of speech where the meaning of a phrase doesn’t match the literal meaning of the words that make up the phrase. Either the words don’t mean what you expect them to, or the grammar in the phrase is unusual.

Idioms are very common in English, both in spoken and written language. And most native speakers don’t have any trouble understanding what they mean. Most of the time, native speakers use idioms without even thinking about the meaning of the words themselves.

But this can be really tricky for people learning a new language. Often, you can’t guess what an idiom means just from hearing it, so someone needs to explain it to you.

idiom for kids

And it’s not just English that uses idioms. Many languages have them!

For example, there’s a Spanish idiom “Mucho ruido y pocas nueces.” Literally, this translates to “Much noise and few nuts.”

Now, that doesn’t make much sense! But a Spanish speaker hears that and understands that someone is talking a lot but not taking any action.

In English, we actually have a different idiom that means the same thing: “All bark and no bite.”

Idioms can be really fun because most of the time, they’re not logical. But most English speakers already understand them without realizing it. So, these figures of speech are really fun for kids to study.

There are many, many idioms in English, so we’ve compiled just a few categories. Also, some idioms fit more than one category. But this list lets you dip your toes into the fun world of idioms!

Examples of Idioms for Kids

Animal Idioms

  • All bark and no bite = to talk a lot, but not do anything
    Don’t worry about what Rada says – she’s all bark and no bite.
  • A bee in your bonnet = to be obsessed with a particular idea
    Deb has a bee in her bonnet about moving to San Francisco. It’s all she talks about!
  • Birdbrain = someone who’s not smart
    Marek is such a birdbrain. He doesn’t know anything!
  • Early bird = someone who likes to be awake early in the morning, someone who arrives before everyone else
    Idun is an early bird because she likes to wake up at 5am every day.
    You have to be an early bird if you want to get one of the free tickets.
  • For the birds = not important, worthless
    That job is for the birds. No one needs to do it.
  • Eagle eye = noticing lots of details
    I hired Josie as an editor because she has an eagle eye for grammatical mistakes.
  • Wild goose chase = a useless mission, wasting time looking for something that you’ll never find
    Trying to track down her phone number was a wild goose chase. I knew I’d never be able to find it in all the papers on my desk.
  • Be a chicken = be scared or afraid
    Garrett told Agner he was a chicken for not climbing the tree.
  • Night owl = someone who likes to be awake at night
    I can’t believe Radovan does his homework at midnight. He’s such a night owl.
  • Busy bee = someone who works a lot
    Cara has 3 different jobs. She’s a busy bee!
  • To have ants in your pants = to be impatient or restless
    I feel like I have ants in my pants. I’m tired of school and I want it to be summer vacation already!
  • A fly on the wall = someone who observes but does not participate
    I’d love to be a fly on the wall at a UN meeting. They must say so many interesting things!
  • To be a fish out of water = to feel uncomfortable because you’re in a situation that isn’t normal for you
    Constantine went to his first karate class yesterday, but he didn’t like it because he felt like a fish out of water.
  • Hold your horses = to stop what you’re doing, slow down, pause to think
    Hold your horses! You’re going to cut yourself if you hold the knife like that!
  • To pig out = to eat a lot
    Julia bought 5 tubs of ice cream so she and her friends could pig out at the sleepover.
  • When pigs fly = never going to happen
    Mara told her daughter she could stay out until 2am when pigs fly.
  • Elephant in the room = something obvious that everyone is ignoring
    Harold’s Thanksgiving dinner was really awkward because of the elephant in the room. No one wanted to mention his recent divorce and the fact that Carl wasn’t eating with them.
  • Doggy bag/doggie bag = a package to take home extra food from a restaurant
    Could I have a doggy bag? This pasta is too good to waste, but I’m full right now.
  • Happy as a clam = extremely happy
    Look at Alex playing with his new teddy bear. He’s happy as a clam!

Body Idioms

  • To cost an arm and a leg = to be very expensive
    Gisselle’s new computer cost an arm and a leg.
  • Pull your leg = to tease or make fun of someone
    Don’t believe anything my uncle says. He’s always pulling your leg.
  • Have a change of heart = to change one’s decision
    Simon is moving back home because he had a change of heart.
  • To be all ears = to be eagerly paying attention
    Tell me what’s going on with your new job. I’m all ears!
  • See eye to eye = to understand one another
    My sister and I never see eye to eye on anything. I just don’t understand where she gets her ideas.
  • Slip your mind = to forget
    I’m sorry I didn’t mention the dance. It must have slipped my mind.
  • To drag your feet = to be reluctant to do something
    Sujata keeps putting off packing. She’s really dragging her feet about leaving.
  • To get your feet wet = to try something new
    I’m going to get my feet wet and try kickboxing tomorrow.
  • To think on your feet = make decisions or solve problems quickly without thinking too hard
    Caleb is a great employee at the restaurant because he can think on his feet.
  • To get off on the wrong foot = to start something badly, particularly a relationship
    Sara, I think we got off on the wrong foot yesterday. Could we start over?
  • To bend over backward = try really hard (or excessively) to do something, especially to please someone else
    I can’t believe Cameron worked until 3 am yesterday. He’s really bending over backward for these new clients.
  • To get off someone’s back = to stop bugging someone
    Can you get off my back, please? I already told you I’d wash the dishes after dinner.
  • To wrap your head around something = to understand something, particularly a difficult idea
    I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that Grandma is gone. I keep thinking my phone will ring and I’ll hear her voice.
  • Gut feeling = intuitive feeling
    I really think Aura’s new girlfriend is “the one.” I just have a gut feeling about her.
  • To get out of hand = to be out of control
    The mess in your room has gotten completely out of hand! Please go fold your clothes and put away your toys.
  • Give someone the cold shoulder = to be unfriendly
    Do you think Rajiv is giving me the cold shoulder? He hasn’t talked to me in 2 days!
  • To cross your fingers = to hope that something will happen
    I’m crossing my fingers that you get an A on that test!
  • To speak your mind = to speak plainly or freely, without restraint
    It’s okay to speak your mind about Milly – I won’t get upset.
  • To dip your toes into = to start something very slowly, to test something out
    Leona wants to dip her toes into university studies, so she’s going to take an AP class in high school.

Food Idioms

  • To spill the beans = to tell a story or secret
    What’s going on with you and Dennis? Come on, spill the beans!
  • To be full of beans = to have lots of energy
    Ramlah’s baby doesn’t want to sleep right now. He’s full of beans.
  • To bite off more than you can chew = accept more tasks than you can complete
    When you go off to college, make sure you leave yourself time to relax. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
  • Pleased as punch = very happy
    Grandma will be pleased as punch to see you.
  • Cool as a cucumber = very calm and collected
    Marcy is always cool as a cucumber, even before big exams.
  • Piece of cake = something really easy
    I can’t believe I studied for 10 hours. That exam was such a piece of cake I didn’t need to.
  • In a nutshell = in summary
    I won’t bore you with a long story. In a nutshell, my job isn’t going very well.
  • Icing on the cake/cherry on top = an addition that makes a great thing even better
    A raise with my new job would be the icing on the cake.
    A raise with my new job would be the cherry on top.
  • Bread and butter = the main way you support yourself financially
    Being a lawyer is my bread and butter, but I prefer making oil paintings.
  • To butter someone up = to suck up to someone, to flatter someone
    Aw, stop buttering me up! You’re making me blush!
  • Bad egg = a bad person
    Alyssa shouldn’t hang out with Amir anymore. He’s a bad egg.
  • Cream of the crop = the best of something
    Magdalena wants to go to Harvard because it’s the cream of the crop for universities.
  • Use your noodle = to think
    Shani keeps making mistakes because she’s not using her noodle.
  • To cry over spilled milk = to worry or feel bad about something you can’t fix or change
    Just forget about the bad interview. It doesn’t help to cry over spilled milk.
  • To spice something up/to spice things up = to add excitement to something
    I decided to try a salsa class instead of going to the gym. I just wanted to spice up my afternoon activities.
    I decided to try a salsa class instead of going to the gym. I just wanted to spice things up.

Nature Idioms

  • To be under the weather/to feel under the weather = to feel sick, to be ill
    Artemis isn’t going to school today because she’s feeling under the weather.
  • Raining cats and dogs = raining a lot
    “I think it might start flooding because it’s raining cats and dogs,” said Emily.
  • Break the ice = remove tension
    No one was talking, so Harry suggested playing charades to break the ice at his birthday party.
  • On thin ice = taking a risk that has serious consequences
    George shouldn’t be slacking off at work. He’s already on thin ice with the boss.
  • Up in the air = not decided
    I’m sorry I can’t commit to the party on Saturday. My plans are up in the air right now.
  • To take a rain check = to postpone for later
    Can we take a rain check? I forgot that I have a meeting in 5 minutes.
  • To sleep like a log = to sleep heavily
    I feel great now because I slept like a log last night.
  • To go out on a limb = to take a risk
    I’m going to go out on a limb here, but do you really want to divorce Mark?
  • Out of the blue = suddenly, unexpectedly
    Esther hadn’t heard from her father for 10 years, but he called out of the blue yesterday.
  • To beat around the bush = to talk about something without being direct
    Just tell me what you think and don’t beat around the bush!
  • To call it a day = to decide to end a task
    Can we call it a day on this project? My head is starting to hurt.
  • Last straw = the final thing that causes you to make a decision
    That argument was the last straw. I’m not going to talk to Harriet anymore.
  • Second wind = an extra rush of energy
    I thought I was going to go to sleep early, but I got a second wind at 9pm. So I managed to clean out the whole basement before midnight!
  • A mountain out of a molehill = make something seem more important than it actually is
    Clara, you don’t have to study so hard for this exam. It’s really not that important for your future. You’re just making a mountain out of a molehill!
  • To come up for air = to take a rest
    After studying for 2 weeks straight, Santi could finally come up for air after the test.

Situation Idioms

  • Off the hook = not responsible for
    Mr. Smith caught Manju cheating on the test, but he let her off the hook because she’s always been a good student.
  • A rip-off = theft, exploitation
    I can’t believe you paid $500 for that book. That’s such a rip-off!
  • To draw a blank = to not be able to remember something
    Do you remember Sarah’s last name? I’m drawing a blank.
  • To be on the same page = to understand one another
    Make sure you’re on the same page with Sonam. You don’t want to have an argument later.
  • To be in the same boat = to be in the same situation
    If the school closes, we’ll all be in the same boat no matter what grade we’re in.
  • To miss the boat = to be too late
    You need to sign up for the field trip now, or you’ll miss the boat.
  • On/off the table = to be able to be talked about, to be up for discussion
    You know you can always tell me anything, right? Everything is on the table.
    My love life is off the table. I don’t want to talk about it.
  • Two cents (worth) = someone’s opinion, but generally one you don’t want or haven’t asked for
    I don’t think you should skip work today, but that’s just my two cents.
    Could you stop pestering me about my grades? I didn’t ask for your two cents worth.
  • A dime a dozen = really common
    Don’t worry about buying a postcard here. They’re a dime a dozen in the city center.
  • Get up on the wrong side of bed = to be upset, grouchy, or in a bad mood
    Did you get up on the wrong side of bed this morning? You’ve been irritable all day!
  • To drop the ball = to not do something you were supposed to do
    I’m sorry I dropped the ball on preparing for the meeting. My mother passed away last week, so I’ve been distracted.
  • To be on the ball = to be aware of what’s going on around you and be prepared for it
    Don’t worry about Sadeq finishing his work. He’s always on the ball.
  • To crack a window = to open a window, often just a little bit
    Could you crack a window? I’m sweating in here.
  • To cut corners = to skimp or do something poorly so that you can get it done faster
    Majda works a little more slowly than Martin, but she’ll never cut corners.
  • To hit the sack = to go to sleep
    Goodnight, everybody! I’m going to hit the sack.
  • To have someone’s number = to know what someone’s up to, to understand the reason behind someone else’s actions
    Carlos won’t get away with anything. I have his number.

Using Idioms

Once you start listening for idioms, you’ll hear them all over the place. Native speakers pepper their language with lots of idioms – in fact, you probably already use them without realizing it!

Keep your eye out for idioms when you’re reading or talking to others, and try to guess what they mean. And if you’re not sure, you can always check a dictionary.

Also, check out the other grammar resources on our website. There are lots of fun figures of speech to explore!