The capacity to perceive similarity between apparently dissimilar domains is widely regarded as crucial to creative thought; yet little is known about the development of this ‘metaphoric’ skill. To assess children's capacities to effect appropriate ‘metaphoric links’, and to discriminate among metaphors of varying appropriateness, a task probing verbal metaphoric skill was designed. Subjects ranging in age from 4 to 19 years were required to complete a simile and then to choose from a set of four similes the one most appropriate for a given literary context. The study documented a tendency, increasing with age, towards preference for an appropriate metaphor. Whereas primary school children preferred non-metaphoric endings and preadolescents favoured conventional metaphors, high school and college students showed significant appreciation of appropriate metaphors. In contrast, conventional metaphors predominated in the subjects' productions and appropriate metaphors were rarely produced by subjects of any age group. Unexpectedly, the highest percentages of appropriate metaphors were produced by the youngest subjects and the oldest subjects. Where these two groups differed was in the proclivity of young subjects to produce metaphors which were highly original but inappropriate or nonsensical. The various strategies used by subjects of different ages are described and the relations between metaphoric productions and preferences are considered.