Laugh it Up

When it comes to kids, funny trumps serious…

“¿Qué le dijo un pez a otro pez?”

(“What did one fish say to another?”)

“¡Nada!” (this word has 2 meanings in Spanish: “nothing!” and “swim!”)

- Very funny for a 4-year-old girl…. - 

Why people laugh and what humor means are not easy questions, yet we know something is funny when we see it or hear it. Our kids start doing the same as early as 18 months of age1. What is funny to them varies with their age, and some argue that little ones are only as humorous as their parents1. What is really interesting, though, is that besides triggering giggles, humor in our everyday interaction with our children is beneficial in ways we do not even imagine…and this no laughing matter. Check it out:

1) Humor is a way to teach discipline. It's a lot less stressful, and a lot more fun, to use humor and play to connect with our kids as we are setting limits and establishing discipline. Disciplining children with humor and play, “leaves everyone feeling much better than spanking children does.”7 For instance if diaper changing is a battle, instead of disciplining your kid in frustration, maybe chase her around the house, waving her diaper, while she's giggling, squealing and saying no – then you can fall down, she’ll laugh, etc.7

2) Humor helps develop children’s emotional intelligence. Among the key long-range emotional benefits of developing good humor skills during the early years is “the coping skill known to be associated with humor”4. In essence, humor helps kids gain better control of their own mood4, and this in turn will make them relate better with others.

3) Humor enhances children’s creative thinking skills.  Research has shown that there is a close relationship between the mental processes involved in humor and other forms of creative thinking.For instance, the wordplay in double meaning jokes makes kids look at things from different perspectives, which is also key in the creative process.

4) Humor helps kids learn. While hearing or watching funny stories or funny books, children acquire new information.  For example, all riddles contain background information about the world, in addition to the basic play on words.  This information becomes part of “the child’s general knowledge base.”4 Humor is also said to be influential in brain development by means of increasing the flow of blood increases to the brain (when kids laugh). Also by helping children release tension, humor may increase the brain's receptivity to learning.2

5) Humor is a key part of our kids’ social skills. “Among both children and adults, humor is now understood to be one basic component of interpersonal competence”4.  It is a very important social skill that will serve our kids well in the world and in interpersonal relationships going forward.4

So, get ready to do a lot more joking around with your little ones. It will certainly make life happier around the house for both, children and grown-ups, and you will be helping your kids be better persons. Don’t forget that a key to developing your kids’ sense of humor is to have fun as a family: telling funny stories jokes, playing games, watching funny movies and laughing together.3 Here are some very silly, age-appropriate ways to make your kids laugh: 

Newborn to Age 1

  • Rhythmically chant "tickle, tickle, tickle" culminating in a loving belly rub and lots of laughter.2
  • Say "Uh-oh!" with a silly voice and face when your kid drops something.5
  • Change your facial expression every time you reveal yourself, when playing Peekaboo.5

Ages 1 to 2

  • Crawl and chase your child ("I'm gonna get you!") and reward the capture with hugs and kisses.5
  • Encourage your child to imitate you, as you make funny faces.5
  • Speak and sing in rhyme.5

Ages 2 to 4

  • Sing silly old songs with silly choruses.5
  • Put on a silly hat: something that is not a hat.
  • Have fun with food: Make a smiley face with the food on the plate.5

Ages 4 to 6 (extremely silly jokes…)

  • “Knock, knock”, “Who’s there?”: “Tank”. “Tank who?” “Tank you very much”.2
  • "What's a purple gorilla called?” “A grape ape”.2
  • “Why did the elephant paint her toenails red?” “So she could hide in the strawberry patch.”6
  • “What did the baby ghost say to the bully ghost?” “Leave me alone or I’ll tell my mummy!”6
  • “What’s the best month for a parade?” “March.”6
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References

(1) www.dailymail.co.uk, “How children can get jokes from the age of two (but they are only as funny as their parents)” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2346271/How-children-jokes-age-funny-parents.html

(2) www.scholastic.com, “Ages & Stages: Don't Forget to Laugh - The Importance of Humor”, by Susan A. Miller Ed.D., Ellen Booth Church, and Carla Pool http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/ages-stages-dont-forget-laugh-importance-humor

(3) www.kidshealth.org, “Encouraging Your Child’s Sense of Humor”, Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/child-humor.html 

(4) www.LaughterRemedy.com, “How Humor Facilitates Children’s Intellectual, Social and Emotional Development”, by Paul McGhee, PhD http://www.laughterremedy.com/articles/child_development.html 

(5) www.parents.com, “Why Laughter Is a Sign of Learning”, by Emily Perlman Abedon http://www.parents.com/baby/development/laughing/why-laughter-is-a-sign-of-learning/

(6) www.psychcentral.com, “Humor As a Key to Child Development”, by Lawrence Kutner, Ph.D http://psychcentral.com/lib/humor-as-a-key-to-child-development/

(7) www.webmd.com, “The Lighter Side of Parenting - using humor to discipline and teach children”, by Gina Shaw


Jorge Gallego
Jorge Gallego

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