As a parent, you want your child to be happy. You want your child to be healthy. But how often do you want your child to be funny? Research shows time and time again that laughter is a strong indicator of cheerfulness, social competence and high emotional intelligence. Humor has also been linked to high levels of self-efficacy, positive emotions, optimism and decreases in stress. Sometimes a simple chuckle is all a child needs in order to thrive in the face of adversity. Because humor is both genetically inherited and learned, parents are awarded the task of being both the clown and the moderator. The key is to promote health and emotional wellness and, in this case, laughter truly is the best medicine.
Humor and health: What health benefits does laughter have on my child?
Not only is laughter a great way to release tension, but the physical act of laughter is linked to several health benefits that are worth noting. These include:
- Reduced likelihood of heart attacks
- Better recovery from medical procedures
- Reduced stress levels
- Higher levels of infection-fighting antibodies in the blood
- Stronger immune systems
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Relaxation and sleep
Humor and cognitive development: How do I make my child laugh?
In his book, Understanding and Promoting the Development of Children’s Humor, Paul McGhee uses Piaget’s stages of cognitive development as a means to understand humor in children. After all, the extent to which children understand the universe around them effects what they find funny. It is important to note that these stages vary from child to child.
- Stage One (6 to 15 months): Laughter at the Attachment Figure
- Anything unexpected is funny!
- Play Peek-a-Boo, make funny faces, surprise mom or dad, and laugh yourself!
- Stage Two (15 months to 2 years): Treating an Object as a Different Object / Objects doing unexpected things.
- Manipulatives interact with humor in this stage.
- Wear a shoe as a hat, pretend something is heavy when it is light, play hide-and-go-seek, act surprised when your child hides behind a pillow, and be silly!
- Stage Three (2 to 3 years): Misnaming Objects or Actions
- In this stage, children begin to understand the concept of attaching words to objects. Isn’t it just so funny to trick mom or dad!
- That’s my teddy – not a hat! That’s a hat – not a glove!
- Stage Four: (3 to 5 years): Playing With Words
- Try tongue twisters, make up words, sing a song, practice rhyming and be creative!
- Stage Five (5 to 7 years): Riddles and Jokes
- This is the stage when children begin to understand adult humor. They understand that jokes have double meanings and begin to develop their own punchlines.
- Brush up on your riddles and let the “dad jokes” fly!
Humor and education: Is humor in television programming educational?
Children are exposed to humor from a large variety of sources including their parents, their peers, their community and the larger media. The media, and television programming in particular, is often associated with “mind-dumbing entertainment.” However, studies have shown that appropriate, curriculum-based educational programs may lead to benefits in expressive language production and vocabulary. That being said, the educational value of each program was highly individualized. Here are a few suggested relationships…
- Programs that lead to an increase in the production of expressive language and vocabulary:
- Blue’s Clues
- Dora the Explorer
- Programs that lead to a decrease in the production of expressive language and vocabulary:
- Barney & Friends
- Programs that were unrelated to the production of expressive language and vocabulary:
- Dragon Tales
- Sesame Street
- Disney Movies
It is important to remember that the development of humor is gradual. So be patient. Be silly. Act a fool and encourage your children to not take themselves too seriously.
Let them fly…and LOL!
Kristin is an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, Class of 2017. She is currently enrolled in the B/MT program at the Curry School of Education majoring in French and Elementary Education with an endorsement in English as a Second Language. She works as an America Reads tutor at Buford Middle School and Venable Elementary School and spends most of her time working in the English as a Second Language classroom. At the University of Virginia, Kristin has volunteered in several Madison House programs such as Cavs in the Classroom, Day Care at the International School of Charlottesville and Day in the Life. She spends her summers working as a Residential Assistant for the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University. Kristin is from the southwest suburbs of Chicago where she enjoys(?) cold winters and nasally vowels. She finds great joy in working with exceptional youth and hopes to use her experience to support children and their families as they learn to fly together!0