Enjoying a laugh with your kids is one of the best things you can do for their development. Laughter bonds families, while making kids smarter, healthier, and more resilient.
A sense of humor means the ability to perceive humor or appreciate a joke. A person with a well-developed sense of humor can recognize what’s funny in others and in life. Joking around with your kids can help them develop this essential social skill.
“Humor is just another defense against the universe.” – Mel Brooks
A sense of humor takes years to develop. Babies burble and laugh at peekaboo, toddlers love pratfalls, and potty humor is the pinnacle of wit through elementary school. Understanding different types of humor – wordplay, puns, improv, sarcasm, jokes, pranks – seems to follow a kid’s overall developmental trajectory.
I’ve noticed that kids begin to develop their own sense of wit at a young age. I certainly see it in my child. She’s almost seven; a year ago”knock knock” was the greatest set up, and “eyeball” and “diaper pants” were the ultimate punch lines.
She still laughs at those, but she’s more interested in puns and jokes with surprising wordplay (surprising to a six-year old at least.) She’s now experimenting with making her own jokes. Here’s a sample from this weekend: “What do you call a sheep after a rainstorm?” What? “A rambow.” A terrible pun, but an original one, showing she has an understating of how to play with language.
Making, telling and laughing at jokes helps kids appreciate the nuances of language.
Going further, a study by Hauck and Thomas showed that creativity, intelligence, and sense of humor work together. They found that creativity and intelligence were independent, but sense of humor correlated highly with both creativity and intelligence.
Sense of humor is also a key aspect of emotional intelligence (defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically). Specifically as it relates to emotional intelligence, one expert notes that “humor … makes a tremendous contribution in managing one’s emotions, motivating oneself and facilitating thought and problem-solving.”
Most families have in-jokes, offbeat traditions and funny stories that become even funnier as they’re retold year after year. These funny stories eventually become an important part of a shared family narrative.
Since laughing together is such an important part of family bonding, I recommend setting aside family time for laughing, joking, and playing around. This can be a game night, silly movie night, or simply a bit of time watching silly YouTube clips together.
Laughing with grownups (and seeing grownups laugh) helps kids develop a sense of humor. It also teaches kids that adults can be funny. (Kids often only see the lame and boring aspects of being grown up.)
There’s a vast amount of research proving the health benefits of laughter. It stimulates the heart, lungs and muscles, increases endorphins, relieves stress, reduces anxiety, increases heart rate and improves blood pressure. Laughter even boosts the immune system and relieves pain.
Dealing with lame kid jokes & pranks
Let’s face it – most kids make groanworthy, even terrible jokes. Kids may not understand language or context enough to make jokes that adults appreciate. What’s funny to them isn’t usually (intentionally) funny to us.
I think it’s entirely possible to encourage a kid’s attempts at humor without laughing at each one of their “jokes.” Have them share a funny story, make a funny doodle, or read jokes from a book (or from the jokes channel on Today Box.) Sometimes they’ll make you sincerely laugh. Even if they miss the mark, chuckle and let them know you appreciate their attempts.
But when a joke gets old, it’s fair – even beneficial to a kid’s development – to let them know it’s not funny anymore.
Also, kids can tell fake laughter from real laughter, just as they can tell when you’re distracted or really paying attention to them. Indeed, by not laughing at every horrible joke, my kids knows when we do laugh we really mean it.
Remember, your kids will not be permanently damaged because you didn’t laugh at their joke for the 100th time. They might pout for a bit, but eventually they’ll learn to make a better joke.
I don’t find them particularly funny, but I’m ok with my kid laughing at potty humor or making a few potty jokes in an proper time and place.
Her mother and I have explained what’s appropriate and what’s not. Extending the point above, we’ve also let our kid know that a joke stops being funny when it goes on to long, and that potty jokes have especially short lifespans.
There’s power in looking silly and not caring that you do. – Amy Poehler
The most important lesson: being able to laugh at oneself. Not just because no one likes a person who takes themselves too seriously; it’s because laughing at oneself is key to resilience and positive growth.
It’s not always easy to laugh at our follies. Sometimes we forget to do this. But especially as parents, I believe that we should try to laugh at ourselves in front of our kids.
One of the best things about laughter is that it’s infectious. Once it starts, it goes on and on, generation to generation.
You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing. – Michael Pritchard
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