The Psychology of April Fool’s Day

A brain-scanning study showed that Schadenfreude activates brain regions associated with feelings of pleasure…

But surely laughing at the expense of a fool is not a very nice thing to do? Surely Schadenfreude, as the Germans call joy at someone else’s misery, is something to be discouraged, and certainly not given its own day of celebration?

A brain-scanning study showed that Schadenfreude activates brain regions associated with feelings of pleasure, while another study suggested that the feeling of Schadenfreude might be associated with the production of oxytocin – the hormone released in pleasurable acts of social bonding, such as kissing, sex, and child-caring.

So rather than denouncing April Fool’s Days, celebrate its potential benefits. The laughter might not only make you healthier, but more creative too.

Source: Psychology Today

April Fool’s Day: A Parent’s Lament

I used to love April Fool’s Day. But after I became a teacher and a parent, I found myself removed from the role of prankster. I had become the prankstee.

I used to love April Fool’s Day.

When I was growing up I couldn’t stand the wait for April 1st.

On April 1st my family couldn’t stand me.

I pulled so many pranks on my siblings and my parents that they expected it, so it became an added challenge to not just think of a creative idea, but to then carry it out.

I quite literally had to get up pretty early in the morning to pull one over on my old man. Either that or race home from school so I could set something up before my brother or sister got home.

After I became a teacher, I found myself further removed from the position of prankster. I had become the prankstee, so to speak.

A highlight was when I taped my sister’s phone to the ceiling. (Bragging about this to my daughters recently they assumed that when I said “phone” I meant something like an iPhone. I had to explain the phone was attached to the wall by a wire and it was heavy, so it didn’t stay up there too long. In retrospect, that prank might play better nowadays with the smaller phones.)

But as I got older my desire to pull a prank went away. And after I became a teacher, I found myself further removed from the position of prankster. I had become the prankstee, so to speak.

You never want to call a child in your class a liar, but April Fool’s Day turned into a day where I went against every teaching instinct I had. I turned a deaf ear to the protestations of the identical twins who claimed they weren’t pretending to be the other sibling. To this day I’m still not sure I was right. I was unsympathetic to the child who came limping in after recess complaining of an injury. Maybe she was hurt, but the five limpers before her who started running after passing me and shouting “April Fool’s!” made me less likely to believe the sixth.

Prank Eyes

Then, of course, there were the props that were either brought in or threatened to be brought in on April Fool’s Day. (“No, I do not think it would be funny if you left fake vomit on the lunchroom floor.”)

And now my daughters have reached that age where they have started to make “TOP SECRET!” lists where they’ve brainstormed possible pranks.

Home used to be my sanctuary on April Fool’s Day – a safe space where I knew I won after a long day of prank-dodging at school. At least until next year.

The best years were when I could spend a prank-free day at home if April Fool’s fell on a Saturday.

When I left my teaching career a few of the highlights included not having to prepare to write report cards, schedule parent conferences, or worry about what day of the week April 1st fell on the calendar.

Now it didn’t matter if it was on a weekend, because the prank could come from inside the house!

I’m not sure what the kids have planned this year. (The paper is “TOP SECRET!” after all, and they only let me see a fake prank list that led me to believe they were going to drink grape juice and pretend it was wine.) But they’ve been whispering about Polyjuice Potion, so maybe they’ll try to convince my wife and me they’re really one girl pretending to be the other, as though they prepared and drank the Harry Potter concoction.

Which could be fun – it’s pretty clever.

Which makes me kind of proud…because they certainly didn’t get the prank gene from their mother.

And I have to admit – I did enjoy the collaborative aspects of the school pranks. Like the time the fifth and sixth grades switched classrooms on the morning of April 1st a few years ago.

They walked into the “wrong” classrooms that day pretending like it was normal.

And I think I enjoyed it even more when, after we caught wind that it might happen, the teachers pretended like nothing was unusual and started the teaching day with the “wrong” class.

I guess I still have a soft spot in my heart for a harmless April Fool’s prank.

And my wife’s cell phone isn’t going to tape itself to the ceiling…

April Fool’s Day pranks for kids to play on grownups

Last night when he should have been in bed reading, my son and I huddled under his covers, bathing in the light of my iPhone while we googled the perfect April Fool’s prank to play on his dad.

Since his father is a somewhat gullible man who’s also been startled by a snowman he himself had built only 6 hours earlier, the task should not be monumental. And since he tends to be credited as the more fun parent, regardless of scaring easily, this is my chance to gain some ground.

Here are some of the current front runners, chosen because they are easy for a kid to execute but clever enough to actually work.

Put a small piece of tape over the optical portion of mom or dad’s mouse. Nerdy, harmless, and still pretty funny.

Stuff toilet paper in the toes of the unsuspecting parent’s shoes. Even the littlest kids will find this hilarious. Plus, they always seem interested in messing around with toilet paper.

Change the language on their cell phone. (If they’re using an iPhone, here’s how to do it, which can also be followed to change it back before the victim starts turning colors. Because clearly we’re not the first jerks to do this recreationally.)

The cup trick. Cover a cup (or cups, if you’re really looking to cause trouble) half full of water over on an index card. Carefully place the cup on the kitchen counter and slide the card out. Wait for mom or dad to pick it up and get wet. (This seems like a decent one to learn early and perfect for use on roommates later on.)

Runaway mouse. This is really a combined effort: cut a hole in a box (Stop. No. It’s not that. COME ON.) Put a small towel inside, and your thumb in the hole. Tell your kid to conjure the same acting skills they use each time they’re “SOOOO STARVING” and have them yell, “WE CAUGHT A MOUSE!” It’s up to you how long you keep up this charade and whether or not you pretend to drop it, but consider how much screaming you’re in the market for.

As a bonus, we learned that shredded, wet cardboard, molded into a cylindrical shape really makes a convincing turd. Never before has this kid been more interested in arts and crafts.

We’ll narrow it down together tonight. Then together we can decide which My Little Pony we should swap into my husband’s Facebook profile photo.

April Fools’ Day Pranks to Play on Your Kids Because They’ve Got it Coming

But maybe don’t try some of these.

Hopefully with April Fools Day here,  you’re considering how to pull one over on your kids. I’ve scoured the internet and consulted with a few smart asses to offer you these suggestions, which I’ve in turn taken it upon myself to grade somewhat arbitrarily. Parent.Co and I are in no way to be held responsible for punches to the guts, crying children, or disownment.

Happy pranking!

1. Tell the kids you have to run a specific boring errand in a location they know the way to on one side of town. Make them come. Drive in the wrong direction and pretend you’re lost. End up at their favorite ice cream joint.

Score: A+ You get to be a hero AND eat ice cream. There is nothing but win involved here.

2. Park your car around the corner at night. When you walk out the door for school, act like it was stolen.

Score: A While this does require some acting, the prep is simple and mess free. Additionally, psychological pranks that won’t necessarily come up in therapy later on test high.

3. Glue googley eyes on everything in the fridge.

Score: B Slightly painstaking, but can easily be done while blowing through an episode of House of Cards. Also, despite being responsible for the prank, I’d laugh my ass off every time I opened the refrigerator.

4. Convince your kid that a tomato is an exotic fruit they’ve never tried, called a “hawaiian apple”.

Score: B- Scores high for creativity, but brought down a few notches by the fact that if pulled off, you may be left wondering if your kid is perhaps huffing exhaust. On the plus side, you can now reallocate college fund to ultimate European vacation fund.

5. Wake them up and tell them even though it’s Saturday, they have to go to school to make up that last snow/sick day.

Score: C+ Requires no preparation, but is likely to end in tears and possible physical assault.

 6. Fill bowls with cereal and milk the night before. Stick them in the freezer. Present them to children. Confusion and hilarity ensues.

Score: C The likelihood of me ruining two bowls worth of expensive organic cow milk is even lower than that of the likelihood of me remembering to buy a small bottle of the gas station mystery milk. Although the follow up of, “hahahahaha. Now fix your own breakfast. I have some Facebook to catch up on.” would be fun.

7. Pry apart a few oreos, scrape off the frosting and replace with toothpaste. Offer them as dessert and wait for their looks of disgust.

Score: D+ For one thing, this assumes my kids don’t know their way around a normal looking oreo. Additionally, WHY WASTE A PERFECTLY GOOD OREO? Blasphemous.

8. Put a helium balloon in the toilet to surprise them when they open the lid.

Score: F Any prank that risks getting toilet water in my eye is OFF THE LIST.

9. Set all of the clocks ahead a few hours. Wake them for the day when it’s actually 3 am. Serve them breakfast and get ready as usual. Usher them out to the car and yell April Fools when they realize it’s still dark. (A mom blogger LEGIT suggested this. At least she claimed to be a mom. I am unconvinced.)

Score: F MINUS MINUS WHO IN THE HELL DOES THIS? Like I’m dragging my own carcass out of bed in the middle of the night to stage what is sure to be an amplified version of the regular morning shitshow. On top of that, what the hell are you supposed to do once the prank is revealed? Send them back to bed and have to subject everyone to round two right as they finally get to sleep? This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

And remember: never underestimate the power of a fart app (Whoopee cushions, while classic, just can’t compete with flatulent technology.)