Children, on average, laugh 200 times per day. Adults laugh 15 to 18 times a day. Serving and leading little people can give you the chance to make up your laughter deficit. We tend to think of humor as part of our genetic makeup, like brown eyes and blond hair, but a healthy sense of humor is a learned quality that is developed well in early childhood. Paul E McGhee, Ph.D. shares in Understanding and Promoting the Development of Children’s Humor, “Humor is a form of play. It is intellectual play or play with ideas.” A healthy sense of humor builds vocabulary, supports creative thinking, fosters social interaction skills, and promotes life skills necessary to cope with stress and hardships throughout the adolescent and adult years.
Early on, infants respond to physical stimuli like blowing raspberries or playing peek-a-boo. They enjoy silly faces and sounds and especially the faces of those they love. In the toddler years, visual humor is very funny. Making faces, putting on a silly hat, or using an ordinary item in an extraordinary way will have toddlers laughing out loud. When my grandson pushes the bubble mower, he is serious about mowing the yard, floor, or rug and he’ll hardly laugh. But empty the bucket of bristle blocks onto the floor and place the empty bucket on his head and he’ll run through the house squealing with delight. KidsHealth.org reports, “Anything that disrupts a pattern or expectation is funny to a toddler.” That explains how a diaper placed on your head, Daddy’s shoes worn by a preschooler, or knocking yourself on the head with a pillow and pretending to fall over will amuse your little one.
Other fun games you can play that will build a healthy sense of humor in a preschooler is Ring Around the Rosey, This Little Piggy, or Row, Roy, Row your….Car. Changing the lyrics of familiar songs will also make them laugh. As a preschooler’s vocabulary increases, so will opportunities to laugh.
Preschoolers are eager to show off new ways to be playful and they look to you for the proper response. One of the best ways to teach a healthy sense of humor is to be playful yourself. Be willing to be silly, wear odd hats, sing familiar songs with odd lyrics, and laugh along with them. Laugh well and laugh loud.
So the next time a bucket is emptied on the floor and your preschooler treats an object differently from its original purpose, be ready to laugh with your preschooler. You just might have a future stand-up comedian in your presence or a kid who can deal with whatever life throws at him/her in the most healthy response. So what should be your response? Full on belly laugh. Be a laughter encourager. Life skills, indeed.
“She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31: 25