Throughout the world, it has long been believed that laughter is like good medicine for the soul. In our first article in this mini series, we took a look at some of the reasons why developing a sense of humor is extremely valuable. Child care center directors and educators should seek creative ways to instill this important life skill in their young students.
Focus Humor on Skills the Child is Currently Developing
When children acquire a new skill, they often delight in humor that revolves around learning that skill. In the previous article, we used the example of peek-a-boo for children who are starting to understand the existence of objects outside their line of vision. When children start learning how to talk, they suddenly love hearing jokes that include silly nonsense words. They’ll compare the words they know are real to the syllables they’re hearing that are just meaningless babble, and they’ll find the difference amusing. This demonstrates to the teacher that they’re starting to differentiate the difference between gibberish and genuine language.
Spatial awareness often elicits the same type of reaction. A young child around age two will find pictures or real-life examples of out-of-place objects hysterical. For example, show them a picture of a box of tissues in a refrigerator, or a hat on a person’s foot, and expect to hear them giggle. They find it funny because they know where those two objects actually belong, and they recognize that they’re out of place.
Around two or three, children may try telling jokes on their own. They’re more likely to acquire this skill young when they hear people tell jokes around them. It’s okay to laugh heartily at their attempts at joke telling, even if they don’t quite make sense yet. This will encourage them to keep learning more about looking at the lighter side of life.
Older Children can Learn to Find Humor in Abstract Concepts
By about six years of age, a child will often start to develop an enthusiasm for riddles, puns, and jokes with punchlines. Though their humor is still on a relatively simple level, it will start to mimic the type of humor which adults use more and more as they grow older. The complexity of humor a child can understand and appreciate should be continually growing the older and more intellectually advanced they get.
Kids at this age tend to find satisfaction in being able to grasp the punchlines to jokes that their younger peers don’t yet understand. This is fine, as long as they’re reminded not to make the younger children feel foolish for not yet grasping more complex humor.
Highly Inappropriate Humor can be a Red Flag
Sometimes children can voice concerns about various situations they’ve been exposed to through the use of humor. If you or an educator in your childcare facility notice a child who continually makes gruesomely violent or explicitly sexual statements under the guise of humor, pay attention. Sometimes these types of jokes can be a sign that the student has been exposed to media or experiences that aren’t age-appropriate. Though authority figures must exercise caution and not jump to conclusions in these types of instances, it may be time to voice your concerns to the child’s parents or guardians, especially when you notice a recurring pattern.
Overall, a good sense of humor is a positive character quality that educators and child care center directors should encourage. It starts in infancy and should continue to develop for an entire lifetime. Laughter encourages healthy social interaction and combats negative emotions. So go ahead and feel free to laugh with the students in your child care center. Incorporating humor into your daily routine through developmentally appropriate games, jokes, and fun illustrations can transform the center’s environment from dull and predictable to energetic and positive.