Humor and Your Child
An age-by-age guide to what gets kids giggling.
Benefits of Humor
Laugher isn't just fun and games. Did you know that it can also reduce stress, ease strained relationships, diffuse tension, and even bridge the gap between generations? Given all the benefits of giggling, chuckling, and guffawing, why not inject some humor into your family's day-to-day life?
What makes potty humor so irresistible to preschoolers but so pass? to older kids? And why is a 1-year-old enthralled by endless games of peekaboo while a 3-month-old hardly bats an eyelash? The reason: A child's developmental stage often determines what gives him a chuckle. See what your child finds funny during babyhood, the preschool years, and at school age.
Infants and Toddlers
You may spy your new baby forming a "smile" within the first month of life, but the real smiles come later, usually when your baby is about 3 or 4 months old and has discovered how his smiles attract your attention and make him feel good. Around this time, a baby masters "smile talk" -- you'll notice him giving you a big grin and gurgling to get your attention. As your baby gets older and begins to understand object permanence -- that even if they can't see something, it still exists -- peekaboo can really bring on the giggles. For 2-year-olds trying to master language, nonsense words and phrases are top laugh getters.
Silly is a good word to sum up the humor of this age group. Preschoolers -- for whom toilet training is a central issue -- love bathroom humor. And the more jokes about poop embarrass their parents, the more kids enjoy them. Humor at this age can also be a way to test their parents and the parents' responses to kids "jokes." Also popular at this age: corny knock-knock jokes that kids pass along or make up, and jokes that involve using a familiar object in a different way. For examples, 2- and 3-year-olds are likely to crack up laughing after putting a glove on their foot or using a banana as a telephone.
As kids get older they switch from knock-knock jokes to riddles and more complex jokes that require logic. Kids this age have improved at telling jokes because they are now better at remembering the punch line. Jokes also serve as a way for kids to test boundaries of social acceptance (if they do or say something that turns out to be unacceptable, they can say, "I was just joking!") and to express themselves. Around fourth or fifth grade, experts say, differences in the jokes that boys and girls tell begin to emerge. Boys' jokes tend to be more physically violent or sexual in nature, whereas girls' jokes are more likely to be verbally aggressive (i.e., teasing). Around this time is also when humor can become mean or cruel, with teasing and jokes played on their peers as kids deal with their own insecurities. What's a parent to do? Teach your child that a sense of humor should be used to make others feel good, not to be hurtful.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.