What's better than the sound of a child's laughter? Well, if you're a parent, the answer would be the sweet, sweet bliss that is complete silence. Pretty much all parents would have to agree, though, that there's hardly a more fulfilling feeling than when you can bring a smile to your kid's face. But knock knock jokes and silly noises can only impress for so long. So what are some things to do every day to make your kids laugh?
Sure, there are the classic moves like funny faces or just horsing around, but have you ever worried about keeping things fresh? If you're anything like me, I'm constantly afraid of becoming the parent who thinks she's funny, but her kids are rolling their eyes so hard that an optometrist is always on stand-by. Most parents probably share in this insecurity to some degree since everyone wants their children to feel happy.
Thankfully science has done a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to figuring out what exactly makes those little minds tick. Psychologists, parenting experts, and family therapists have all weighed in on the topic of simple and easy things you can do every day to make your kid laugh. Check out what they have to say.
1. Take Advantage Of Awkward Moments
Whether your child is potty training or prepubescent, uncomfortable situations can occur any time and any where. Although your instinct may be to try and distract your kid from whatever potentially awkward moment is happening, that could just add more fuel to the fire. Dr. Peter Jaksa, president and clinical director of ADD Centers of America and a clinical psychologist, wrote in ADDitude magazine that, "finding the funny in a seemingly hopeless situation takes the edge off frustration, improves self-esteem, defuses tension and creates a nurturing vibe." Who wouldn't want that
2. Pay Attention
Do you ever wonder why a joke that slayed at the dinner table just a few days ago can barely get a giggle out of your kid anymore? It's not that you've lost your humorous edge, it's that your child's personality and interests are changing and being explored day-to-day.
According to Dr. Lawrence J. Cohen, a family therapist and author of Playful Parenting, the best way to make your children laugh on a consistent basis is to make note of what does and doesn't work. Children are constantly developing, so what was hilarious last week may be ho-hum tomorrow.
3. Consider Their Comprehension Level
If you're the parent of a young child or infant, the ability to make your child laugh might still seem like an Indiana Jones-type quest. I remember thinking it took an eternity to figure out how to even get my son to smile, though sometimes I'm pretty sure it was just gas. The key is to remember that your baby is still only a baby. "Your baby loves looking at you, and knowing that your attention is on them and only them is vital to getting a reaction," Dr. Karen Richardson Gill, a board certified pediatrician, wrote in Healthline. "Baby is still learning about object permanence, so any way you can disappear the funny face for a moment will help provoke laughter."
4. Welcome Banter
Even if your child is only a toddler, you might be surprised to find that the missing partner in your comedy act is none other than your curious kid. Most parents can attest to the fact that children love to learn through copying and back-and-forth style games. In a recent article from Kid's Health, the official publication of Nemours Children's Hospital. Dr. Mary L. Gavin suggested that parents encourage their little budding comedian and let them take the lead, no matter how silly or repetitious their jokes may be.
5. Emphasize & Exaggerate
On almost any television show aimed at kids, a tried-and-true gag you'll see often is that one of the characters will intentionally do or say something the wrong way and it's usually in an exaggerated manner, too. It turns out there's a reason for that. "When toddlers make a deliberate mistake—for instance, singing the wrong words for a song they know—they're demonstrating an awareness of cognitive incongruity."Doris Bergen, professor of educational psychology, told Parents magazine. "So nothing is more hilarious than making a blunder." In other words, don't be afraid to make a mistake around kids.
6. Listen & Laugh
Around kindergarten or first grade is when many children really seem to enjoy testing out ridiculous jokes. My best friend's daughter, for instance, laughed hysterically after informing me that rhinos can't fit into ballerina outfits. I didn't need to understand the joke to "get it." All I had to do was laugh along with her because clearly she was proud of her joke. Dr. Lawrence Kutner, an author and clinical psychology, noted in Psych Central that, as children grow older, humor is actually an extremely helpful tool in developing an understanding of societal norms, logic and reasoning, and how the world works. Additionally, he stated that "the specific things children laugh at tell us which developmental tasks they are struggling with."
7. Let Loose
Regardless of your child's age, there is just something freeing and mirthful about throwing polite manners to the wind and being utterly silly. You might think that your child is too old for such antics, but there really is something innately funny about being goofy. "Clowning behavior is distinctly different than normal care-giving behavior and is more likely to capture attention," Shaun Gallagher, author of Experimenting with Babies, wrote in Psychology Today. "If [children] then notice that such behaviors are frequently paired with smiles and laughter, they are likely to eventually pick up on the humorous nature of the actions." So by clowning around, you're actually helping your kid develop humorous skills.
8. Make It A Family Affair
Have you ever watched a funny movie at home alone or with friends in a packed theater? I bet you laughed more and maybe even had a better time when you were participating in an activity with others than when you were by yourself. There's a reason for that. In an article for Brenner Children's Hospital, Dr. Mary Gavin noted that "a key aspect to developing your child's sense of humor is to take time to have fun as a family." So share jokes, enjoy some hysterical entertainment, and get to laughing.
9. Mix Up Mundane Activities
From working on homework to performing chores, your kids probably drag their feet a bit when it comes to getting involved with boring tasks. But guess what? Learning can be fun, which in turn might even make it easies. A recent study published in the American Psychology Association found some surprising links between laughter and learning. In his studies, psychologist Randy Garner found that "students were more likely to recall a statistics lecture when it was interjected with jokes about relevant topics." So mix up the typical tasks by throwing in a knock knock joke.