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Joking with Kids

04.03.12

I like being silly and joking around with kids. Kids are fun and silly, and usually uninhibited. But, we have to be careful – age-appropriate humor, and relationship building are key.

This April Fool’s Day, I was tempted to pull some pranks on my own 10-year old child. But she is ultra-sensitive, and it would do some damage to our relationship if I pulled some joke or prank that rocked the already unstable trust she has in me. So, I just pulled a prank on my mother in California, saying that it was snowing here in Illinois. My daughter overheard me, and ran to the window. When I said, “April Fools!” on the phone to my mother, my daughter later told me that I fooled her too.

Silliness and laughter can begin as early as 6 months old. Babies will smile and laugh at something they think is funny, like a dog running, or an unusual sound. Peek-a-boo is very fun for the child who has learned that people who are not present still exist.

A 6-month old may not even respond to it, and a 6-year old will think it’s boring.  But a 9-12 month year old child loves peek-a-boo, so long as the adult reappears fairly soon.  It is the predictability that is fun.  If the adult does not reappear in a timely fashion, the baby will cry out of fear.

The simple jokes about misplaced items, or mistaken facts are fun for toddlers and preschoolers. For example, an empty soup bowl placed on someone’s head as a hat may have your preschooler howling with laughter. Pointing to a green item, and calling it red may be just as silly. A sock on a foot is not funny, because it belongs there, but a sock on the ear is hysterical.

At around 7-8 years old, actual riddles and jokes are understood. But, they ought to be simple, like knock-knock jokes or puns. Joke books are great birthday  gifts for kids turning 7 or 8 years old. Play on words can be the source of great fun, for example, the word “mummy” sounds like the word “mommy,” so the child actually gets the joke about the baby ghost.

Not until 9 or 10 can a child fully appreciate sarcasm. In fact, I tell a lot of parents with whom I work not to use sarcasm with any child younger than 9. For example, if an adult says to a 7 year-old child, “Oh, sure, you can drive the car to the restaurant tonight,” the child might believe the adult. Then when they reach for the keys, the adult may yell, “Put those down!” Now the child is totally confused.

What just happened? The adult used inappropriate humor for the brain-development of the child. The relationship took some damage, because trust may have been broken. The child ends up confused, and the adult is angry. All of this could have been prevented, had the adult used age-appropriate humor.

Laughter is great medicine, and many studies show the correlation between humor and resilience in the immune system. Just be careful to use age-appropriate humor with your kids.

If you need some assistance in your parenting, and want to know more about age-appropriate skills and activities, call me directly at 847-962-5234 to set up an appointment.

parenting resources

helpful websites

  • Love and Logic
    Bestselling author Jim Fay, founder of the "Love and Logic" process.
  • Focus on The Family
    Provides parenting advice and other family issues from a Christian perspective. Founded by Dr. James Dobson.
  • TroubledWith: Parenting Children
    Resources dealing with various common childhood issues and what a parent can do.