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What Makes Kids Laugh
A not-so-old-wives’ tale says that children laugh about 400 times a day. Although serious laughter researchers say that the number is too high, just about everyone agrees that kids laugh a lot. Why do kids’ funny bones get such a workout?
First we need to separate the yolk from the egg white and make one thing perfectly clear: scientifically speaking, humor and laughter are not the same. Humor comes from our ability to understand when a familiar concept or object has been unexpectedly turned upside down or inside out. In other words, before we can recognize that something is funny, we first have to understand how the world works.
A toddler gets a kick out of wearing his pants on his head because he knows where the pants really belong. A newborn, on the other hand, wouldn’t get the joke- and that’s why researchers say that babies under six months (approximately) don’t have a sense of humor. When they laugh, they are either mimicking what they see others doing, or expressing delight at a physical sensation, such as being bounced on an adult’s knee.
Since part of the brain that reacts to humor is the prefrontal cortex- which is where cognitive development, personality development, and the ability to determine correct social behavior occur- scientists believe that our sense of humor develops in tandem with the development of our language skills, and situations are funniest during the first few months when a new skill is mastered. For instance, preschool children who are busy learning the names of common objects, think it’s hilarious when they ask for eggy-weggies and potato juice for breakfast. Their more linguistically mature siblings who are in kindergarten or first grade, on the other hand, will be busy telling riddles, such as the famous knock-knock jokes.
What’s so mature about knock-knock humor? The ability to participate in the joke shows two things. The child has begun to learn the rules of conversation (social skills) and is able to recognize a predictable pattern (cognitive development). By the way, it doesn’t matter if the answer to the joke makes sense or not. The giggles and the learning come from being able to successfully participate in the “knock. Knock. Who’s there?” exchange.
So the next time you see your kids laughing over a joke when they should be cleaning up their toys, remember this: Humor helps kids build vocabulary and creative thinking; it increases their ability to interact socially with others; it boosts self-esteem; and it even teaches them how to cope with stress.
Give your kids a great time and make them laugh! Check out the adorable pretend play dress up costumes at QualityToys.com!
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