Two hundred times every day! Children love to giggle. The first smile is often a memorable moment in a parent’s life. You can blow raspberries on a baby’s belly, or squirt water at a toddle. Sharing laughter is a great way to connect. It is also healthy to have laugh. People who laugh more are healthier and they experience less stress.
Laughing is also a great way to practise Lateral Thinking. Understanding of jokes, rhymes and puns rely on a child making new connections. He travels down a well-known path and then the new perspective or punch line forces him to change the direction. He needs to Think Dive into a new pool with a different kind of water.
Jokes rely heavily on experiences and often prejudices (but jokes based on mean-spirited ideas are never funny). The fun and hilarious thing is to make the new connections all by yourself. Listening to explanations to a joke destroys the effect. This means that young children, who may lack experiences, do not understand many jokes until a certain age.
What is funny to one child is boring to another. Humour varies across culture. And humour is the skill to recognise what is funny in a situation. It is also the skill to amuse others. This is a circular way of explaining humour. What we really are saying is that “we know that something is funny when we laugh at it”.
To understand what is funny, a child needs to see things from more perspectives that the most obvious. The incongruity between what you expect and what you see or hear is what makes something funny.
Babies smile when you tickle them or blow raspberries. They also love to imitate and mimic facial expression. So when you mimic their facial expressions back, he might burst out in a smile. A little later, a baby thinks it is funny when something disappears and suddenly appears again. Peek-a-boo or unexpected tickle is great fun. The humour is linked to the body – a kind of physical humour. Rhymes and nonsense words are funny to a toddler. There is also a twinkle in their eyes when they get something wrong. You ask him “Where is your toes” and he points to his head. Wearing your T-shirt on your head is hilarious.
Lateral Thinking for older children can involve pictures, which breaks the “normal” pattern. A picture of a boy chasing a monster is funny. Also, a contrast between picture and sound makes a child burst out in laughter. A meowing dog or a quaking cat! Older children may love comics, funny or joke books.
Humour is most of all a social thing. In addition, families that laugh together tend to have children who understand jokes can switch the perspective easily and understand different forms of wordplay such as puns and riddles. Riddles and jokes are great lateral thinking exercises. So why not try some Lat Jumping?
Photo: Child by quyenlan