Taking fun seriously
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: ‘joking with kids is no laughing matter’. Maybe it’s a pun or maybe you’re just goofing around and laughing. The BBC recently reported that by joking around with children and by participating in games that involve pretending and play, adults are giving their children a head start in life.
Researchers at Stirling University have recently reported that children as young as two can tell the difference between joking and pretending. When children are joking and pretending with adults, they’re using emotional processing skills and learning how to interpret facial expressions. This ability to read emotions and others is a key skill which children will carry with them through to adulthood.
Through joking, we’re developing a sense of humour which will help us cope and deal with stress. But parents and children joking and laughing together does something else – it helps to build emotional bonds and security. A shared sense of humour or a shared laugh can help create a special moment and a connection. This emotional bond will strengthen families and help parents and children relate to each other.
Pretending is a great skill for children. Not only is it expanding imaginations, developing vocabulary and encouraging creativity, pretending is also a key skill to learning. As the research from Stirling University suggests, pretending to do something could be the first step in actually acquiring that skill. Children who pretend to cook and play at this with a parent might be more inclined to learn to cook later in life.
So joke around with a child, teach them a joke. Make up a joke, even play a joke on someone. Let them pretend they’re driving the car, cooking the tea or even that they’re off on an adventure. You’ll expand their minds, help their processing and emotional intelligence. But most importantly, you’ll have fun. And that’s the best reason of all to joke and play.