Your childcare center takes care to provide a safe environment that accommodates the many and varied needs of the children for which you provide care. Among the many developmentally appropriate activities you offer, we hope that we’re convincing you to add a simple activity to that growing list. Arguably more influential to a person’s happiness and overall satisfaction rating in life, laughter (see Part 1) actually has a lot to tell us about a child’s developmental level. When we listen to it, we stand to understand the children in our care on a deeper level than we did before.
Punchlines for Toddlers
Part of a child’s developmental cycle includes gaining understanding of a new concept and then joking about it or playing around with it. For instance, as soon as toddlers begin to understand language at a more intricate level, it’s not uncommon for them to laugh like crazy when they hear nonsense words — and make nonsense sounds themselves. Why? While at first, it might seem like they’re reverting to “baby talk,” this kind of humor is actually showing greater development. Because they understand that nonsense words are different from real words, so hearing — and making — random sounds has become funny to them. Why? They actually get the joke.
A similar reason for laughter is in play when something is out of place: it’s because they actually understand that it’s not where it’s supposed to be. Toddlers may even make a joke themselves. You can recognize this developmental milestone when children put socks on their ears and expect you to laugh or dissolve into giggles when you accidentally spill your coffee on your shirt.
Humor Development in School-Aged Kids
As children enter the school years, they’ll often begin to appreciate logic and abstract ideas, and they’ll demonstrate that developmental leap by changing their preferred form of humor. Instead of putting socks on their ears, they’ll begin to enjoy riddles and jokes. While you might tire of hearing the same knock-knock jokes repeated dozens of times and can easily recognize the ones that children make up “all by themselves,” the fact that they’re coming up with jokes is a good sign: they’re growing in knowledge and are having fun showing off. While a young child’s jokes may seem immature to adults, the fact is that they’re demonstrating understanding that is new to them. That’s a good reason for them to smile and laugh — and it should be enough to make us smile, too. (Even if we also groan a bit.)
To continue to read about how humor communicates developmental level and how humor can benefit us and the children in our care, keep reading with Part 3.