If someone asked you about the main characteristics that are important in a childcare center or that set your childcare center apart from others in your area, what would be on that list? If a prospective parent asked you for assurance that your center provided a safe and healthy atmosphere that encouraged children at various developmental levels, what components of your facility and program would you cite? What about key qualities in prospective new staff members? Our guess is that laughter or having a sense of humor or taking time to be silly wouldn’t be on your “short list.” Maybe not even on your exhaustive list. But maybe it should be.
In Part 1 we took a peek at some of the benefits of laughter in general and what it communicates about an infant’s developmental level. In Part 2 we looked at how a sense of humor develops for toddlers and preschoolers and then elementary-aged children. Often, as we get older, our sense of humor takes a different turn. If we listen to children as they become tweens and teens, we’ll hear their struggles, too.
As children continue to develop and mature, upper elementary finds a growing disparity between the kinds of things boys find funny and the kinds of things that make girls giggle. At about age 10, boys tend to veer toward violent or sexual topics for their jokes, and girls’ humor often takes the form of teasing or verbally aggressive word play. This disparity is directly tied to developmental differences between genders, but the overall concept is the same: they’re joking about what concerns them most. For adolescent boys, it’s typically relating to sexuality and strength, while for girls it’s tied to social acceptance. They’re trying to figure it all out and find their place in the world, but they’re unsure. And so they joke. Just like us adults.
Overall Benefits of Humor
In addition to the developmental cues that laughter can give us, laughter for any reason benefits a person’s health. By allowing us to relieve tension, it actually lessens the effects of depression and anxiety. Laughter also reduces the risk of a stroke and heart attack and helps a person manage pain and fight disease.
Laughter also brings us closer to those we love
When we model the use of humor, we help children learn how to manage a variety of difficult situations — like easing nervousness in a new environment and breaking the ice with new friends. Humor can also help them bond and create memories with others, and lighten the mood by seeing the humor in less-than-ideal circumstances. By learning to laugh at ourselves and with each other, we all become just a little more human. When we encourage that kind of development in the early years, we go a long way toward benefiting the children in our care in ways that will far outlast their need for our childcare center.