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How to give your child the gift of humor

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Teach laughter

Most of us hope our children will grow up with a good sense of humor to help them cope with life. But how do you do that? Children aren’t born with fully developed senses of humor, even if they do have distinct personalities from the start. Kids learn humor and the depth of that sense of humor evolves over time. How do you begin instill a sense of humor in your child? Start with simple laughter.

mom-and-daughter-laughing

We are not born with senses of humor -- but we are born with the capacity to learn humor. Our individual humor is a result of our family environment and experiences, which is why there's no single definition of "funny." Given that, what kind of humor environment will you give to your kids? What can you do to help teach your child humor?

1Don't take everything so seriously

Most importantly, lead by example. Laugh often with your child and show your child how not to take everything so seriously. Sure, some stuff in life is quite serious, but there is much to laugh at, whether blatantly funny or patently absurd. Show your child how not to take everything in life so seriously by laughing with your child on regular basis.

2Start early

When teaching humor, start early. Thankfully, this is easy. As soon as your infant is capable of smiling, you're getting goofy in an effort to try to make her smile. And that first belly laugh? Awesome, right? Keep at it! Keep up the laughter!

3Explain

As your child gets older, you'll need to explain why things are funny. Why are clowns funny, or why do you laugh at a sign or a joke? If your sense of humor is a little drier, you'll need to explain that, too. It's not obvious! You'll likely find yourself explaining puns and cultural references and language and such -- and that's terrific. Humor has such a broad foundation that you'll be teaching your child other things along the way. And remember, some humor is not obvious -- some is very subtle. It may take several attempts to explain and a developmental step for true understanding, but keep at it. Your child will get there.

4Laugh at your child's jokes

Along the way, in addition to laughing by example and explaining jokes, you're going to laugh at a fair number of your child's jokes. Some are decidedly unfunny to an adult's ears and mind, but your child is learning about humor and what's funny and needs encouragement in that. Laugh at the same, tired knock-knock joke each and every time your child tells it.

5Get silly

Get silly with your child on a regular basis. Teach her silly walks and make funny faces with your son. Make voices and goof off. Not only will you be teaching your child about what it means to have a sense of humor, you'll also be making some terrific memories with your child. And what better memories for a child to have than laughing with mom and dad?

More about laughter

Health benefits of laughter yoga
Laughter: A parent's best defense?
4 Fun ways to lower anxiety


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