What's Funny to a Toddler?
Developing a Sense of Humor
Dylan is busy in the bathtub, trying on a variety of "hats." First, it's the little bucket he uses as a bath toy. Then it's his washcloth, then his rubber duck. He finds all this very funny. But when his dad takes the rubber duck and balances it on his own head, the giggles really get going.
Sounds like a typical bath time routine, but Dylan isn't just getting clean — he's starting to develop a sense of humor. It's a beneficial quality to have. Experts say a well-developed sense of humor can boost a person's immune system, contribute to a more optimistic outlook on life, and increase self-esteem.
What's more, research shows that a sense of humor is learned, not inherited. From a very young age we all have the capacity to laugh; kids as young as 9 months old may begin to understand physical or visual "jokes." Toddlers are willing recipients of all we have to teach them about the pleasures of humor.
Fun With the Unexpected
Early on, babies respond to things that look or feel funny — a silly face, raspberries on the belly. But in the toddler years, kids understand more language and also have a good grasp on how the world is supposed to work — the right way to wear a pair of pants, for instance.
So, if you put your child's pants on your head or diaper the teddy bear, you're likely to get an uproarious response. Anything that disrupts a pattern or expectation is funny to a toddler. Try removing something from its usual place — put a stuffed animal in the cabinet with the dishes, for instance. "How did this get here?" you might ask your child. Or wear a pair of their shoes on your hands as puppets and do a little song-and-dance routine.
You might already have books on your shelf that use this device — ones that focus on something surprising or obviously out of place, like hippos wearing purple boots or frogs who go ice skating.
Visual humor is also very funny to toddlers. You can make faces, put on a funny hat, or knock yourself on the head with a pillow and pretend to fall over — any kind of broad slapstick will delight toddlers.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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