From the age of 2, children start developing the ability to talk and verbal humour starts coming into play. Parents will see new avenues where the child detects and expresses humour. By fostering this, the sense of humour continues to strengthen, thus improving confidence and creativity.
See our article on why humour is an important skill to develop in a child.
Here are some tips on how Indian parents can encourage a sense of humour in children between the ages of 2 and 4 (prechoolers):
- Laugh with your child. Often they may find something funny that you don't. If it is not offensive, do laugh along with them. It gives them the encouragement they need to try and be humorous.
- Use exaggerated physical gestures in any abnormal situation. For example, if a heavy noise is heard, open your mouth wide without making a noise and look shocked. If you are taking a toy down from a high shelf, pretend like its very heavy and you are about to drop it.
- Make silly faces.
- Just act silly. Be a child yourself. For example, walk with exaggerated gestures or waddle like a penguin or walk backward. Do a silly dance.
- Pretend that you can't see your child even though they are obvious. Search up and down for her. She will love it.
- Use things in a way they are not meant, like, putting a toy on your head as a hat.
- Talk gibberish with them.
- Make up words
- This is also the period where you can help your child learn the difference between humour and mistakes. Humour is when you intentionally make a mistake for fun. Accompanying this with laughter tells children that it is funny. When you make a mistake unintentionally and do not want it repeated, smoothly fix it by saying "Oh, I made a mistake" and ignore any laughter from your children. Reiterate this by saying again "I made a mistake" or words to that effect. Children will learn from your behaviour and refine their senses for what is humorous and what is not.
- Funny books with rhyming words, like the works of Dr. Seuss (Cat in the hat, Horton hears a who etc.), will be very entertaining from the age of 3
- When you are reading a book, there may be some funny or incongruous pictures in it. If your child comments on these, discuss it with them and laugh with them.
- Children of this age, will attempt their own humour, by giving you wrong answers to questions. For example, if you ask them to name something, they will intentionally say it is something else, like calling a cat an elephant. Play along with them and they will find you funny. This will also make them feel that their attempts at humour are succeeding and will in turn increase their confidence.
- As children try to talk, they may make numerous verbal errors. Be careful about turning these into humour every time it happens. With few exceptions, these should be treated as mistakes unless they are really funny.
- Children of this age, will also find humour in some boisterous activities like tumbling around in bed. Do this carefully, so children have time to take their breath.
- Tickling is another form of physical humour. Some children like it very much while some find it overwhelming. When overwhelmed, children may not even be able to hold their breath long enough to protest. Be very careful when doing this. In such cases, just touching the child in the ribs maybe enough to achieve a humorous effect.
- This is also the age where the verbal humour goes to undesirable areas - body parts and toilets. Ignore these unless they are excessive. Trying to intervene every time it happens may not produce the best results. Your child will realize that he got a reaction from you and he will do it more often to get that reaction. Also, surprisingly, you will find that these liberties are mostly taken only with close family. When your child goes to different social settings, typically he will not indulge in such humour.
Feel free to add any more tips in the comments below....