Humor – Essential for All Human Communication? by Barb Meyers, MA, CED

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The air is crisp, the trees are changing colors, and Halloween is just around the corner! Trick or Treating brings back pleasant childhood memories of dressing up in a homemade costume, grabbing my favorite pillowcase and walking for blocks and blocks with my older brothers and bringing home a bagful of sweet treats!  But before heading out the door, we had to be prepared…we had to figure out a trick or have a joke or two to tell.

Do our deaf and hard of hearing kiddos understand jokes?

The auditory and verbal aspects of humor are linked to listening, language, speech and critical thinking along with understanding synonyms, multiple meaning words, idioms, metaphors and similes.  For example, the question “What do frogs eat with their hamburgers?” Response….“French flies.” A child would need to understand that frogs eat flies, that french fries go with hamburgers and flies/ fries rhyme. 

Is it really important that our kiddos understand this? Is the ability to laugh truly essential to living healthy and productive lives?  Laughter is said to have great health benefits, such as reducing stress and boosting the immune system.  A sense of humor is an important part of coping with physical and mental adversity and challenges. Humor guards against depression and improves people’s overall quality of life such as increased self-esteem, more control over anxiety, and better performance in social interactions. Not only does humor provide a learning experience, it is also an important part of feeding brain development. When a child (or anyone) laughs, the flow of blood increases to the brain. After a good laugh, we usually we feel energized and alert. Humor can set the stage for learning by helping children release tension and focus on the task at hand. Humor increases the brain’s receptivity to learning.

Then, the million dollar question is…. Can we teach our children to have a sense of humor? I say, “Yes we can!” Some strategies include:

  • Be playful with your child. Physical comedy is particularly popular with young children.  
  • Play peekaboo with a baby—the element of surprise will often cause laughter.
  • If your 1-year-old throws a tantrum at naptime, de-fuse the situation with humor: Nibble on her arm or belly as you carry her to her crib, for instance.
  • In your daily routines, teach him to embrace life’s silly side. Make kooky faces or slap a sticker on your nose to get him to giggle.
  • Change the wording to familiar songs such as: The itsy bitsy ELEPHANT climbed up the water spout or Old MacDonald had a farm ee-I-ee-I-oh and on his farm he heard a MONKEY or even the popular Baby shark song changed to Baby FISH.
  • Do the unexpected during some everyday routines such as: put their pants on your head, give them a fork to eat their cereal, turn a book upside down or an adult pretending to drink from the baby’s bottle. “That’s funny!! Ha ha ha!!”
  • Joking that a pig says “moo,” for example, or walking around with a toy on your head and pretending there’s nothing weird about it—these are the things that will be hilarious to a toddler.
  •  If your child is cracking up about something, sit down and crack up with them. When comedy is shared, it shows you value it. Even if you don’t find it as funny as they do, you can often appreciate why they find it funny.

So if your toddler doesn’t quite get the knock knock joke they heard from their big brother this Halloween, they will in time, but meanwhile you’ve laid the foundation for a sense of humor and that’s worth all the chocolate in the world!