Humor in Children
by Ellen Buikema
Children, as young as four months, may giggle at a parent or caregiver acting in an unusual way; making silly faces, using exaggerated animal sounds. Early humor is reacted to, not created.
As children grow older, humor emerges as a way to play with ideas. It is a learned skill, first from parents and later through peers.
Preschool Jokes I have loved
Knock, knock joke (4-year-old boy)
The punch line for this joke is, “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?” The student laughed hysterically at his joke because he knew it was supposed to be funny. He just didn’t understand the joke, which is normal for his age. He laughed so much it was impossible not to laugh with him.
“Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke, with a twist (5-year-old girl)
“I don’t know. Why did the turtle cross the road?”
“Because he was stapled to the chicken.” This was said deadpan. She didn’t crack a smile until everyone nearby was laughing. Then she smiled. I was amazed.
I love the twist in the joke. She knew the standard, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” and added a different creature and situation to the mix. This shows creativity and high-order thinking. I send my condolences to the stapled pair.
Bathroom humor (3-year-old girl)
“Winnie the Poop!” She laughed a good long time after this one-liner; her first joke. The ability to combine the name of the popular yellow bear with a physical action similar in sound shows advanced cognitive skills.
Bathroom humor begins around age 3, when children are aware of bodily functions and learn what annoys adults. One of the best ways to encourage a sense of humor in a child is to spend time every day being open to the opportunities the child gives to smile or laugh.
According to KidsHeath.com, parents should be spontaneous, playful, and aware of what the child finds funny at different ages. Also be game enough to laugh so the jokes don’t fall flat. Humor is an intellectual and emotional skill. A good, strong sense of humor helps children cope better with the trials and tribulations of adolescence and beyond.
Buikema, E. (1988–1991), conversations with preschoolers.
Ellen Buikema is a writer and former teacher. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, she received her M.Ed. specializing in Early Childhood. She has extensive post-graduate studies in special education from Northeastern Illinois University. Ellen writes short stories, poetry, adult non-fiction and children’s fiction, sprinkling humor everywhere possible. Find her at EllenBuikema.com, on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and ItMattersRadio.com for a podcast interview.