Serious Learning in Playful Moments
Did you know that laughter plays an important role in the learning process? A giggling child is not only enjoying himself, he is exercising his brain. "Humor is a vital part of ... children's educational experience," says early childhood expert Jackie Silberg, author of The Learning Power of Laughter: Over 300 Playful Games and Activities that Promote Learning With Young Children (Consortium, 2004).
Young children have a special propensity toward silliness that, according to experts (Christian Parenting Today, 2002), has important developmental benefits for building social skills, cognitive thinking and creativity. Laughter helps children retain more information, while making learning an enjoyable experience for all involved.
Laughter also creates bonds between people. "As children grow and their social world expands, they will use the link of silliness and laughter to solidify other friendships," says Silberg.
Stretching the imagination, thinking outside the box and learning to look at a situation from different angles are other long-term benefits of developing a sense of humor. "Laughter, fun and humor serve an important developmental function for young children as a way to express their growing powers of reasoning and creativity," says Silberg. "The educational value of this bond is inestimable."
Silberg suggests trying the following activities to stimulate laughter and learning with young children:
- Make up silly rhyming jingles to accompany children's names. "Because language is supposed to be logical and orderly and sentences don't usually rhyme, it seems funny to children when they do," says Silberg.
- Try tongue twisters, such as "Double bubble gum doubles bubbles." "Tongue twisters develop language fluency, alliteration skills and letter recognition," says Silberg. "[They're also] ... amusing and fun."
- Tell children jokes and riddles. "Knock-knock jokes are delightful, fun ways to develop social skills because they require more than one person to play the game," says Silberg.
- Do something out of the ordinary, such as wear shoes backwards or put clothes on inside out. "Children ... enjoy the implausible or incongruous – a cartoon of a fish wearing glasses or the sight of the family dog licking the dinner plates, for example," says Silberg. "Almost anything that goes against what children consider normal and predictable can tickle their funny bones."
Games from The Learning Power of Laughter
1. Choose a familiar song and change the words to something silly.
2. For example, sing "Yankee Doodle" and change "macaroni" to "pizza" or "ice cream."
3. Other ideas include:
- Sing "Skip to My Lou" and change "flies in the buttermilk" to another insect and something else to drink, such as "ants in the orange juice."
- Sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and ask what else could twinkle, such as snow, the moon or a lightning bug.
4. Make up new verses. Ask for suggestions.
With this activity, children will laugh their way to learning about the following skills/concepts: Creativity and Imagination.
1. Imagine what various objects in a room would say if they could talk. What would the flowers say? What would a chair say?
2. Suggest some, and soon children will be making up their own ideas. Suggestions include:
- What does the chair say? ... "Please sit down on me backwards."
- What does the flower say? ... "May I have some water so I can brush my teeth?"
Learning Power! With this activity, children will laugh their way to learning about the following skills/concepts: Creativity and Imagination, Socialization.
1. Instead of turning the pages of a book, blow them! Children will LOVE doing this!
2. The Wind Blew (Aladdin, 1993) by Pat Hutchins is a perfect book to try this idea.
3. Other books you can try are:
- Gilberto and the Wind (Puffin Books, 1978) by Marie Hall Ets
- Old Devil Wind (Sagebrush Education Resources, 1999) by Barry Root
- The Wind's Garden (Henry Holt and Co., 2001) by Bethany Roberts
- Wind Says Good Night (Sagebrush Education Resources, 2001) by Katy Rydell
Learning Power! With this activity, children will laugh their way to learning about the following skills/concepts: Creativity and Imagination, Body Awareness.