We have all experienced the benefits of good, hearty laughter. Laughter is linked to many health advantages including lower blood pressure, reduction of certain stress hormones, an improved immune system, increased memory, alertness and creativity, to name just a few. If laughter is good for individuals, it must be good for building a healthy family. Families that laugh together also tend to be happy, healthy families that enjoy being together and support each other in fun times and hard times.
A day in the life of most families is filled with the tasks of daily life - preparing healthy lunches and snacks, going to school and work, washing clothes, driving to extracurricular activities. Who has time for fun? Busy as we are, it is worth figuring out how to build some fun into your family's life on a regular basis. It may be singing silly songs in the car or telling jokes while you wait for your food at a restaurant, but it is worth being intentional about finding times to laugh together. Here are a few ideas to laugh more and build a happy & healthy family.
How to Laugh More with Your Kids
- Be silly. Make exaggerated mistakes and let your child correct you. "This is a shirt? I thought it was called a zirt!" Or call the dog by the cat's name, and let your child set you straight.
- Read funny books. Children often find incongruity funny (a lion who likes the library, for example). They also enjoy books that include the fun of word play and silly rhyming. Some favorite children’s books from recent editions of the Growing Readers Review include:
> Llama Llama Zippity-Zoom by Anna Dewdney
> Where’s Tumpty by Polly Dunbar for toddlers
> Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham for preschoolers
> Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen for preschoolers
> Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn’t Fit by Catherine Raymer for preschoolers
> Amazing Cows by Sandra Boynton for preschoolers
> Mr. and Mrs. Bunny - Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly Horvath for school-agers
> The Adventure of Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt for school-agers
- Try gentle roughhousing. Use a timer and set it for a short time like 2 minutes. Offer only gentle resistance and let your child win. Falling down in an exaggerated way with only light touch, similar to what clowns do, can get your kids to laugh more without much effort.
- Make silly songs. You can do this by substituting silly words in your child's favorite songs. "Old McDonald had a farm ... and on that farm he had a hippopotamus." Let your child correct you - "There aren't hippos on a farm!"
- Help build a sense of humor. Buy a children’s joke book and teach your child some simple "Knock, Knock" jokes. Helping your children build a sense of humor will not only encourage your whole family to laugh more but also show the value of laughter, which can help them overcome adversity in the future.
Sometimes it will be hard for the adults to "get" why children find things funny. Children's sense of humor is forming and they may laugh at different things than you do. In order to create a healthy and happy family environment, learn to stretch and appreciate their individual sense of humor.
Tips to Remember When Trying to Laugh More as a Family
- Be ready to laugh at yourself. Mistakes that children make can sometimes feel embarrassing. It may feel therapeutic to your child if you purposefully make similar mistakes, and he or she occasionally gets to laugh at you. For example, if your child is struggling to use scissors, you struggle too and show your crooked cutting. Create a healthy family environment by allowing your child to laugh with you about how imperfect your cutting was.
- Avoid tickling. Look for ways that make your child laugh that he or she is in control of. Follow your child's lead.
- Don't be discouraged. Remember that there is often a fine line between laughter and tears. Sometimes a fun activity can turn to tears when someone gets a minor bump or scrape or gets their feelings hurt. That doesn't mean that the activity wasn't fun or successful. Instead, it means that the laughter helped your child to feel safe enough to show deeper feelings.
Laughter is a great way to keep your family close, healthy and happy. Look for opportunities to laugh more together - and that may sometimes include being willing to laugh at yourself.
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