Our children are our greatest teachers in life. They teach us to live in the present moment and enjoy life ‘as is’ forgetting about the past and not worrying about the future. They teach us about our biological, innate need to wonder, discover, and experiment with our environment. They teach us to persist and persevere through some of the most difficult challenges. I mean just think about how a baby learns to walk. Here they are making their way onto two feet for the first time and they just never give up! How many times must they toddle, stumble, and fall but persist nonetheless! They teach us to honor our true selves. I could go on here, but you probably get my point. There is so much that we can learn from our children if we can only let them. If only we could be completely open to their wonder, drive, big feelings, and zest for life.
One of the things that I love most about the children that I have worked with in my life and one of the many things that I love about my own children is their ability to laugh- and I mean really, really laugh. If they are not initially laughing at something, they will somehow find a way to make it funny. Again, just another reason to support my argument that kids are our wisest teachers. Sure, not everything in life is funny, nor do we want it to be. But having a good sense of humor and being able to laugh will serve us all well. Let’s explore why:
Why We Should All Laugh Everyday
- Laughter is good for your health. The happy chemicals (otherwise known as neurotransmitters) are serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin. These neurotransmitters all serve a different purpose and are released both in your brain and gut for different reasons. But, laughter is one way to get them all moving at once! And we want a nice balance of these chemicals throughout the day, everyday. They will strengthen your immune system, diminish physical feelings of pain, improve your mood and serve as protection from stress- the bad, toxic kind of stress.
- Laughter is an emotional release. The human brain is not fully developed until age 25. The prefrontal cortex that is responsible for all higher order thinking skills including decision making, impulse control, emotional regulation, and more will not be complete until you’re out of college and most likely living as an independent adult. That is a long time! Kids then will have an especially hard time controlling their impulses and often need a break from the adult-directed society in which we live. Plus, it’s nearly impossible for them to manage their emotions without support. Emotions like fear, anger, and worry are challenging. Overtime, if you do not completely feel and express these emotions in a healthy way they can get stored in the body causing physical, mental, and emotional problems. One way to get them out and diffuse them is through laughter!
- A good sense of humor indicates healthy emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage emotions. Having a high emotional intelligence is positively correlated with a strong sense of self, empathy, compassion, honesty, trustworthiness, authenticity and overall success. If you can laugh at life and laugh at yourself it will improve your interpersonal relationships and connections.
- Laughter will keep things in perspective. Bringing laughter into a situation can help you see it more realistically decreasing the degree to which you see something as toxic or threatening. As a result, it can help you avoid feeling too overwhelmed or anxious. It may also help to diffuse conflicts.
Overall, laughter is a health tonic. It improves the overall quality of one’s life. It brings humans closer together and strengthens almost any relationship.
How Do We Embrace Laughter In Our Home?
- Peek-A-Boo and Other Games
Mom and dad are the first faces that babies will recognize. Babies will study a human face to no avail from the day they are born so that they can learn about human language and communication. As early as 4-6 months of age babies love smiling faces, laughter, and games. Playing peek-a-boo with mom, dad, siblings, or friends will get your baby giggling and laughing for sure. Then, soon enough, around age 1 your baby will develop their own sense of humor playing peek-a-boo and other games for their own entertainment.
- Playing With Objects
I’m sure you have all tried to make your baby or child laugh by putting unusual objects in unexpected places. Kids will get a kick at finding a bag of rice in the toy box or a stuffed animal in the snack drawer. Or, what about that sock going on your head instead of your foot? Is this where my sock goes or is mommy being silly?
Around the toddler years we start getting creative with word play. Sometimes we’ll make up names for objects. We call them nicknames. “That’s not a noodle, it’s a noodle toodle.” Or, “I know, let’s call the caterpillar a ‘silly pilly’ for a nickname!” Not only does this word play make us laugh and develop a sense of humor, it also supports phonemic awareness- a key component of reading, speaking, listening, and writing skills.
- Playing with Words
Not a day goes by in our house where my kids and I are not rhyming. Rhyming words and making up silly nonsense words not only gets us laughing out loud, but it also connects to that key literacy skill called phonemic awareness (more on that to come in future posts!) We will rhyme and sing while getting dressed, making lunch, cleaning up, and even going potty. It makes nearly every activity more fun!
So, starting today, look for more reasons to laugh. Laugh with your kids, laugh with a friend, laugh at yourself! Check back in with me and let me know how much better you feel because of it!