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It’s No Joke, Playing and Pretending Good for Kids

You are getting your one-year-old dressed and instead of putting his socks on his feet, you try to put them on his ears. Rather than handing your 18-month-old her sippy cup, you pretend to drink from it.

Are you a big tease or a good parent? Possibly the former, but according to a new study by UK-based Economic and Social Research Council, definitely the latter.

Researchers found that parents who joke around and play pretend with their toddlers are “giving them a head start in terms of life skills.” The study examined interactions between parents and children ages 15 and 24 months.

“Parents, carers and early years educators shouldn’t underestimate the importance of interacting with young children through jokes and pretending,” researcher Dr. Elena Hoicka said. “Spending time doing this fun stuff with kids helps them learn how to do it themselves and gives them a set of skills which are important in childhood and beyond.”

Dr. Hoicka defined the difference between joking and pretending.

“Both involve intentionally doing or saying the wrong thing. However, joking is about doing something wrong just for the sake of it. In contrast, pretending is about doing something wrong which is imagined to be right. For example, parents might use a sponge like a duck while pretending but use a cat as a duck when joking.”

But it isn’t all about fun and games. The study found that parents who joke or tease or played pretend with their young children tended to speak slowly, loudly and repeated their words. They used a slate of vocabulary and different tones to indicate various moods. Not only does this help toddlers learn to distinguish between when a parent is being serious or not, it also adds to their language development skills.

So if you are regretting your decision not to be a stand-up comedian, now is the time to make-good.

Do you joke with your little ones? In what way?

One Response to “It’s No Joke, Playing and Pretending Good for Kids”

  1. Lori says:

    Olivia has a truly zany sense of humor thanks to our hours and hours of play. When she was about 6 months old, we got a couple of hand puppets which have served to entertain her ever since (she’s 2.5 now). Her pediatrician even said there is evidence that using puppets in playtime can help prevent the onset of autism because of the kind of engagement they encourage.

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