Having a sense of humor is really important in my family…we love to laugh at and with each other.
But I don’t want my kids to turn into a bunch of bullies who laugh at other’s expense.
So, we have talked a lot about what is funny, and what is NOT funny.
As my kids vocabulary grows so does their love of words like “doodie-butt” and “doo doo face.”
Name-calling is apparently the funniest thing in the world according to my 4 year old, next to telling someone they smell like fill-in-the-blank.
So, I am turning the tables on all-things-silliness.
If my four year old decides to call me a doodie-butt in a silly moment. I will look at him with a serious face, and calmly but sternly tell him… “Hurtful words aren’t funny, but I love when you are silly. Try calling mommy ‘honey bunches’ when you want to be silly. Okay CUTIE PIE HONEY BUNCH!” And I throw a name right back at him that is “silly” or “cute” but not offensive.
If my four year old decides to tell me that I smell like something stinky. Again, I look at him (without freaking out like I am a thirteen year old in defense mode…come on parents- we are the grown-ups here) and just seriously, calmly, and sternly tell him “I love when you are in a silly mood, but it is FUNNY when you tell mommy I smell like something that doesn’t really stink. Sooooo, let’s try: ‘You smell like cinnamon.'” (Cue the huge laugh like that was the funniest thing we have heard in forever). “Or… “You smell like SUGAH, sugah (also known as sugar).” HAH!
And finally, we like to tell stories around here. Stories that people relate to, and then we put a spin on them with some slight exaggerations and expressions thrown into the mix. I usually make facial expressions like “REALLY?!?” and ask questions like “What happened next?” or “What was that like?” to get my kiddos to make some funny associations.
These little exercises have made a big difference in our kid’s perceptions of what is funny, and what is not okay.
My son now REGULARLY asks me “Mom, is that funny?”
“Mom, is that silly?”
“Mom, is that a mean word?”
We want our kids to keep their sense of humor and not lose it all together from the parent police.
So for us, it just boils down to funny is silly but not hurtful.
In my facility, there are 20 imaginative play stations that children can pretend that they are little vets, bakers, chefs, moms, dads, construction workers, policemen, firefighters, waitresses, artists, and much more.
When children dress-up they get the chance to BECOME a role that they have learned about through observations for as long as they have been able to make connections.
When kids push a stroller, it seems like a simple imitation, but they are just starting to figure out how to imagine that they ARE moms or dads and they are also learning how to make what they believe come to life.
Socially, kids can learn how to relate to others in a positive and appropriate way.
Linguistically, kids can expand their vocabulary by learning and using more words in their imaginative world. For example, if your kids are playing “grocery store” then you can teach them the names of fruits and vegetables they may not have tried before. Or, they may learn about lists, and words relating to money.
Physically, children can strengthen their developing muscles by putting on costumes, tying aprons, hammering, digging, cleaning, all while pretending to take on a role/responsibility.
Cognitively, kids learn more when they put on a role, connect hands-on, and engage by allowing their understandings to come to life.
As a bonus, you might learn even more about what roles interest your child most!
So, it seems simple, but the next time your kids are dressing up and pretending to be an identity other than their own, pretend right along with them, extend on their language, and ask questions that will help them to search their developing brains for answers to deepen those connections with their world.
Share any other thoughts in a comment… we have so much we can learn from each other!
A good friend of mine from my church fam is always planning and purposing teaching moments with her kiddos, and I love to see snapshots on Instagram and Facebook that highlight moments in their day.
One of my favorite mommy-teacher friends, Julie, and her little one.
So the following activity is the play-by-play from Julie -this week’s Mommy Teacher Spotlight:
Julie says “I am always looking for ways to inspire my child’s imagination. Today’s activity was appropriately titled “Project Imagination.” I threw several items (found around the house) into a cardboard box and set my three-year-old free to create whatever he wanted. To make this an independent experience free from frustration (for him and me) I made sure he had prior experience with most of the items in the box. Our box contained glue, scissors, tape, dried noodles, pipe cleaner, popsicle sticks, bead necklaces, stickers, favor bags, styrofoam, toothpicks, paper towel rolls, and two bowls of paint with paintbrushes. I was taking a risk by letting him paint with no supervision but he did a great job! I set him up on a patio outside with the materials so I wouldn’t be tempted to interject my ideas. It’s important to note that he didn’t have a clear idea of what he was making until he was half way through his project.
He started by examining all the materials before deciding he wanted to add stickers to the box, followed by a popsicle stick and then paint. It was at this point that he knew he wanted to create a rocket ship. For an hour he worked diligently until he needed some input on making a steering wheel. We brainstormed some ideas out of the materials available but I let him make the final decision. He was so proud of his final product and so was I. We will definitely be trying “Project Imagination” again!
As a former classroom teacher this type of activity would have intimidated me in the traditional classroom setting. But as a parent I have learned my child needs creativity without restraints. As the great Sir Ken Robinson said, “I believe this passionately: that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it.” I love this quote because it pushes me as a parent to foster the creative spirit within my child and evaluate the ways I may be limiting his creativity.”
Love it Julie! Thanks for sharing this with us!
Here at The Mommy Teacher, we would IDEALLY love to contact a WEEKLY Mommy Teacher for a Spotlight! So please share pictures on our Facebook Page!