Laughter and music have the power to heal and the power to teach. They have extensive benefits in the classroom – increased retention, decreased anxiety and enhanced interest in the subject matter. Dr. Avner Ziv of Tel Aviv University has done some intriguing research showing how humor can enhance learning and creativity. “I am convinced that this is how it works: humor serves to capture students’ attention (“tickling” their curiosity about the subject at hand)... to free up their attention (by allowing for the release of stressors which might otherwise have preoccupied them)... and to hold their attention (thus providing motivation and momentum for learning). Once you capture, free, and hold attention, then retention has a better chance of happening.”
Humor and Music in Early Childhood
Humor is a vital part of a teacher’s and a child’s educational experience because a sense of humor is learned. Like kindness or persistence, children learn by example. They model themselves after their parents, teachers, and others close to them. For this reason, humorous parents often have humorous children. There’s no question that adults can encourage a child’s sense of humor from the earliest days of infancy.
A sense of humor begins with infants mimicking their caregivers and parents. As cognitive and verbal abilities grow, so do laughter and humor. You can nourish a baby’s sense of humor by encouraging him to play games that involve pretending. For example, there’s the old favorite, peek-a-boo, in which you and baby momentarily pretend you’re not there, only to quickly reappear.
Toddlers, on the other hand, will find humor in wearing the hat, shirt, or slippers of an adult in their lives. And preschoolers tend to enjoy the incongruous. Four- and five-year-olds find a great deal of amusement in stringing together rhyming words or nonsense syllables.
Laughter is good for you. When you laugh the brain releases chemicals called endorphins, which make you feel good.
Laughter and Music
Know no cultural boundaries. Two people do not have to speak the same language to laugh together.
Increase learning and retention. It stimulate both sides of the brain and you get the message quicker and remember it longer.
Help break the ice when you’re in a group. It is the one form of communication to which everyone can relate.
Stimulate the brain, the nervous system, the respiratory system, the hormonal system, and the muscular system.
Reduce pain. The endorphins released during laughter have been proven to help reduce pain and enhance treatments of many illnesses and diseases.
Is a powerful force. Breath released during a hearty laugh has been clocked at speeds as fast as 170 miles per hour.
Do Laugher and Music Increase Development?
In addition to the physical benefits of humor and music, they can be used to enhance development. As you plan your daily curriculum and activities use them in as many ways that you can.
Body Awareness – Through finger plays, movement games, poems, chants, songs, and other activities that identify body parts, children become aware of all the wonderful things their bodies can do.
Cognitive Thinking – As children learn to use factual knowledge to support their thoughts and beliefs, they learn to ask questions, develop self-reliance, and develop confidence in themselves.
Creativity/Imagination – When children have a creative imagination it stimulates them to learn more and in new ways. It encourages playfulness and supports problem-solving skills.
Coordination – Eye-hand coordination and gross and fine motor skills teach children how to use their bodies successfully.
Letter Recognition – As children laugh and sing, they can learn the alphabet and phonics.
Listening – Children develop listening skills as they listen for humorous words or respond to a certain part of a story or song.
Phonemic Awareness – Learning the sounds of the 44 different phonemes is critical to becoming a successful reader. Playing with words, vowels and consonants and learning to associate letters with certain sounds are important pre-reading activities.
Language Development – Laughter and music also develops rhyming, rhythm, sequencing, vocabulary, and socialization skills.
Activities that Encourage Laughter, Fun, and Developmental Concepts
I SAW A BEAR
Objective: To teach sequencing, language, and listening skills.
1. Say the words with the children:
Teacher: The other day
Child: The other day
Teacher: I saw a bear
Child: I saw a bear
Teacher: A great big bear
Child: A great big bear
Teacher: A way up there.
Child: A way up there.
Together: The other day I saw a bear. A great big bear a way up there.
Continue with the children repeating each line and then saying the line together:
He looked at me
I looked at him
He sized up me
I sized up him
And so I ran
Away from there
And right behind me
Was that bear
In front of me
There was a tree
A great big tree
Oh, golly gee;
The nearest branch
Was ten feet up
I had to jump
And trust my luck;
And so I jumped
Into the air
And missed that branch
Away up there;
Now don’t you fret
And don’t you frown
I caught that branch
On the way back down;
That’s all there is
There is no more
Unless I meet
That bear once more
2. Act out this poem with each child taking turns being the bear.
3. As you act out the poem, keep asking the children, “What comes next?”
4. This activity is so much fun that your children will want to do it again and again.
FLICKER, FLICKER, FLACK
Objective: To teach language development, alliteration, and fun with words.
1. As you say this fun poem over and over, move your hands back and forth like windshield wipers.
2. Each time you say the poem, go a little faster. See how fast you can go.
Flicker, flicker, flack
Flicker, flicker, flack
The wipers on the car go
Flicker, flicker, flack
The rain goes flick
The rain goes flack
The wipers on the car go
Flicker, flicker flack.
3. Continue the activity by making up your own rhymes, starting the words with a different consonant. For example:
Clicker, clicker, clack, the train in the meadow goes clicker, clicker, clack.
Ticker, ticker, tack, the clock on the wall goes ticker, ticker, tack.
Objective: To develop language fluency, alliteration skills, letter recognition, and fun with words.
1. Encourage your children to say the following tongue twisters three times very fast:
A skunk sat on a stump.
The skunk thunk the stump stunk,
And the stump thunk the skunk stunk.
A flea and a fly flew up in a flue.
Said the flea, “Let us fly!”
Said the fly, “Let us flee!”
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.
2. For additional fun, try to say these fun tongue twisters: Preshrunk shirts, Aluminum linoleum, Lemon liniment, Truly rural, Mixed biscuits, Soldier’s shoulders, Peggy Babcock, Greek grapes.
This post was contributed by Jackie Silberg, who has an M.S. in child development. An early childhood advocate and popular keynote speaker, Jackie has given workshops, keynote addresses, seminars, and family concerts throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany, and in Singapore. Currently, Jackie lectures at Johnson County Community College and owns Miss Jackie Music Company. She is one of the trusted experts on the Barnes and Noble Kid's Expert Circle. Books by Jackie Silberg: Games to Play with Babies; Games to Play with Toddlers; Games to Play with Two Year Olds, Revised; Reading Games for Young Children; Brain Games for Babies; Brain Games for Toddlers & Twos