Don't Forget the Fun

Hedda SharapanI was walking down the hall in a child care center when I heard one of the best sounds in the world – the sound of children laughing. The teacher told me that now and then she likes to add something silly when they’re singing. That morning she changed the “Old MacDonald” E-I-E-I-O to “Oinky, boinky, doinky” -- and the three-year olds thought that was hilarious.

Laughter is not only a great sound, it’s actually a healthy sound! Researchers tell us that laughter raises endorphins, which increases immunity, lowers stress -- and as we all know, “it’s such a good feeling.” With that kind of positive brain chemistry, children’s brain cells are more likely to make connections. So laughter actually creates a healthy climate for learning.

Fred Rogers had a wonderfully whimsical sense of humor, and he understood how helpful it was to share that with children. I remember years ago when Helen Ross, a noted children and family mental health specialist, advised him “Don’t forget the fun!”

Watch how much fun Fred is having making music with his musician friends – master guitarist and neighbor Joe Negri and percussionist Bobby Rawsthorne who was part of the Johnny Costa trio contributing to the magnificent music for the whole Neighborhood series.

It helps us all to be reminded of why we need to find fun and laughter in our work with children, especially on tough days:

You’re a role model

When the children see that you’re having fun, they’re more relaxed, too. As a role model, you set the tone in your room. I once saw a teacher leading the children in exercises around 10 a.m. She ended by having the children join her in a yoga position of lying very still and breathing quietly. Then with a chuckle in her voice, she called over to the other teacher, “We’re going to keep doing this until lunchtime!” And they both laughed. Even if the children didn’t get the joke, I’ll bet they enjoyed hearing the teachers having a warm laugh together.

Be able to laugh at yourself.

When things go wrong, remember that no one is perfect. Young children are especially forgiving, even when activities don’t happen as you planned. When the children see that you can laugh at your mistakes, they’ll be more likely to deal with their own mistakes, as well.

Enjoy the fun things children say.

This spring I heard a child ask, “How did the leaves get back up on the trees?” Recently a teacher told me another fun story about teaching The Pledge of Allegiance which includes the words “and to the Republic for which it stands,” when a child asked her, “Who are the four witches? (Doesn’t it feel good to laugh?)

Not only does it feel good to laugh at the delightful things children say, we can also learn a lot from them. Their questions and comments help us see the world and hear our words from their perspective. You might even want to share those stories in staff meetings – to enjoy a good laugh together.

They say laughter is contagious. I suppose that’s because laughter is a social experience and helps us bond together, whether we’re children or adults. There’s something about having fun and laughing together that warms a place and makes us feel “at home.”

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