What Makes Your Child Laugh?

As fathers, we should all actively observe April Fool’s Day — not by playing cruel tricks on our children, but by celebrating those relationships with lots of laughter.

Victor Borge said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” You already know this, of course. Many dads just naturally bring out the funny, playful side in their kids.

If lately you’ve been caught up in the serious and sober realities of raising children, seek to renew your spontaneous and slightly mischievous side as a dad. A good dose of laughter can open doors and restore a positive outlook, and it promotes health — physically, developmentally, and relationally.

dad-school-age-son-face-to-face-big-smilesFor your children, laughter will help them develop higher creative and coping skills because humor and creativity both draw on “divergent thinking” — they learn to explore new and unexpected ideas as they seek to solve problems and handle situations. You’re likely to have better communication as well. Laughter makes you more approachable, especially if you can laugh at yourself.

Here are two ways you can laugh with your kids and help build their divergent-thinking abilities:

Use make-believe — especially with younger kids. Researchers have found that encouraging imagination and fantasy is essential for brain activity and stimulation. Through play, kids manipulate objects and ideas and expand their understanding of the real world. Your child probably doesn’t need help playing make-believe. What he does need — once in a while — is for you to join him there. So, let yourself go. Shake hands with “imaginary friends.” Use your silly voice. Make the chair talk and the flowers sing.

Encourage a lot of wordplay. This is particularly effective as your child’s reading and writing skills are emerging, around first or second grade, but it’s great for kids at any age. Riddles, puns, jokes, and brain teasers all lay the foundation for divergent thinking that will help your kids become problem solvers down the road. And, in all seriousness, when your child makes up a new word by combining two real words, don’t be too quick to correct her. Instead, celebrate her creativity.

See more father-child humor in Jay Payleitner’s article on knock-knock jokes.


  • Study your children and immerse yourself in their world, even if it means leaving your comfort zone, so you can figure out what makes them laugh. Hang out together, read their books, and listen to their stories.
  • Have everyone help with a funny family video. (And pull it out next time everyone is frustrated, depressed, or just needs to laugh.)
  • Make up your own knock-knock jokes with your kids or have everyone contribute ideas for a family “Top 10” list.
  • Celebrate unique or wacky holidays with your kids — like Name Yourself Day this month, Repeat Day in June, Chocolate Milkshake Day in September, or National Kazoo Day in January. Find more.
  • Learn some “silly human tricks” with your kids.

Watch the replay of the Fathering Breakthrough Event

Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.