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Did you know? On an average, children laugh 400 times per day and adults only laugh 15 times per day!  You can't laugh too much, so finding ways to increase laughter for both children and adults is a worthy pursuit.

Laughter is a form of release. It allows us to rid ourselves of bad and distressful emotions that cause harmful chemical effects on the body (Berk & Tan 1996). Laughter is like an exercise. You will notice that your stomach sometimes feels sore after a good belly laugh.

Laughter has two stages just like exercise--the arousal phase that increases the heart rate and the resolution phase that allows the heart to rest.  Laughing can lower blood pressure, increase vascular flow, and boost the immune system. It gives the diaphragm, abdominal, respiratory system and facial muscles a complete workout. Some people even use their arm, leg, and back muscles when laughing!

New studies are showing that humor stimulates regions of the brain known as reward centers. These reward centers release chemicals that play a vital role in the brain's pleasure and reward system. It appears that the brain feels rewarded by finding something funny. This lends credence to the idea that laughter is therapeutic-for some people it creates a natural high.

Processing humor activates areas of the brain involved in language processing. Our ability to understand humor grows in complexity as we develop and mature. This is why humor for a two year old is much more simplistic than humor for an adolescent. Our understanding of humor in many cases is related to the sophistication of our language development.  Because humor and language often work in consort with each other, using humor exercises and strengthens our language skills.

If laughter is so good for us how can we get more laughter into our lives and into the lives of children? We need to be intentional and purposeful in our selection of classroom activities for our children. Two easily assessable sources of laughter for both children and adults are singing silly songs and reading silly stories. Below is one of the many fun silly songs from "Laugh and Learn Silly Songs", and a list of some silly stories you can read.

So what are you waiting for --- get laughing!!

Berk, Lee, Dr.P.H., M.P.H. & Stanley Tan, M.D. Ph.D. (1996). "The Laughter-Immune Connection."

Wooten, Patty, RN BSN CCRN. (1995). "Laughter as Therapy for Patient and Caregiver"

Here is a happy, silly song:

I Wish I Were  
(Tune: If You're Happy and You Know It)

Oh, I wish I were a little juicy orange, juicy orange.
Oh, I wish I were a little juicy orange, juicy orange.
I'd go squirty, squirty, squirty
Over everybody's shirty.
Oh, I wish I were a little juicy orange, juicy orange.

Oh, I wish I were a little bar of soap, bar of soap.
Oh, I wish I were a little bar of soap, bar of soap.
I'd go slidy, slidy, slidy
Over everybody's hidy.
Oh, I wish I were a little bar of soap, bar of soap.

Oh, I wish I were a little blob of mud, blob of mud.
Oh, I wish I were a little blob of mud, blob of mud.
I'd go gooey, gooey, gooey
Over everybody's shoey.
Oh, I wish I were a little blob of mud, blob of mud.

Oh, I wish I were a little cookie crumb, cookie crumb.
Oh, I wish I were a little cookie crumb, cookie crumb.
I'd go crumby, crumby, crumby
Over everybody's tummy.
Oh, I wish I were a little cookie crumb, cookie crumb.

Oh, I wish I were a little rocking horse, rocking horse
Oh, I wish I were a little rocking horse, rocking horse
I'd go rocky, rocky, rocky,
Over everybody's socky
Oh, I wish I were a little rocking horse, rocking horse

Oh, I wish I were a little pokey turtle, pokey turtle
Oh, I wish I were a little pokey turtle, pokey turtle
I'd go slowy, slowy, slowy,
Over everybody's toey.
Oh, I wish I were a little pokey turtle, pokey turtle.

Oh, I wish I were a little parakeet, parakeet.
Oh, I wish I were a little parakeet, parakeet
I'd go pecky, pecky, pecky,
Over everybody's necky.
Oh, I wish I were a little parakeet, parakeet.

Oh, I wish I were a little radio, radio.
Oh, I wish I were a little radio, radio.
I'd go CLICK!

Books
Cat in the Hat by Dr. Suess
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess
Wacky Wednesday by Theo LeSeig
Giggle, Giggle, Quack by Doreen Cronin
Toes Have Wiggles, Kids Have Giggles by Harriet Ziefert
Giggle Belly by Page Sakelaris
 



More Positive Effects of Humor
Pam Schiller, Ph.D.

Humor is good for our bodies and good for our brains. When we laugh, the white blood cell activity in our bodies is increased. White blood cells boost our immune systems, which in turn helps us fight off illnesses. Researchers say the increase of white blood cell activity lasts for three days.

Although researchers have long known that a good sense of humor has a healthful impact on the immune system, relatively little has been known about the role humor plays in learning. Thanks to new imaging techniques, researchers are now learning more about the positive effect humor has on brain functions related to memory, alertness, and sophisticated aspects of language development, such as recognizing puns and nuances of speech.

When we laugh (exhibit joy), endorphins are released into the blood stream. These act as a memory fixative, resulting in an increased ability to remember what we are experiencing. In simple terms: humor triggers emotions; emotion boosts memory. Our deepest memories are imbedded in emotion. We remember best the highs and lows of our lives.

The development of humor begins early. Infants respond to tickle games and Peek-a-Boo during the first year of life. If humor is nurtured, it will become a habit that plays a powerful and unique role in our lives. Beyond protecting the immune system, boosting the memory, and activating and exercising language centers, it ties societies together and helps us cope with daily stress. Low stress further enhances receptivity to learning.

Humor is an important ingredient in the daily experiences of both children and adults. The more we laugh, the more we learn, the happier we feel, and the healthier we stay.


Pam Schiller is an early childhood consultant, author, popular speaker and radio and television spokesperson. She is an expert in the area of early brain development and early childhood literacy.  Dr. Schiller is well known as an author of numerous teacher and parent resource books, preschool curriculums, children's books, as well as award-winning recordings for Kimbo Educational.  Her CD's include:  Where Is Thumbkin? and Here Is Thumbkin (co-author:  Thomas Moore), Laugh 'N Learn Literacy (Silly) Songs, Leaping Literacy, Rockin' Reading Readiness and her March 2006 release, Start Smart Songs for 1's, 2's & 3's.

www.Pamschiller.com


Previous Tips

•  A Case for Laughing Giggling and Having Fun 
   Activity Tips (11/05) - Pam Schiller, Ph.D.

•  Connecting Music and Literacy
   Activity Tips (8/05) - Pam Schiller, Ph.D.

•  The Learning Station: Teaching with Songs in Your Heart
   Activity Tips (7/04) - Laurie Monopoli

•  Bean Bag
   Activity Tips (3/04) - Christina Chapman

•  Activities to Integrate Music and Language Arts
   Activity Tips (8/03) - Cindy H. Clark, MMed, MT-BC


Activity Tips for Special Needs and Young Children