Preschoolers have a special propensity toward silliness that, according to experts, has important developmental benefits.
- Laughter: Laughter creates bonds between people. As a child grows and her social world expands, she will use the link of silliness and laughter to solidify other friendships. On top of that, laughter has health benefits. Dr. Lee Berk, researcher, says, "Laughter activates the immune system and decreases stress hormones." As Solomon said, "A cheerful heart is good medicine" (Prov. 17:22).
- Creativity: Stretching the imagination, thinking outside the box, and learning to look at a situation from different angles are other long-term benefits of nonsense. Child psychologist Niki Saros observes that children who are creative thinkers have a certain mental flexibility that allows them to escape from the pressure of a hyper-structured view of the world. That skill translates to creative problem solving down the road.
- Social skills: According to kindergarten teacher Lauri Barrette, "There is purpose in silliness. The child is asserting his personality and trying to entertain those around him. He is learning through the responses what is socially appropriate and what is not."
But parents know that silliness can quickly degenerate into inappropriate humor and behavior. The trick is to balance the fun with healthy boundaries based on the following:
- Politeness and respect: Saros says parents need to draw the line when fun turns into vulgarity or insulting, hurtful behavior. Paul exhorts the Ephesians to avoid obscenity, foolish talk, and coarse joking (Eph. 5:4). By putting limits on silliness, you teach your child to respect his own bodily functions and sexuality as well as to consider the feelings of others.