Quora.com is a site where anyone can ask or answer questions. Everyone can also vote on the best questions and answers making it a wonderful exercise in the wisdom of crowds. I was mostly a passive observer until this question provoked me out of my silence
What are the most high leverage activities I can do with my 1-2 year old to promote his mental and cognitive development?
You can read my answer here, as I took issue with the very notion of treating your child like a corporate asset. But, more interesting to the readers of this blog is Karen Takatani‘s thoughtful and inspiring answer to the question. With Karen’s permission, I am reproducing it here in full:
One thing I learned quite by accident was how helpful it is to expose your child to HUMOR and allow them to develop a sense of humor as early as possible.
I consider being able to see humor in things a “high leverage” skill because its a skill that will help your child, who will eventually be an adult, cope with life’s ups and downs. Coping will allow them to realize their full potential (which is their decision anyway!) Rather than focusing on making your child happy, helping your child find humor will teach them to make themselves happy. Parent phrase: self-soothing.
My children’s dad was away a lot when they were infants. I had read that dads were really good at horseplay but moms … not so much. I think it’s a lot less natural for women! I decided to be both mom and dad when dad was away. This started when my first child was about three months old! It felt very awkward at first! I was so focused on feeding/sleeping/changing stuff it was strange for me to suddenly get extra silly. She ate it up and was a full blown giggler in no time. By six months, she was looking for, or initiating humor; there was this gleam in her eye and I knew she was waiting for the next funny thing.
Humor that allows the baby to find humor in herself is even better! There’s nothing like giggling along with someone still in diapers! A kid who falls while learning to walk and laughs at her goofy fall is way easier to deal with than one that cries every time. Another crazy moment with this humor thing was when I realized the diapered, bottle-feeding infant I was rocking in my arms was burping ON PURPOSE to get me to laugh.
My daughter is seven now (for my followers-she is my neurotypical kid). We blew through her toddler years easily, it is kind of hard to maintain a tantrum when you are laughing, after all. As a grade schooler, she is known for her sense of humor, though she is not the class clown, and known for her creativity, which is required for spontaneous humor! She seems pretty well adjusted. Who knows, maybe she was just wired this way, but it is nice to have so many memories of laughter already! Maybe it will all go to heck in a hand basket when she hits puberty. She makes her little sister laugh a lot which is great as the younger one is much more serious and dealing with some issues of her own. At least my serious one is very accustomed to being around humor and has been known to chuckle.
So jump right in and don’t worry if it feels unnatural or you feel super uncool. To a baby or small child there is nothing MORE cool that a parent that makes crazy faces, plays peek a boo, sings a lot (however badly) grabs them for a dance (or holds the littlest ones and dance), plays horse, pretends to eat their fingers and toes for dinner. You can’t go wrong, and it will serve them well to be able to see the world in a lighter way.