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A Daily Dose of Humor for Younger Children

By Jessica Hensley

I am fortunate enough to be the mother of two young boys, ones who, darling children, find humor in anything related to the potty and who are willing to throw a tantrum on a moment's notice. Knowing that humor engages and distracts them, I've learned to use it as a diversion as well as an educational tool - and no, I don't mean potty humor. In selecting products for them, either as gifts or during our weekly trip to the library, I look for things that will make them laugh as they learn to read, to count, to share and to create. But I'm also looking for things that will teach them that having a sense of humor is truly one of the most important qualities we can have. When life seems difficult after a bump on the head or a toy has been broken, learning to laugh about a situation teaches us that things aren't that bad after all.

Dr. Seuss BooksBooks

The library shelves are full of humorous authors, but what better place to begin than classics like Dr. Seuss? Both of my sons' first favorite book was Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb. Other Seuss favorites have included Mr. Brown Cow Can Moo! Can You?, Green Eggs and Ham, Fox in Socks, and Wacky Wednesday. The first book my older son could read by himself was Hop on Pop. Although I cherished these books as a child, it wasn't until I was a mother that I realized how much they have to offer to pre-readers, early readers and those beginning to count, to match colors and shapes and to identify objects and sounds. In addition to books, these Seuss classics are available on DVD, as downloadable books or apps and even as games as noted below.

Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky have also been favorites in our house. Both of these poets write about outlandish characters and situations in truly laugh-out-loud rhyming tales. Silverstein's A Giraffe and a Half is humorous not only because of the continuing series of ridiculous situations that occur, but because the aliterative text will leave adults tongue twisted ten times over. Your children will be laughing as much at the story as at your efforts to read it aloud.

Mo WillemsOur most recent discovery has been the Mo Willems. Willems, a former writer and animator for Sesame Street, brings his quirky, perfectly kid-centric sense of humor to a series of books such the Knuffle Bunny collection, the Pigeon books and the Elephant and Piggie series. We have enjoyed Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity, and are currently laughing our way through the books about a pigeon who just can't catch a break. Starting with Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, kids are introduced to a a pigeon that they are supposed to keep out of trouble. Willems engages kids by asking them to be in charge of not letting the pigeon drive the bus, no matter how hard he tries. My children love the question and response format of these books. Other books we've sampled include Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! and The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!.

Games

Rory's Story CubesThe game that became an instant family favorite was Rory's Story Cubes. The game includes nine unique dice with a different picture on each side. There are multiple ways to play, but the basic premise is to roll the dice and make up a story using the pictures displayed. This game is perfect for children with vivid imaginations and certainly for the whole family to play. The game left my 5-year old in stitches and he often requests it. A perfect travel game, Story Cubes is produced by Gamewright who makes too many humorous games to list. You can see a complete list of their award-winning titles here.

I Can Do That! Games also offer a variety of selections for young children including The Cat in the Hat I Can Do That! Game, Dr. Seuss' Super Stretchy ABC Game and Curious George Hide and Seek Zoo, among others. These games are great as introductory games for the children 2 and up, but humorous and challenging enough to be enjoyed by the whole family.

I Can Do That! Games

Apps & Video Games

If you haven't yet been willing to pass your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad over to your kids sticky little fingers, it's time you put the device in airplane mode and pass it on. Developers have created a huge range of apps designed just for kids. Yes, there is lots of muck to work your way through to find the good stuff, but fortunately Parents' Choice has done a great job weeding out the winners. Elmo's Monster MakerThere are a number of apps that teach children primary skills while also offering loads of laughter. Among the game producers that stand out are Duck, Duck, Moose who makes apps like Old MacDonald and Baa Baa Black Sheep (look for it on iTunes). Younger children won't tire of seeing animals do silly things in response to their finger movements, while singing along to their favorite songs. Apps like Sesame Street: Elmo's Monster Maker are also fun time and again. Kids can select different hats, sets of eyes or glasses, different noses and different mouths to make silly monsters that sing and dance in their own videos.

Boom Blox Bash PartyAs far as video games go, after trying far too many that were good for a round or two, the game we return to over and over is Boom Blox Bash Party. Players scrutinize each Jenga-type puzzle, tower, and structure looking for critical or vulnerable targets - the weak link that will topple it totally - then aim and swing the Wii remote with a whip-like motion. That hurls bowling balls, blocks, slingshoted objects, bombs, cannonballs or paintballs to knock apart the blocks. There's even a new "virus ball" that can vaporize blocks with a viral chain reaction. Since knocking things over and making things explode is at the top of most children's' "favorite things to do" list, this has become a treasured classic. But it is all in good, family fun. No blood, no guts, just pure, silly entertainment that everyone enjoys.

 

This short list includes only my personal suggestions for what work with my children's sense of humor. What leaves my children rolling on the floor in laughter, however, may not be what works for your child. It should also be noted that what makes a book or a game funny has a lot to do with how you present it. Getting into character while reading or choosing to make a game silly rather than serious can add layers of fun. While it may require Mom or Dad to use a little more creativity, if it mitigates a meltdown or lets our children drift off to sleep with grins on their faces, it's well be worth the extra effort.

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Here are some additional Parents' Choice award winners by some of the authors and manufacturers listed above, guaranteed to tickle the funny bone.

Mr. Brown Cow Can Moo, Can You? Hop on Pop Fox in Socks Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Knuffle Bunny Too Curious George Hide and Seek Zoo The Cat in the Hat I Can Do That! Game
It's Raining Pigs & Noodles It's Raining Pigs & Noodles
Ages: All Ages
Author: Jack Prelutsky   Illustrator: James Stevenson  
HarperCollins Children's Books / Amistad, $17.95 (Hard Cover)   

Read these poems aloud and the reaction is sure to be laugh-aloud fun. Masterful word-play makes for marvelous poems in this collection that will likely be memorized by readers of all ages.

Runny Babbit Runny Babbit
Ages: All Ages
Author: Shel Silverstein  
HarperCollins Childrens Books, $15.99 (Hard Cover)   

In this very "billy sook," Shel Silverstein may have invented a whole new category of poetry: spooner-verse. You may not want to read them back-to-back (for fear of tying tnots in your kongue) but it's almost impossible to resist reading a few at a time out loud to anyone who will listen. The poems, however, pale in comparison to the artwork: exuberant, expressive black-line cartoons that are surely among Silverstein's best work.

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed
Ages: 3 & Up
Hyperion Books for Children, $16.99 (Hard Cover)   

Wilbur, a well-mannered and imaginative naked mole rat likes to wear clothes. Wearing clothes lets him be "fancy, or funny, or cool, or I can just be an astronaut." His fellow naked mole rats are appalled. They insist that throughout their long and conforming history naked mole rats have never worn clothes. Never. When Wilbur asks simply, "why not?" the naked mole rats go into high gear and to the highest authority. After the very wise Grand-pah carefully considers the question, he answers "why not, indeed?"

Richard Scarry's Busytown Eye Found It! Game Richard Scarry's Busytown Eye Found It! Game
Ages: 3 & Up
Wonder Forge Inc., $16.99

The premise of the game is simple - players need to work together to make it to Picnic Island before Pig Will and Pig Won't eat all the food. Players take turns spinning to advance spaces on the board, solve a Goldbug Mystery or give up picnic dishes to the hungry pigs. The player who spins a Goldbug turns over a card to reveal an object that all players must locate on the game board. The board is filled with Busytown scenes that include one or more pictures of the object. When the timer starts, each player searches for as many of the objects as possible and uses their magnifying glass token to mark them. When time runs out, everyone adds up the number of magnifying glasses on the board and advances that number of bonus spaces. Although the game is designed for kids 3 and up, adults shouldn't assume that searching for objects is an easy task. Lots of small hammers, balloons, trashcans and other tiny objects are "hidden" within the scenes and finding them provides an entertaining challenge for all ages.

Horton Hears a Who! - You to the Rescue! Horton Hears a Who! - You to the Rescue!
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Wonder Forge Inc., $19.99

Where are the Whos? Are they at home? Are they hiding? Do they need help? The tiny Whos live in clover, and the clovers are hidden throughout the room. Put on the Horton "hat" (it's more of a headband with a trunk) and using the trunk collect as many Whos as you can before the time runs out.

King Toad King Toad
Ages: 5 & Up
Gamewright, $10.99

Silly fun ensues in this fast-playing card game. Add bugs to the king's feast by playing cards in numerical order. When players don't have the next card in sequence, they catch one just like King Toad! Players just say "ribbit" and then stick out their tongue from one to four times to signal the card they want played. Product Description

Shel Silverstein's Shel Silverstein's "Underwater Land"
Ages: 6 - 12 yrs.
Olympia Records, $17.98 (CD)   

Here, begging to be learned for maximum sing-along enjoyment, are wildly witty songs about clams and barracuda, minnows and sharks, cuttlefish and octopi, fish tails and "soupy, gloopy" fish guts. When it comes to smart and funny family albums, this is the catch of the day.

Duck, Duck Bruce Duck, Duck Bruce
Ages: 6 & Up
Gamewright, Aigner Associates, $9.99

Each of ten card suits is defined by where the ducks are: at the beach, on the moon, on stage in the gym...Players work to score the most points by collecting the most suits of high-numbered duck cards. In true Gamewright instruction fashion, "The last person to feed a live duck starts the game and play proceeds clockwise." Turning the cards over one at a time, players work to collect the most high-scoring duck cards. The more cards turned over, the more cards can be collected. But try to feather your nest with too many cards and you may end up losing. Players must strategize whether or not to continue their turns. If a player reveals a Bruce card, all players shout "Bruce!" the player loses all face up cards and the turn ends.


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