Good parenting is just a joke

October 27, 2011

Parents who joke and pretend with their toddlers are giving their children a head start in terms of life skills. Most parents are naturals at playing the fool with their kids, says a new research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). However parents who feel they may need a little help in doing this can learn to develop these life skills with their tots.

"Parents, carers and early years educators shouldn't underestimate the importance of interacting with young children through jokes and pretending," researcher Dr Elena Hoicka points out. "Spending time doing this fun stuff with kids helps them learn how to do it themselves and gives them a set of skills which are important in childhood and beyond."

The latest research findings on joking and pretending with children will be highlighted at a half-day event organised as part of the ESRC's Festival of Social Science 2011. One key aim of the event will be to boost parents' confidence in joking and pretending with their toddlers through a range of hands-on activities.

Dr Hoicka's study has examined how the two very similar concepts of joking and pretending develop in children aged between 15 and 24 months. Explaining the difference between joking and pretending, Dr Hoicka says: "Both involve intentionally doing or saying the wrong thing. However, joking is about doing something wrong just for the sake of it. In contrast, pretending is about doing something wrong which is imagined to be right. For example, parents might use a sponge like a duck while pretending but use a cat as a duck when joking."

The study examined whether parents offer different cues such as tone or pitch of voice in order to help their toddlers understand and differentiate between joking and pretending. Findings reveal that parents rely on a range of language styles, sound and non-verbal cues. For example, when pretending, parents often talk slowly and loudly and repeat their actions. Conversely, parents tend to cue their children to jokes by showing their disbelief through language, and using a more excited tone of voice.

"We found that most parents employ these different cues quite naturally to help their toddlers understand and differentiate these concepts," Dr Hoicka points out. "While not all parents feel confident in their natural abilities, the research does show that making the effort to interact in this way with toddlers is important. Knowing how to joke is great for making friends, dealing with stress, thinking creatively and learning to 'think outside the box'. Pretending helps children learn about the world, interact with others, be creative and solve problems."

Parents can learn more about the different cues used in joking and pretending during an event to be held next week. "We will be offering a range of activities to help parents experiment with joking and pretending," says Dr Hoicka. "We will also give some short talks on the early development of joking and pretending in toddlers as well as some initial findings from our research project."
-end-
For further information contact

Dr Elena Hoicka
Email: elena.hoick@stir.ac.uk

ESRC Press Office:

Danielle Moore
Email: danielle.moore@esrc.ac.uk
Telephone 01793-413122

Jeanine Woolley
Email: jeanine.woolley@esrc.ac.uk
Telephone 01793-413119

Notes for editors:

Joking and pretending in toddlers
Organiser: Dr Elena Hoicka, University of Stirling
Date: 29 October 2011 09.00-10.30, 10.30-12.00 and 12.00-13.30
Venue: The University of Stirling Baby and Toddler Laboratory
Audience: Suitable for parents and children under 5, and early years' educators

For more information: Joking and pretending in toddlers This press release is based on some initial findings from the project 'Parents' linguistic, acoustic, and non-verbal cues for toddler-directed pretense and humour' funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and carried out by Dr Elena Hoicka of Psychology, the School of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling.

The Festival of Social Science is run by the Economic and Social Research Council which runs from 29 October to 5 November 2011. With events from some of the country's leading social scientists, the Festival celebrates the very best of British social science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives - both now and in the future. This year's Festival of Social Science has over 130 creative and exciting events aimed at encouraging businesses, charities, government agencies; and schools or college students to discuss, discover and debate topical social science issues. Press releases detailing some of the varied events are available at the Festival website. You can now follow updates from the Festival on twitter using #esrcfestival

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's total budget for 2011/12 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at http://www.esrc.ac.uk

Economic & Social Research Council

Related Toddlers Articles from Brightsurf:

For toddlers with autism, more intervention hours are not necessarily better
Two prominent early intervention models for toddlers with autism show a very similar impact, whether delivered at 15-hours or 25-hours per week intensities, a UC Davis MIND Institute study has found.

Toddlers who use touchscreens show attention differences
New research from the TABLET project recruited 12-month-old infants who had different levels of touchscreen usage.

Insight into toddlers' awareness of their own uncertainty
Toddlers may not be able to describe their feelings of uncertainty, but a new study from the Center for Mind and Brain at UC Davis provides evidence that toddlers may experience and deal with uncertainty in decision making in the same way as older children and adults.

Poor sleep in infancy linked to behavioral and emotional problems in toddlers
Disrupted and poor quality sleep in the earliest months of a child's life can be an indicator of depression, anxiety and behavioral problems among toddlers, according to a new study.

Association of parent, family stressors with screen exposure among toddlers
This population-based study explored associations between parent and family stressors, such as parenting stress and lower household income, with child screen exposure and screen use paired with feeding in toddlers.

Unhealthy habits can start young: Infants, toddlers, and added sugars
A new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, published by Elsevier, found that nearly two-thirds of infants (61%) and almost all toddlers (98%) consumed added sugars in their average daily diets, primarily in the form of flavored yogurts (infants) and fruit drinks (toddlers).

How does playing with other children affect toddlers' language learning?
Toddlers are surprisingly good at processing the speech of other young children, according to a new study.

New study shows toddlers are great at getting the conversation started
Conversation is an important part of what makes us human.

Study examines reliability of early diagnoses of ASD in toddlers
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is common in children and is, on average, generally detected and treated by about age 4.

Does story time with an e-book change how parents and toddlers interact?
Traditional print books may have an edge over e-books when it comes to quality time shared between parents and their children, a new study suggests.

Read More: Toddlers News and Toddlers Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.