My daughter started giggling before she started speaking.
“Mom, remember in that movie about the dogs and the cat trying to get home ["Homeward Bound" for the uninitiated] when the cat said, ‘Oh, you missed me butt-face.’ That was so funny, wasn’t it?”
Um. Yeah. I guess there’s a certain je ne sais quoi humor there.
Thankfully, I was spared an out-loud reply, since Connor, my five-year-old, launched into his own catalog of favorite lines and quips. It ended, as it always does, with a recitation of knock-knock jokes.
And I use the term joke loosely.
“Red truck who?”
”Red truck because Indiana Jones fell off his motorcycle.”
Studies have shown that humor is an important milestone in childhood development. Babies start to smile when they are only a few weeks old, and most are laughing at games like peek-a-boo or strawberries-on-the-tummy by the time they turn one.
By the time a child is old enough for kindergarten, he or she will laugh at physical comedy (which is the only explanation for “Tom & Jerry”) and loud burps at the dinner table. They will think it’s funny if a parent tries to put a sock on their ear or sing a song in a funny voice, both of which are out of ordinary for a world they now recognize has some order.
When they enter grade-school, kids make another developmental leap into logical and language humor. Enter the knock-knock joke.
Problem is, as most of us discover, the truly funny material is gone in about 90 seconds. Which leaves us with the dregs of the nonsensical jokes that make us wince and groan and eventually want to throw a few rotten tomatoes at the off-spring of our hearts.
Obviously, the best rule when dealing with kids and their jokes is to laugh first, think later. Just as we don’t expect a seven-year-old to enjoy an evening of Shakespeare, we don’t expect a five-year-old to have the wit of G.K. Chesterton.
Still, there’s nothing in the rulebook that says we can’t help them along with a few well-placed jokes that contain, you know, actual humor.
So let’s do each other a favor today, and share your best knock-knock joke in the comments. It doesn’t have to be stellar. Just guaranteed to make a grade-schooler laugh.
“Irish you would stop telling knock-knock jokes and go wash your hands for dinner.”
Kelly makes jokes all the time at her personal blog, Love Well.