Parents fooling with kids give them headstart in life

London, Oct 28 (IANS) Parents who play the fool or pretend with their toddlers give their children a headstart in life.

Most parents are naturals at playing the fool with their kids, says new research project funded by London’a 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 tiny tots.

‘Parents, carers and early years educators shouldn’t underestimate the importance of interacting with young children through jokes and pretending,’ ESRC researcher 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.’

Hoicka’s study examined how the two very similar concepts of joking and pretending develop in children aged between 15 and 24 months, according to an ESRC statement.

Explaining the difference between joking and pretending, 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.’

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,’ Hoicka points out.