A new study conducted at the University of Sheffield in Britain shows that children as young as 16 months old learn important life skills from jokes and pretend play of parents.
"The study shows just how important play is to children's development. Parents who pretend and joke with their children offer cues to distinguish the difference between the two and toddlers take advantage of these cues to perform," said one of the researchers Elena Hoicka from the University of Sheffield in Britain.
"Knowing how to joke is good for maintaining relationships, thinking outside the box, and enjoying life. Pretending helps children to practice new skills and learn new information," she said. "So while parents may feel a bit daft putting a toy chicken on their head they can at least console themselves with the knowledge that they are helping their children develop important skills for life," Hoicka noted.
The researchers carried out two studies; one involved parents being asked to joke and pretend with their 16 to 20 month old children using actions. Jokes involved misusing objects like putting food on their heads and pretend play included activities like washing hands without soap or water.
In the second study, parents of 20 to 24 month olds were asked to joke and pretend verbally with their toddlers. Pretend play included parents telling their children a round block was a horse and jokes included mismatching items like saying that a toy chicken was a hat.
The researchers found that parents can offer explicit cues to help distinguish between joke and pretend intention contexts and children, even as young as 16 months old, pick up on those cues. The study was published in the journal Cognitive Science