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Are Children Not Having Enough Fun?

"The house is ruined to its foundation, yet the master thinks of painting the parlor."
—Persian proverb


In the September-October, 2002 issue of the Utne Reader (, Sophie Petite-Zerman explains how laughing can make us healthier and why children may not be laughing enough today:

"[Laughter is] undoubtedly the best medicine. For one thing, it's exercise. It activates the cardiovascular system, so heart rate and blood pressure increase, then the arteries dilate, causing blood pressure to fall again.... Muscle tension decreases, and indeed we may temporarily lose control of our limbs, as in the expression 'weak with laughter.'

"It may also release brain endorphins, reducing sensitivity to pain and boosting endurance and pleasurable sensations. Some studies suggest that laughter affects the immune system by reducing the production of hormones associated with stress, and that when you laugh, the immune system produces more T-cells....

"Laughter's social role is definitely important. I'm very concerned that today's children may be heading for a whole lot of social ills because their play and leisure time is so isolated, and they lose out on lots of chances for laughter.

"Staring at computer screens rather than laughing with each other is at odds with what's natural for children. Natural social behavior in children is playful, and in such situations laughter indicates that make-believe aggression is fun, not for real. This is an important way in which children form positive bonds, gain new social skills, and generally start to move from childhood to adulthood. Parents need to be careful to ensure that their children play in groups, with both peers and adults and laugh more."

For an in-depth look at laughter in the early childhood setting, check out the Beginnings Workshop on "Humor" in the Exchange Bookstore at

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