Make-Believe and Funny: Two Good Things

Featured Picture Book

DOCTOR TED by Andrea Beaty

(Available at your local public library or bookstores, including online stores.)

Ted bumps his knee and needs a doctor – or so he thinks – or maybe wishes. That is how Doctor Ted comes to be. Young Ted plays being a doctor to the fullest. He makes himself an office, prepares his bandages, and waits for his patients. The plot of the story? Getting patients for Doctor Ted. He examines his mother, friends, teacher, and school principal. All very unwilling patients. He offers one silly treatment after another making this story one laugh after another. For example, crutches for the mumps and an operation for the measles. The story’s plot thickens a real live playground accident causes the principal to call for a doctor. Doctor Ted is there lickety-split. He bandages the patient. The emergency workers agree Doctor Ted did a good job. That was it – just what Dr. Ted needed. He could now give up being a doctor. He is ready to move on to a new job. When Ted wakes up in the morning alarmed by the smell from the kitchen – he knows what he will become. Can you guess what it is?

Parenting Thoughts

Pretend Play

Dr. Mom:  Pretending is very important in the life of children. Some parents worry when pretending becomes as real to the child as it was in DOCTOR TED, but it is usually nothing for parents to worry about.

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Active imagination in children is something very good. Pretend play is what children need to develop their imaginations. Just like you have to exercise your muscles to be able to run a race, children need to exercise the imagination part of their brains to become creative, artistic people. Note that our children need much more of this creativity than we did in order to be successful in their careers as adults.

Make-believe also allows children to make decisions about how they should act. Will they be powerful? Will they be a follower? What will they do when they’re disappointed? When they are excited? How far will they go to get what they want – like Dr. Ted trying to get patients.

Pretend allows them to try out different ways to get and keep friends as well as to try out adult jobs they want to explore and know more about – like Ted tried out being a doctor.

Darling Daughter:  One of Ezzy’s favorite pretend games was restaurant. Chef Ezzy was a one-woman show – she was waitress and chef all rolled into one. I would ask her what was on the menu, and she would make up funny combinations. Or, sometimes it was me who would order crazy combinations. The crazier the order the more fun she had. By the end of playtime I didn’t want to make another decision for the rest of the day. Ha ha.

Pretend Versus Real

As children become better and better pretenders, they need to also learn to tell the difference between what is real and what is pretend. Even when a person has a wonderful imagination, that person can and needs to know what things are real and what things are pretend.

We didn’t have that problem with “Chef Ezzy!” Neither one of us was expecting asparagus milkshakes for dessert after dinner.

Adults can help with this. Does it mean that adults can’t play along and pretend with the child? No, there’s nothing better than having adults become part of the pretend play. But, adults can let the child know when they are pretending and when they are not. For example, you can say, “I would love to play with you and pretend you are the doctor.” You can say, “I’m done pretending now.” You can say, “We’re not playing pretend right now, so you need to stop bandaging me for now.” For more information about make- believe and keeping it real see That Special Gift – Part 2.

Career Awareness 

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Children are fascinated by jobs. Mother Goose’s “Three Men In A Tub” wasn’t so popular just because of the rhyme. Remember that the three men weren’t just any three men. They were men with occupations and skills – a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker. Even very young children are interested in what people do, and it is never too early to help them know more about careers and work.

We had our own version of three women in a tub: a ballerina, a mermaid, and a paleontologist. Say that 10 times fast – ha! Still makes me laugh.

It’s a good idea to let your child see as many examples of what people do as possible. And, make sure they get to see behind the scenes of those jobs anytime you can – so they know what a police officer really does all day. So they know that a pilot has to do a lot of paperwork and checking of the plane’s safety before he can actually fly the plane.

Lots of dress-up clothes connected to occupations are a good idea for young children. That helps them explore what jobs are all about. It also helps them create new combinations of jobs, like my granddaughter’s mermaid archeological ballerina. And, by the way, do anything you can to encourage both girls and boys to pretend being all the different jobs – boy dancers, girl race car drivers, etc. At this age, they need to believe all things are possible.

Have you ever thought that preschoolers were using pretend play to explore their future career? Was that what Ted was doing in DOCTOR TED? Watching their play today could give you a clue as to what their future work will be – at least one part of their future work. All those dress up clothes and all that pretend play – who knows what it can lead to.

Remember that the world of work has changed amazingly over the last 30 years. Future workers may have as many as half a dozen different careers in their lifetime.

Yes, I think I am the poster child for that career path!

 And, thank goodness you are!

So, that famous question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is not really the best question nowadays.  Even if their answer ended up being their first job, it will not likely be their only job. For more information about kids and careers see Preschoolers – Who Are They? Part 2.

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Children need to start early to think of careers in terms of many possibilities, not just one. I suggest you start asking your children, “What are three things you want to do when you grow up?” It will encourage them to think they have lots of things they can do in the future. How exciting is that?  If they want to be both a ballerina and a firefighter – they can.


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Humor is good for kids. It is something they learn rather than something they are born with. They develop a sense of humor one step at a time. It is not something that just appears when they reach a certain age. Let’s talk about some of those steps.

Kids can start to laugh at a pretty early age (months before their first birthday) – usually from physical types of play like tickling or peek-a-boo. In the beginning, kids need physical clues to laugh at because they don’t know much about words. They will laugh at falling down, how people look (funny faces or wearing clothes in funny ways).

Next, words become part of what is funny. They will laugh when silly words are used or unusual sounds are made. What makes them funny is that the sounds in the words are different than how children usually hear them. For example, “ooey gooey,” “bug-a-boo,” and “squiggly wiggley.” They hear ooh, bug, and wiggle often enough, but ooey gooey, bug-a-boo, and squiggly wiggley changes the sounds just enough to make them funny.

Later, all things unexpected or different than usual might make them laugh – things out of order or not true – like backwards, upside down, or inside out things. For example, the crutches for the mumps and an operation for the measles in DOCTOR TED.

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And after awhile, kids will start trying to make you laugh. This is when it is important for you to laugh with them – funny or not.

That would be my Grandma D and my Lil’ Sis. Oh the memories I have of Lovely Lil’ Sis performing stand up routines with made up jokes and Grandma D laughing herself silly listening to them! “Why did the hamster cross the road? Because he wanted a peanut butter sandwich.” This is the type of joke I’m talking about here, and Grandma D loved every one. Lil’ Sis beamed at her great ability to make up funny jokes or at least her ability to make someone else laugh. It’s a very fond memory for me.

Read All About It

GROWING UP AGAIN, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson


 Surf the Internet:
  • jokes for kids
  • humor in kids
  • pretend play
  • make-believe
  • career awareness for kids
  • imagination

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