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We have a rule here at Horse Boy. If the child you are working with has not laughed in the last five minutes it's time to do a silly dance, fart or make up a ridiculous song. Why? Because laughter promotes communication, trust, attention and above all oxytocin.

I first became aware of the power of humor when I was attempting to teach Rowan about the human body in my early days as his teacher. It wasn't going very well. That is until we got to the human digestive system. When I mentioned poo he instantly became alert and asked me to repeat what I had just said. That evening he went home and told his amazed parents exactly what was happening to their chicken as they ate it. And it didn't stop there. Suddenly he was interested in what the heart, lungs and kidneys did as well.

Since that day I have used poo more times than I can count to pique Rowan's interest in a topic. That is after all my only real job. If I can get him interested in something he will do the rest. We started chemical reactions through farts and periods of history through the invention of the toilet. We pooed our way through the periodic (or should I say pooiodic) table and worked out how many poos each of animals does each day on average. If there /was a way to relate what we were learning back to poo we did (and believe me if you get creative there always is).

Humor is also your friend and ally when you are trying to ease a child through a difficult transition, help them cope with a disappointment or teach them a new and seemingly arbitrary social convention. Humor takes the pressure off the child and protects them from too much emotional upset or from being burdened with a sense of shame.  For example Rowan is heading ever closer to puberty and the time has come for him to start wearing deodorant. Rather than shame him into thinking there is something wrong with how he smells or force something new onto him 'just because' we used humor and no pressure strategies to help show him that deodorant is part of life and nothing to be scared of. We create a stink-0-meter for one of our working students who claimed she was worried that she was getting sweaty armpits and asked her to try a different thing under her arms each week. She went though corn starch, baking soda and talcum powder before finally using deodorant which of course gave her the lowest score on the stink-o-meter.

So next time you are stuck for ideas do something silly. If a child is laughing they are open to learning and communication.

Live free, Ride free and Laugh free everyone.