The good news: Your kid's days of bombarding you with knock-knock jokes may be waning. The not-so-good news? There's a whoopee cushion on your seat and you're about to sit on…oops, too late. “Starting at around age seven or so, many kids graduate from just telling jokes to actually playing pranks,” says Rondalyn Whitney, an occupational therapist and author in Towson, MD. Yes, it's annoying, but, as Whitney explains, it's actually a sign of healthy mental development: “Your child's showing you she can formulate and carefully execute a plan. She feels confident that she can manipulate her environment to make a certain eff ect on the world.” (Or sound eff ect, with that whoopee cushion.) It also gives her a big thrill, since she's the one calling the shots and doling out the surprises—a rare power play for a kid!
There's no better time for your child to do her thing than on April Fools' Day, of course, with a little help from you. Whitney, who ran a humor camp for children with autism, recommends reminding your kids that mean jokes are never funny. Instead, she suggests gentle ways to give pals or family members a surprise: “Put green food coloring in Dad's mashed potatoes, for instance,” she says. Or go on a website like kidzworld.com together, which lists a few other harmless practical jokes to try (super-glue coins to the sidewalk and watch people try to pick them up!).
Above all, don't let the fun end on April 2. “Joke around all year long,” Whitney says. “A good sense of humor will help your child all her life.”