There are things that we naturally forget as we grow up. We forget that tying our shoes is a miracle, that mastering the potty is worthy of awards. We forget how fun it is to play with our food or to dance, just because you want to. And sometimes, we even forget how to smile.

Luckily for me, I am one of those few, that insists on growing up, without forgetting. From talking about superheroes to riding my bicycle to work, I love being around children not just to teach them, but to learn from them.

 But, why is a sense of humor important in child development, anyway? Will it really make a difference in your child’s life? A well-developed sense of humor allows children to be happier and more optimistic. Their self-esteem will rise for it, and be more resilient, which will lead to a better reaction to stressful situations. We’ve all heard how people who laugh more are healthier, and as studies continue to show, there is a definite correlation between a better heart, and your overall health, just from smiling.

Interestingly, research also shows that a sense of humor is learned, not inherited. What this means, for us, is that yes, it will make a big difference. Showing empathy when a child is sad, and modeling towards a happy attitude, is not just realistic, it’s strategic. Recognizing that our children also feel emotions, also seek recognition, and also need a sense of belonging, will allow you to better connect with your child. Laughing at their jokes, and even taking it a step further, by making yourself the pun of the joke, is a bonding experience on its own. Children feel relieved when they see an adult get down on their level.

 When a child walks into my classroom, I always try to make them smile. Not, by asking them, but by allowing them to determine humor on their own terms. Being silly means more than just smiling a lot. It means letting your child look into the eyes of a peer, and to feel understood. To feel at ease. It’s hard to be intimidated or afraid, with a smile on your face, and many a “first day of school” have taught me this. Silliness means empowering, by showing your child that it’s okay to not be perfect.

So, ride a bike! Sing some songs! Make a fort out of blankets, and dance, even when everybody’s looking. Because the most important person that does look will be your child. And, those silly moments, are worth more than gold.