“What do you really need for Christmas?”

I was trying to help children understand the difference between needing and wanting things. I asked a preschooler, “Is the toy in the picture something you want or something you need for Christmas?” He looked at it for a long time and said, “I really, really need that toy because it’s what I really, really want.”

Is there a toy you really need?

Is there a toy you really need?

Wants and needs are too abstract for preschoolers. Ironically, they are often too abstract for many adults. In America, we have cars that cost often more than food and housing in other countries. We have televisions that have 500 channels and the ability to watch anything at anytime. We have gadgets that promise to make our lives easier, yet ultimately they clutter our basements and garages. We have electronics that seem obsolete in a matter of a few years. Something we think we want today often becomes something we do not even like in a matter of a few months.

The lines of wanting and needing become blurred in our thinking. We want what we want, and we expect what we need. It gets even more complicated when those things we wanted so much eventually become burdens in our lives. The happiness we thought we would gain from getting what we want wanes, and we search for a new desire. If we could remain happy with what we have, we would not have as many wants and maybe, just maybe we could really, really need what we really, really want.

  •  What in your life right now do you think you really, really want?
  • How do you know that getting what you really, really want make will make you really, really happy?
  • Have you had a time when getting something did not keep you really, really happy?
  • Will you think about giving someone else something that may surprise him or her and bring great joy?
  • What could help you remain happy in what you have?

“Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get.” Ingrid Bergman

“Why did the turkey cross the road?”

I asked a preschooler, “Why did the turkey cross the road?” He said, “My grandma tried to tell me it was because the chicken had a day off. I LAUGHED at her because that is NOT the right answer. Chickens walk around off the road and on the road, they don’t have days just off! I sometimes have stuff I need to teach to my grandma!”

Turkeys walking can make you smile.

Turkeys walking can make you smile.

The humor of a preschooler is different from that of an adult.  Research online says preschoolers laugh about 400 times a day while adults laugh only about 17. That is a huge difference. Preschoolers have the innate ability to laugh at almost anything. They see humor where adults do not.

If you try to tell a group of preschoolers a “Knock, Knock Joke”, be prepared to take some time. They will want to share their own jokes back with you. They will consist of things like, “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Turkey. Turkey who? Gobble, Gobble, Gobble.”  Then enormous laughter will erupt which will lead another child to try their version of a joke that no adult understands yet every preschooler wants to literally roll on the floor with laughter. It will become the oddest comedy club anyone could imagine.

Preschoolers laugh when people trip on their shoelaces.  They laugh when a door squeaks or someone sneezes or when they see themselves in a mirror. They laugh when you can’t find them in hide and seek. They laugh when you do find them in hide and seek. They laugh at times adults just cannot understand.

Since laughter is contagious, what adults can do is try to catch as much of it as possible. Research shows laughter leads to reductions in stress hormones. While laughing, the brain can also release endorphins that can help ease physical pain. Laughing boosts the number of antibody-producing T-cells that help build a stronger immune system. A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, relaxes muscles and gives the heart a good workout as well as contracting abdominal muscles. More good news is that just thinking about laughing can have positive benefits.

Yoga laughing classes, Laughing Clubs and humor therapy in hospitals are all becoming more popular as the world understands the need for laughter. There is so much new research for something that a preschooler has already programmed into them. Laughing is something preschoolers can easily teach adults.

So back to that turkey story….. “Why did the turkey cross the road?” The preschooler’s response, “I don’t  know why the turkey crossed the road, but I know he is very happy. The farmer has not caught him, and he is still ready to play.” I asked,”Did your grandma like that answer?” The preschooler said, “My grandma started to laugh. She gave me a big hug and told me I make her happy. I TOLD her the turkey was the happy one. See, there is a lot of stuff I still need to teach my grandma.”

  • What is something you really laughed hard about in your life? (Remember, just thinking about laughing is good for you!)
  • Why do you think people don’t laugh as much as a preschooler?
  • Will you take a day and try to add more laughter to it?

“You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.” Michael Pritchard

“The power of a preschooler will change your life…..if you let it.”