This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

I believe that seeing children smile or laugh are two of the top of the things that bring joy for most caregivers.  I know how much I adore my son’s hysterical laugh and how hilarious my daughter’s little “I want to laugh too” chuckle is.  We as caregivers often judge how effective we are or how much our kids are enjoying life based on the amount of smiles and laughter that we see.  One surefire way I have noticed to bring out the happy, smiley faces in my children is to use silly voices or talk in a high-pitched, funny tone.  

One of my favorite memories from when my son was a bit younger was playing a crazy game of swatting ball pit balls all around the room.  I think the main reason my son enjoyed it so much was not just because of the balls flying everywhere and bouncing off of things, but because I would say silly things in a ridiculous voice as I swatted the balls around the room.  Sometimes it was nonsensical words that I made up in my head, other times it was yelling “PAPAYA!!!” as loud and as high-pitched as I could.  Whatever the silly word was, I could count on hearing that adorable, hysterical laugh.

My daughter loves it too!  Whenever we tickle her little toes we raise our voices much higher than usual and say “Tickle, tickle, tickle!”  She enjoys it so much that she will tickle ours or her brothers’ or even characters in a book’s toes and say “ticka, ticka, ticka!”  It’s one of the cutest things and clearly something that she can’t get enough of.

Using a silly voice or talking in a really high pitch isn’t something most of do in our day-to-day lives so it may feel a bit uncomfortable or embarrassing if you’re just trying it for the first time.  But, I can assure you that most children think it is hilarious and may even feel more connected with you as they may feel like you are meeting them at their level.  So next time you are looking for a way to connect with your child…maybe just grab that bucket of ball pit balls (or any other type of soft ball or toy you have lying around), sit in the middle of the floor and get ready to swat and shout “PAPAYA!”

This is fatherhood…