Why Do Children Act Silly or Show Off?

Photograph by Jeff Woodward.Sometimes, we forget that the children we teach are just that—children. Humor, silliness, playfulness, and showing off are hallmarks of childhood, and we should expect to experience some at every grade.

Just for the fun of it

Children often act silly or show off because these are ways to have fun. They literally need to giggle with friends over something silly that happened, make funny faces that crack everyone up, or tell jokes. Knock-knock jokes in younger grades grow into puns in the middle grades which, in turn, give rise to jokes with innuendo by sixth grade. Although what children find funny changes, most love humorous poems, songs, books, and movies throughout childhood.

For a sense of belonging

Joking and showing off also help children connect to those around them. Children who laugh together feel close to one another, even if only for a moment. For some students, a shared moment of laughter can lead to close friendships. Humor, whimsy, and entertaining others are powerful ways that children get to know each other and solidify their sense of belonging.

For a sense of significance

Showing off and telling jokes are also ways children gain a sense of importance. Some children may only feel special when they’re the center of attention. Being a little more dramatic, a little funnier, or a little more “wild and crazy” is a way for these students to stand out from the crowd.

Silliness, showing off, and child development

Although silliness and showing off appear in every grade, they tend to be more pronounced in first, third, and fifth grades, times when most children are experiencing intensive growth in social areas. In the grades where children tend to be consolidating social growth—second, fourth, and sixth grades—students might actually need their teachers to bring out their humor and help relieve some of the pressure they put on themselves.

Some Child Development Characteristics Related to Silliness and Showing Off

1st grade characteristics (ages 5–7):
  • Love jokes, riddles, guessing games
  • Active; need to move a great deal
  • Concerned with social issues
  • Very verbal; very social
Influence on silliness and showing off:
  • Need an audience to try out new jokes and humor
  • Want to impress certain classmates
  • May need more frequent social outlets than currently provided
3rd grade characteristics (ages 7–9):
  • Tire easily
  • Need to move a lot
  • Very social; concerned with social issues
  • Very verbal; like to explain things
Influence on silliness and showing off:
  • Need more chances to move
  • Are more concerned with social issues than academics
  • Need to process what they’re learning by talking
5th grade characteristics (ages 9–11):
  • Very social
  • Often expressive and talkative
Influence on silliness and showing off:
  • May need to joke and use humor to explain thinking
  • Want to maintain and develop friendships through joking or exaggerating personal strengths

Naturally, children in every grade sometimes make ill-timed jokes, lose themselves in silliness, and show off too much. It takes children time to develop their comedic timing and ability to share center stage. With your guidance, they can learn to channel their natural desire for fun into productive (and still enjoyable) learning.

Tags: 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, Child Development

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