Inside: Is getting your children to SMILE for photos an uphill struggle? Discover the one question guaranteed to make them grin every single time. Plus everything you need to host a side-splitting family standup comedy night.
Picture this. You’re on vacation. It’s one of those perfect family days. No bickering. No squabbling. NOT even the occasional whine.
Together, you get the campfire hot enough to toast marshmallows, put the thousandth piece in the jigsaw puzzle, or reach the summit in the pouring rain.
High fives all round!
You whip out your camera to capture the moment.
At least one child’s face falls or pouts or pulls the ugliest face in the history of all ugly faces.
Worst. Picture. Ever.
Sounds familiar? I feel your pain.
How on earth can we get our children to smile for pictures?
Getting kids to smile for photos is an uphill struggle
Recently, on holiday in Colorado, we hopped from foot to foot in our excitement to climb a mountain in a cable car.
“Say cheeeese!” said my husband, phone poised.
My seven-year-old son’s face dropped, and the hopping stopped.
I poked, pleaded, and cajoled. Finally, I picked him up and
s q u e e z e d.
The result? A forced smile – pinched face, pursed lips, and not a single laughter line in sight.
8 1/2 Reasons why we need to smile every day
Back in the day, I listed ‘smiling’ as one of my hobbies on MySpace. Yes, really! But it was a good pastime to have. And grinning still makes a difference to how I feel.
Yesterday, I found a great article on the reasons why we should smile daily.
Research shows, SMILING …
- Improves your mood
- Reduces stress
- Makes you more approachable
- Retrains your brain for a more positive outlook
- Strengthens the body
- Increases productivity
- Boosts creativity
- And, it’s contagious
– So, you can share these benefits with your friends and family
8.5 PLUS, researchers found “even fake smiles do the trick”. A “forced smile can still make you feel happy”.
But squeezing a GENUINE SMILE out of my child is still top of my priority list.
5 Things guaranteed to make your kids grin
1. Funny Audio Books
On our Colorado road trip, we listened to I Funny by James Patterson. It’s about middle-schooler, Jamie Grimm, who wants to become the world’s greatest standup comedian. He funny!
Your children will beg you to get the next one in the series (mine did, non-stop).
Other guaranteed-to-make-them-grin audio recommendations include:
- All of Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine books
- Anything written (and read) by David Walliams
- The Tapper Twins series by Geoff Rodkey
- Old-school Just William stories by Richmal Crompton
2. Joke books
I bought my son a joke book on vacation. The kid wouldn’t put it down.
Even car sickness couldn’t stop him.
Want to hear your children giggle in the backseat? Give them this:
It’s the mother of all kids’ joke books—an all-encompassing, gut-busting, and bestselling collection of more than 1,700 jokes, tongue-twisters, riddles, and puns for all occasions.
We’re also fans of:
- National Geographic Kids: Just Joking (jokes, tongue twisters, riddles, and photos)
- The Big Book of Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids by Rob Elliott (Big = comprehensive)
- Knock Knock Who’s There: My First Book of Knock Knock Jokes by Tad Hills (good for little ones)
Joke books increase literacy skills, inspire a love of reading, and develop a child’s sense of humour – keys to academic, professional, and social success.
A child who can easily tap his funny bone is more likely to make strong friendships, be well-liked by peers, and as an adult get along with colleagues at work, manage frustration, diffuse conflict, and suffer less from depression. A sense of humor is also linked to intelligence, self-esteem, creativity, and problem solving.
Put a stack of joke books by their bed. When you creep in to switch off the light, they’ll be fast asleep with one clutched in their hand.
No need to elaborate. You get the gist.
5. Family Standup Comedy Night
We stole this idea from The Flying Seagull Project. Their clowns perform at festivals in the summer to fund trips to put smiles on the faces of marginalized children all winter. The best kind of folk.
Here’s our take on their children’s standup comedy show.
List of props
To transform simple joke-telling into a family night to remember, supply the following items:
- Adult-sized sports jacket with rolled-up sleeves (1 per child, if possible)
- Laurel & Hardy style hat
- Makeshift mic
- hairbrush, wooden spoon, banana
- Sunglasses (optional)
- helps even the shyest children stand up
- Your best cheesy comedy compere voice
FREE printables at the end of this post add to the fun: poster, tickets, and Laugh & Applause signs.
Get your kids warmed up with showbiz style intros:
- “A legend in their own living room, please welcome to the stage…”
- “Give a warm round of applause for comedy genius… ”
- “All the way from the sofa, our next BIG comic…”
PRO TIP: Encourage them to take turns to come up and tell one joke at a time – they’re less likely to forget the punchlines.
If you can drum up a comedy snare and cymbal crash after each gag, so much the better.
Even if the jokes are old or bodged or plain unfunny, the sight of your kids performing in a much-too-big jacket will make everyone SMILE.
But, unless you can fart or burp on demand
None of those 5 guaranteed smile-makers will help when you’re at the bottom of the mountain with your phone poised.
Or maybe they will…
Today, I wanted to take a picture to send for Grandma’s birthday.
I was about to say “Smile!” when I had a brainwave.
“What’s your best joke ever?”
He delivered it like a pro. And then he smiled.
Best. Picture. Ever.
How do you get your kids to smile for photos? Simple. Ask them to tell you their favourite joke. Works every single time.
PRO TIP: If your child laughs, WAIT. The smile that comes the split second after they stop is GOLDEN.
Best. Joke. Ever. (according to my 7-year-old)
A boy went to the zoo.
All it had in it was one dog.
It was a Shih Tzu.
Hahahahaha! (Half of me was appalled, the other half laughed out loud.)
What’s YOUR child’s best joke ever?
Click here to print your poster, tickets, and Laugh & Applause signs, and give your family standup comedy night a little something extra. Enjoy!
I write about parenting problems and the picture books we used to solve them.
Other articles you might like:
- When is the RIGHT TIME to STOP Reading Aloud?
- How to STOP Your Little Ones LYING to You Forever
- How to Raise GRATEFUL Kids in an Ungrateful World
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Let’s raise HAPPY literate humans.