|See that monkey? That was me|
with kids before I had my own.
Before I had kids of my own I was soooo awkward with children. Like scary awkward. Like ‘why-is-she-holding-my-baby-like-Rafiki-held-Simba-during -the-intro-to-The-Lion-King?’ awkward. I just didn’t know what to do with them. Scratch that – let’s be honest - I was afraid of looking stupid. Which in turn resulted in me looking even stupider. The trick to being good with kids is that you have to purposefully make yourself look stupid to adults. That is the only way to get kids to trust you and, if you are lucky, crack a smile instead of treating you as if you were Freddy Krueger.
Why is it important for non-parents to be non-awkward with kids? Because if you are able to get a kid to like you, their parents will love you. Also, if you are a guy, this helps you score major bonus points with the ladies – remember Uncle Jesse from Full House? Need I say more?
So in the interests of helping out the child-challenged adults out there, I have compiled a list of guaranteed ways to make a child laugh – specifically, a child between 9 months and 2 years, which I have found is the age group that is most awkward for adults to interact with. The key is to remember that a child will love you if they think they are smarter than you are. Which, come to think of it, is probably why my husband is naturally so great with kids. Anyway, my point is, it is really not all that hard to get kids to like you. Just try:
1. Peek-a-boo – This child pleasing classic is always a safe way to get some giggles. Kids love it and it is a well-known game, so the looking-stupid factor is reduced. But if you are going to try it you have to fully commit to the role, which means making crazy surprised faces and saying stupid lines like `where did (insert baby name here) go?’ If you a had bad experiences in your childhood that involved getting whacked upside the head during a game of peek-a-boo, thereby making you averse to the classic hide-behind-your-hands version, you can always play peek-a-boo by hiding a favourite toy or stuffed animal and asking the child ‘where did (insert object name here) go?’ and make a big show out of looking for it. The only problem is that most of the time kids like this game so much that you will be forced to play it over and over until watching Barney actually sounds like a good idea.
2. Pretend something stinks - Typically this is a technique used to keep a child engaged when you are trying to change their diaper, which, as any parent will tell you, is important because it stops them from trying to play with their own feces. However, this game also works well if you pretend to smell their feet and then make exaggerated “Phee-ew!” noises complete with hand-fanning and nose-holding. This may not be the best option if you are trying to show-off your non-awkward kid skills in the line at the grocery store as you may insult the parent by insinuating that their child stinks. My rule of thumb is, if you know where they live, it’s ok to pretend they smell.
3. Bring up Elmo – I really don’t think this needs a whole lot of explaining – whether you show a child Elmo, draw a picture of Elmo, impersonate Elmo or simply acknowledge that you know of Elmo you will automatically be ‘cool’ in the child’s eyes. If you carry around a picture of you and Elmo hugging it out (like I do) then you will attain a God-like status. With the kid that is. The parents will think you are a loser and will start screening your calls and deleting your emails until you befriend a more adult-friendly celebrity, at which point they will miraculously have much more free time.
4. Tickle – I left this for last because I wanted to make it clear that it is not ok to randomly tickle strange children. That is just creepy. This is exclusively for use with children who you are related to (or you or your children have thrown up on) and even then this should be used with discretion. My suggestion for making tickling cool is to take a clue from Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar and have your hand turn into The Claw or The Tickle Monster or whatever. The point is that you are no longer able to control that appendage and are forced to wrestle with your own arm to try and stop it from tickling. Think incredible hulk meets lamb chop. It’s fucked up, I know, but kids love it.
So next time you are stuck babysitting your niece or nephew, instead of feeding them candy and letting them watch TV until they look like zombies, try out one of the above methods of amusing the little ankle-biters and who knows? YOU may actually have some fun. Hey, at least you won’t have ‘The Circle of Life’ stuck in your head for the next three weeks. Damn Elton John and his catchy song writing abilities!