Tag Archives: language development

Fun with Puns


What did the buffalo say to her son when he went to school?

Answer: bison.

You may roll your eyes at a pun like this (I know I do), but jokes can be great for language development of young readers.  If your child is in the phase of telling groan-inducing jokes, I’ve got a fun idea to turn this into a learning experience.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I spent time with two of my out-of-town nieces, Lydia (7) and Eva (5).  Within two minutes of arriving, they were showing me The Morris Family Favorite Joke Book, compiled and illustrated by them.  Their mom helps write some of the jokes, but now that Lydia has finished first grade, she also writes down the jokes she wants to add to the book.

I paged through the book with them, reading each joke while they supplied the punch-lines.  The answers were written upside down at the bottom of each page, but they didn’t need them.  They knew the jokes by heart and even explained to me why the joke was funny.  After I admired their illustrations, they told me new jokes they had thought up but hadn’t added yet.

Lydia has been into this kind of joke/pun for a while, and often thinks up new ones on her own.  Here is her most recent one: “What can you sew on Sunday? A hem (hymn).”  Eva has loved telling jokes since she was tiny and her jokes were funny only to her and didn’t have a punch line:  “What do you call a bear on a trampoline?” or “What do you call a dog driving a car?”  She now loves telling the jokes from the joke book and has learned a lot of new words and new meanings of words as she learns the jokes.  Her current favorite: “What does the fly say to the flypaper?  I’m stuck on you.”

Their family joke book is pretty simple– just a 3-ring binder with sheets of paper.  They just keep adding paper as needed.  Their mom made a fun cover for it and the girls like to leaf through the pages and add illustrations.  They think of new jokes all the time, and while some are better than others, it gives them a chance to talk with their parents about what words mean.  Lydia and Eva don’t know they are learning homophones (words that sound alike but have different meanings) and homonyms (words that share the same spelling but have different meanings).  They sometimes don’t understand why a pun is funny until they hear the explanation.  They are, however, learning a lot about how language works through these jokes.  If your kids love jokes and puns, you might try collecting them in a book that may become a treasured artifact of their childhood.

I hope your summer reading program is going well.  And while you are reading this summer, don’t forget—what does reading while sunbathing make you?  It makes you well, red.  (Sorry…couldn’t help it.)