Research published in the journal Cognitive Science has found that toddlers with parents that played with them using humor and fantasy gained increased skills for learning, imagining and bonding, along with thinking in abstract ways.
The researchers tested children between 16 and 24 months old in two phases. The first utilized action play among 25 kids and the second utilized verbal play among 40 children. The parents and children pretended to do activities such as washing their hands with no soap or creating situations using a toy.
During the second phase, the children and parents played around jokingly by using words, identifying things in funny ways and making believe they were doing things.
The researchers found that joking and pretend play allowed the kids to distinguish cues that helped them communicate and develop skills to understand intentions. The study also found that older toddlers relied more on verbal cues to understand pretending and joking communications.