Making Kids Giggle: 14 Tricks for Funny Children’s Books

From silly faces to surprising words, here’s the inside scoop on how to write hilarious books that kids will love!

Want to crack up kids? These tips come straight from the front lines – 28 children’s books and over a million giggles from real kids (and their grown-ups!). But here’s the thing: humor is like a sneaky fart or fancy wine – it’s not always easy to figure out.

So, what’s the secret sauce? Think of it as a conversation: your body language, your words, and how you deliver them. In children’s books, that means using both words AND pictures, all wrapped up in a funny story. It’s a three-pronged attack on those funny bones!

Body Language: It’s not just about the words!

  • Faces: Think epic despair, sneaky grins, puppy-dog eyes, or that classic side-eye. Bill Watterson, the genius behind Calvin and Hobbes, is a master of funny faces. Check out his work for inspiration!
  • Bodies: Slumped shoulders, upside-down hanging, and funky dance moves all speak volumes. In the Cosmic Adventures of Astrid and Stella, those best frenemies use their whole bodies to tell us exactly how they feel.

What You Say: Words are powerful!

  • Creative Contrasts: Take a simple idea and turn it upside down! Kids love surprising comparisons, like “I love you more than undies love butts!” (a favorite from my book, Bananas for You!). It’s unexpected, silly, and even makes you think a bit differently about undies and butts!
  • Kid Logic: Kids have their own unique way of seeing the world. Capture that in your writing! Lines like “I hate naps!” or “My dad is smarter than a super smartypants!” are hilarious because they’re so relatable to kids, even if they don’t make sense to grown-ups.

How You Say It: Delivery is key!

  • Word Play: Kids love puns, jokes, silly sounds, and tongue twisters. Make language fun! In The Cosmic Adventures of Astrid and Stella, a character yells, “No, no, no with a double topping of NO!” This is a playful way to show just how strongly she feels.
  • Word Choice: Some words are just funny to say. “Bananas,” “squirm,” “toot” – these words are silly and make kids giggle. Even better if you can make them rhyme!
  • Hyperbole: Exaggeration is hilarious! Kids love hearing about big, crazy things. Try phrases like “a ton of puppies!” or “a pile of pancakes as tall as a house!”
  • Visual Puns: Pair your words with funny pictures for double the laughs. For example, a robot holding a rubber chicken while saying “someone’s in a fowl mood” is a classic visual pun.

More Ways to Tickle Those Funny Bones:

  • Situations: Think of your favorite sitcoms. They’re funny because of the wacky situations the characters get into. In Thanks a Ton!, a little elephant tries to express his gratitude with a pile of random stuff, including a crocodile and a kitchen sink! Now that’s a funny situation.
  • Pushing Boundaries: Kids love to test limits. In Goodnight Baboon!, the mischievous baboon causes bedtime chaos, which is hilarious because it’s something most parents can relate to (and maybe even secretly enjoy a little!).
  • Engaging the Reader: Invite your readers to be part of the joke! At the end of ABC Dance!, the book asks, “Hey, is that YOUR toe tapping? Well c’mon, strut your stuff!” It makes the reading experience interactive and fun.

Three More Secrets to Side-Splitting Humor:

  • Respect the Reader: Don’t talk down to kids. Treat them like the smart, funny people they are.
  • Respect Yourself: Be confident in your humor! If you can laugh at yourself (in a kind way), kids will laugh with you.
  • Have a Heart: It’s all about laughing with characters, not at them. We want to empower kids, not make fun of them. So instead of showing a kid getting hit with a banana peel, show them slipping and landing in a funny pose – then bouncing back up!

Great humor helps us cope with the ups and downs of life. Kids need that, now more than ever. As a children’s book author, you have the amazing opportunity to bring laughter and hope into their lives. Remember, as the wise narrator says in Hang in There!, “Where there is humor, there is hope!”