It’s a Funny Thing: A Gifted Child’s Sense of Humor

What did the constipated ketchup say?



Have you ever wondered who makes up all of the jokes we hear nearly every day? The classics, the riddles, the knock-knock jokes—all of them had to be the handiwork of some very funny people. I’m pretty sure those jokes were in fact made up by some exceedingly clever people who possess an uncommon wit and extraordinary grasp of language—a talent for words. Do you know one of these gifted comedians?

A sense of humor well beyond his or her years, and an advanced ability to manipulate and play with words are both characteristics of the verbally gifted child.1 This is not an often talked about gifted characteristic most likely because when we think about intellectual giftedness we are more likely to concentrate on achievement and advanced academic skills. Joke-creation is just not one of those skills we focus on while our gifted child is in school.

Does your child make up his own jokes or puns? Does he keep you in stitches with his riddles, puns and play on words? Our verbally-gifted little comedians can make life so joyful or embarrassing, depending on what comes out of their mouthes. And yes indeed, gifted little boys always seem to make up jokes with the same toilet-talk theme; take it from me, I have three boys. But I do have a word of warning about your gifted little jokester: be ready to be the butt of a few of his jokes!

My youngest gifted comic, when he was six years old and in the 1st grade, loved to practice his verbal giftedness in class—often, annoyingly and at inopportune times. After discussing this behavior with his teacher, we came up with a reward system to help him moderate his verbal exuberance in class.

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On one particular ignominious day, because there were many, my son had earned a reward for curbing his chatting in class that week. His reward was a trip to his favorite bakery for their famous gelato, so I promptly brought my little chatterbox to redeem his hard-earned cup of his favorite frozen treat. One special clerk at the bakery was privy to the bribery scheme—I mean reward system, and he was always quick to encourage my son to rein in his vocal chords in class.

This particular day just happened to be my birthday and I was looking at birthday cakes for myself because—well, let’s just say I have a very forgetful husband. The clerk handed my 6 year old his little cup of gelato while jokingly asking him, “Do you know how old your mom is?”  I’m sure the clerk never expected my son to know the right answer, he had just turned six after all. But, lucky (or not) for me, my son knew the exact answer, and just because of the kind of comedic kid he was, he felt it would be both appropriate and immensely humorous to provide more information than just my age.

He belted it all out like this: “Of course I know my mom’s age. She is 48 years old, as in really old, but she always wants to pretend she is thirty!”

OUCH, that sure stung! I was burning up with humiliation. And this time, I was not pretending I was 30 years old, I was pretending that I was not profoundly embarrassed, and I was wishing very hard that this did not just happen. Did he really just spout out that little gem with half the town standing in the checkout line behind us listening, hands tightly cupped over their mouths trying valiantly to hold back their amusement while waiting to pay for their pastries?

Yes, yes indeed he did. Isn’t a gifted child’s sense of humor a truly funny, and sometimes embarrassing thing?

What do you call a fresh cut Christmas tree that drinks a lot of water?

An aquaholic.


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Knock Knock

Who’s There?

I eat mop

I eat mop who?



Do you have a verbally-gifted child who has made you smile, laugh, or die of embarrassment? Do you have some humorously embarrassing stories to tell about something she said or did that is funny now, but wasn’t then? How about sharing some of those jokes your child has spontaneously created? Please share with all of us. I know I would selfishly love to hear your stories just so I know I am not the only one who has been deeply mortified by my own gifted little jokesters!

  1.  “Characteristics of Gifted Children: A Closer Look”,  Amend Psychological Services



This post is the first in The Gifted Lagniappe SeriesFollow all of the posts in this series to learn more about some of the quirks and traits of gifted children.

 The Gifted Lagniappe Series

16 Comments on “It’s a Funny Thing: A Gifted Child’s Sense of Humor

  1. So I recently had my son absolutely shock me with his humour.

    He is 2.25 years old. I was quietly rocking with him just before he was going to go into bed. The lights were off and I had just given him a bottle of milk. For his ease of drinking I scooped up his legs in a cradle hold.

    He immediately announced: “I’m a baby.”
    To which I replied. “No, you are not a baby.”
    He again said “I am a baby.”
    So I changed tactics and tried some logic. “No, you are not a baby. Babies can’t talk and you can talk.”
    His response was instant. “No, I can’t talk…..”
    2 seconds later he burst out full on laughing. This went on for at least 30 seconds straight. At that point he gasped out “I can talk” and then lapsed back into laughter. He did this several more times.

    I had no idea somebody just over 2 could understand irony and also appreciate the comedy of it.

    • Our little gifted bundles of joy and amazement! But, you are so right, it is unbelievable how a 2-year old can understand the irony and humor of what he was saying. You had me giggling out loud to myself!

      Thanks for sharing this ray of sunshine!

  2. When my daughter was somewhere between 2 – 2 1/2 we were eating tomato soup for lunch. She, of course, still ate such a potentially sloppy meal with a bib, but my four year old son did not, thought maybe he should have. When I looked over at him and the red mess all over his shirt I said, “It looks like you need a bib instead of your sister.” Without missing a beat and grinning from ear to ear, my toddler removed her bib, handed it to her brother and said, “Here, this is for you.” I was rolling!

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  4. While loading my food shopp on to the belt in good old M&S I sheepishly hid the pre-prepared child meals I’d chosen for my daughter Ava who was 15 months at the time. As they bleeped over the scanner Ava moaned ‘ not bloody mighty meaty pasta again… in the microwave and it’s all ready to go ‘
    I nearly died on the spot as she shook her little head in despair!!!!

    • Jackie,

      Oh my goodness, THAT is funny! I can so picture you in the check out line with Ava shaking her head! Thanks SO MUCH for sharing this!

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  6. Yes! Thank you for this post. It’s so nice to know I am not alone.

    Cecil, one day while shopping at Kohls in the women’s undergarment department, I noticed some people looking at me, chuckling, and then looking behind me. I mentally braced myself and turned around. My son had found the biggest bra and was pushing the cups in and out. He was semi serious and half laughing. He saw my facial expression of “what on earth are you doing” and proceeds to tell and show me “concave” and “convex”. He had learned these words and definitions the previous week.

    Does this qualify as hands on learning? LOL

    Sigh. :/

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  8. When he was one and bored waiting in line in quiet stores, he would amuse himself by yelling “mommy is ugly!” and nearly chocking with laughter. He would proclaim every non-yellow thing yellow, and every yellow object blue, smirking. He would count and insert a wrong number and go “HUH?!?!” and burst out laughing.
    When he was mostly pre-verbal, he would pretend to offer me a toy and when I reached out to accept, run away with it, giggling.

  9. Hi Celi; Did you know, modern electronics now allow orchestra leaders to work part time?

    They’re semi-conductors.

    Ouch, Well, I have the — THE — family reputation for punstering. And I have “fans’; my former sister-in-law (still very much part of the family) and her eldest daughter, my niece who, sadly, passed away last summer.

    And I have always been like that; puns, witticisms, “clever:” comments. Interestingly, in high school, the ability to insult someone (usually a fairly brainless-wonder type) without them even realizing they’d been insulted till much later. That’s a good thing, when you are the shortest person in your gym class, a nerd and bookworm, not very athletic, surrounded by jocks, and there’s nowhere to run. Those time-delay insults meant I could insult someone, and by the time they realized I had insulted them, school would be over, and I would be safe at home.
    I love words. I was not such a huge fan of doing English in school. mainly because so much of it, in the higher levels (especially college) was too loosey-goosey for my tastes. I preferred biology or the “harder” social sciences, mainly psychology, especially neuropsych and evolutionary psych, because, though it gave me little opportunity for punsterism, gave me intellectually something to grab onto. English was too slippery, but gave me great opportunity to admire Shakespeare’s puns, just as a ‘for instance’.
    That brings me to another point. My mind (not boasting, it’s just a fact), was one of the very few to “get” Shakespeare’s puns. (example: from Romeo and Juliet: Mercutio’s in Act III, when he realizes he has been fatally wounded: “…ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” []). In many cases, while the other students were just trying to understand the language, I would be laughing aloud — and getting strange looks — as I’d laugh at some of the absurd puns Shakespeare made; and some of them would have been very vulgar and risque.
    No real downside. I think that my humour has gotten me out of far more bad situations, lightening the mood, or breaking the tension in a negative situation, than ever it got me into bad situations.. I’ve been recently hospitalized three times in the last three years, and having a sense of humour really made things easier for me, and my parents (who worried tremendously about me), and the nursing staff, who really seemed to enjoy my witticisms and puns.
    That’s as an adult. As a kid, sure, sometimes I could be inappropriate, or even accidentally rude, but that’s what childhood is about — “socializing” a child, helping them to navigate and ‘negotiate’ society’s rules. I now know that “discretion is the better part of valour”.
    And the difference between a kid punster and an adult? The adult knows when it’s appropriate that a bad pun never sees the light of day.

    • Hi John,

      Reading your post made me think that as a parent of gifted children, we seem to stress discretion many times over in our quest to help our kids moderate their gifted behavior, not just when it is appropriate to deliver a joke or not–when it is appropriate to correct someone, when it is appropriate to offer constructive criticism, and when to hold your tongue, even if it is the truth. “And the difference between a kid punster and an adult? The adult knows when it’s appropriate that a bad pun never sees the light of day”, is so true.

      Thank you, as always, John!

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