From the cheeky sound of a whoopee cushion to a spring-loaded spider rocketing from a jar, practical jokes are a popular way of poking harmless fun at others and getting a giggle.
And while some experts point out potential negatives, playing tricks can also relieve stress, raise a smile, strengthen relationships and even stir self-reflection.
So it’s little wonder that best-selling children’s author Matt Stanton has shaped his latest book around pranks for young jokesters.
Part of the hilarious Funny Kid book series, new release Prank Aliens is about a boy named Max who is searching for the greatest prank of all time.
“Pranks are always part of the Funny Kid books, but this time the pranking is dialled up to eleven,” Stanton said.
He said pranking in the home can build strong relationships and grow trust between parents and kids.
“Some of the best relationship-building moments I have with my own kids are when I enter into their space,” Stanton said.
“An adult joining in with their games can be surprising for kids and bring wonderful moments of joy. It’s a great way to demonstrate to our kids that we can laugh at ourselves and still feel loved and secure.”
Pranks also have a role in development because they play on our gullibility*.
“Pranks are a way to put a person down before raising them up,” body language and voice expert Dr Louise Mahler said. “It’s a way of confirming status* as part of the prankster’s group of friends.”
But playing a trick can come with unintended consequences, said psychiatrist Mark Cross. Neutral* tricks are more like punchlines with props, like wrapping the toilet bowl in cling wrap or placing an assortment of plastic bugs on your sibling’s desk.
Pranks that are intended* to harm or embarrass can test and even ruin a relationship. And while the first reaction to some jokes include irritation and anger, being considerate can shift your target’s annoyance to admiration. That process can be a bonding one.
“Pranking can be good when the outcome is laughter for everyone, including the pranked person,” Dr Cross said. “It can be a great release of stress. When you laugh, you breathe deeper, which helps anxiety.”
Mum of two Emily said her husband David and their kids Cassie, 10, and Jake, 8, enjoy the odd prank.
“It’s important to laugh at yourself and not always take things seriously,” she said.
“We’ve wrapped carrots and shoes up as presents for the kids on their birthdays – that gets a great reaction – and the kids love to put plastic spiders in guests’ drinks. Of course, the favourite is the whoopee cushion on a visitor’s chair.”
So rub some slime on a door knob or cover brussels sprouts with chocolate. It might just be good for you and everyone involved.
The art of positive pranking
It can be fun to prank friends and family, but some jokes go too far. There are a number of factors to keep in mind, but these top tips from popular author Matt Stanton will keep your next prank funny and safe:
- If you like playing tricks on others, let yourself be pranked too
- Remember grown ups have an inner child and can laugh at silly things
- Laughing at yourself is a great skill in life
- Check the toilet seat for cling wrap before you use it
- Pranking is all about play
- If a friend takes a trick too far, remember they’re also learning and exploring boundaries*
- Don’t forget to relax and have fun
HarperCollins Australia is inviting kids to share their funniest real or imaginary prank for the chance to have a character named after them in the next Funny Kid book. Enter here. Entries close June 30.
- gullibility: easily persuaded that something is real or true
- status: social or professional position or standing
- neutral: without strong features
- intended: planned or meant
- boundaries: where the line is, the limit of something
- What is the same of the latest Funny Kid book by Matt Stanton?
- What is it about?
- What have parents Emily and David wrapped up as trick gifts for their kids?
- According to psychiatrist Dr Mark Cross, what positive thing happens when you laugh?
- What do Cassie and Jake love to put in guests’ drinks?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Name the Robots
Imagine that Matt Stanton needs some help to come up with ideas and a story for his next book. The only thing that he has been able to decide is the title – The Prank Tank.
What do you think the story should be about? Write an outline for the book in as much detail as you can. Design a cover for the book, too.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English
Can you think of a kindness prank? That is, a prank that helps someone and does something helpful, good or positive?
Write a description of your kindness prank. Don’t forget to include the reasons why you think that this would be a good thing to do and who you would play this on.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability
Grammar and VCOP
The glossary of terms helps you to understand and learn the ambitious vocabulary being used in the article. Can you use the words outlined in the glossary to create new sentences? Challenge yourself to include other VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation) elements in your sentence/s. Have another look through the article, can you find any other Wow Words not outlined in the glossary?