Nine Fast Ways to Put More Laughter in Your Home and Spruce Up Your Family Fun Factor

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So how is your humor quotient, Mom? When is the last time you belted out a good, long belly laugh with your kids? Here are nine ways to bring a little more fun into your home.

1. Start on a happy note. How's your morning? The tone you set can make or break the day. So lighten up. Find what's causing the major stress (you can't find the keys, the backpack, the homework, the notes), and get organized: use a hook in the door for the keys, a basket on the step for backpacks; set out lunch money the night before; plan an easier way to do breakfast—even have one kid set the table the night before.

2. Hold a nightly giggle (or other fun tradition). My husband started this tradition when he came home from work each night; our three sons were three, five, and seven then. After their hugs they'd run to the end of a long hallway. My husband would yell "Giggle Monster!" and each boy would run as fast as he could into my husband's arms for huge hugs, tickles, and giggles. Start your own family nighttime ritual.

3. Read the Sunday comics—together (or at least the funniest ones). Make a tradition of saving the favorite Sunday comics to read together.

4. Start a cartoon bulletin board. Cut out those cartoons, print out those funny emails, and put them up on the refrigerator with magnets. Some moms even slip copies of jokes into their kids' lunch boxes or tape them on bathroom mirrors or on their kids' doors. Fun to come home to!

5. Change your voice message. Brighten up that answering machine message. If I'm ever just a tad down, the fastest way to get me smiling is to call my girlfriend Jaynie Neveras, a mom of two teens from Atherton (whose phone number I will leave out); she has the cheeriest message I know. Some folks leave impersonations or humorous misidentifications. Listen to your voice message—does it give people the idea that you're a happy household?

6. Watch classic comedy at home. All those violent, dramatic, scary videos can wreak havoc and break down our funny bone. Check out those classic comedies. Pop the popcorn, slip the disc into the DVD player, and laugh together.

7. Put on plays or skits, or dress silly. Comedians swear that the best way they learned their trade was by putting on plays at home—funny ones that made the whole family laugh. Mary Grace Galvin, a mom from Kalispel, Montana, had a hat box. I walked in on Mary Grace and her four kids (ages four to fourteen at the time) and couldn't help laughing: each was wearing a funny hat and giggling madly. She shared that it's sometimes the best medicine for turning a gloomy day around.

8. Buy a good joke book. Store it in the car for those long rides (or when you're ready to pull your hair out). One kid can be the joke teller (or "house jester"), and the rest of the family can guess the punch lines. Adam, my middle son, got so good at memorizing jokes that on one long family ride (an hour and a half), he told jokes nonstop that he remembered from his school carpool rides years back. I swear they are also great for boosting memory.

9. Just do something silly—and not worry about it. Celebrate the dog's birthday by baking him a cake. Every once in a while do something just plain different and fun: tape a dollar bill to the garbage can (and not say anything about it) to see who will take out the trash; eat dinner in reverse (why not have dessert first?); if you don't have pets, put candies from the door to your kid's room so he gets the hint to clean it (and if he doesn't, leave a note at the end of the candy); put an extra treat inside your kid's lunch pail. Just have fun!

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