The Shriek

A few weeks ago I had business at my church one weekday morning.  As I was walking by the fellowship hall, I saw that the preschool kids were having races across the room.*  The kids were very quiet and well mannered until the teacher shouted “Go!”  At that moment, the kids took off running, and each of them began emitting a paint-peeling squeal that immediately stopped when they reached the other side of the room.

I don’t have children of my own, so I have never studied the phenomenon of why children scream while running.  However, this does not stop me from making up two theories about why this happens:

Theory 1: Children have small torsos.  As a result, their legs are much closer to their vocal chords than with adults.  It is possible that the vibrations of their feet hitting the floor as they run are transmitted directly to the vocal chords, causing them to vibrate at a much higher frequency than normal.

Theory 2: Children are inexperienced.  Children as young as three years of age may have been running for as little as three years.  The screaming may be a reflex reaction caused by the sudden realization, “Holy crap!  I can’t believe I’m moving this fast!  How did that happen?”

Little-Known Made-Up Fact: On the TV show Arrow, the “canary cry” sound made by the Black Canary is an actual recording of children playing tag** during recess at St. Mary’s Preschool in Vancouver, British Columbia.

*Child safety disclaimer 1: Racing is a form of competition, and may result in winners and losers.  No children experienced loss of self-esteem due to the fact that they were raised by actual grown-ups and not emotionally stunted overprotective weenies.  No participation awards were presented in the running of this race.

**Child safety disclaimer 2: Tag is a form of competition, and may result in winners or losers.  All children participating in this game were provided with juice boxes and a nap, after which they didn’t even remember playing tag, because it was time to feed the hamster.

(Trigger warning: Although Trigger was a three-year old stallion, he never screamed like a banshee on fire while running. This may be due to the fact that his feet were further away from his vocal chords.  Or possibly that his parents were not emotionally stunted overprotective weenie thoroughbreds.)


2 thoughts on “The Shriek

  1. Hang on, there’s something I don’t get here. You say these were kids running, but I don’t see where they fell down and cried. If I know anything about kids, it’s that they’re running around, falling over, and crying. Even in their sleep.

    • Joseph, you are correct that I did not see any of the kids fall. But strictly speaking, neither have you. Nor has anyone else.
      Falling children are a quantum phenomenon, and as such, never happens when one is looking. Children only actually ever fall when everyone is blinking or looking the other way. If you put a group of children on a playground with no one watching, none of them will fall down until Child Protective Services arrives to arrest the parents for neglect.
      This theory was proven by Erwin Schroedinger in 1935. In one experiment, he placed his daughter Ruth in a box with a cat. When Social Services came to arrest him, they opened the box. Ruth immediately fell down, crushing the cat and killing it.

      As to why the children weren’t crying, the only information I have on the subject of lachrymal motivation in children is here:

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