Laughter and Learning

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Laughter and Learning

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There is just something about a child’s giggle, am I right? When a young child laughs out loud, as adults we are hard pressed not to join in and giggle right along with them. Children’s laughter is infectious.

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And laughter is good for all of us, especially adults! Laughter is a stress reducer. And as reported by Psychology Today “The average four-year-old laughs 300 times a day. The average 40-year-old? Only four.”

Did you realize that laughter and developing a sense of humor is an important part of your baby’s development? As a parent you look forward to and surely remember your child’s first social smile, but do you remember her first laugh as well?

Very young babies, before 4 months do not yet have a sense of humor. It’s usually sometime after 4 months when we first start playing games such as peek a boo, This Little Piggy or other social games when we begin to hear that first out loud laughter. And baby giggles are just the darn cutest thing! Babies will laugh when we lift them into the air for “airplane rides” or when we bounce them on our knee. And as your baby gets older, he will typically begin to laugh at just about anything out of the ordinary-for example if you pretend to trip and fall, or if you make the cow say “woof, woof” or if you use a funny voice to sing or tell a story.

Laughter is great for developing your child’s self-esteem, social skills, and creativity. You may see toddlers using humor in their make believe play and preschoolers become particularly enamored with “potty talk” and anything involving poop or pee or someone having gas becomes extremely hilarious. I remember as a kindergartner my friend and I busting out into laughter every time someone said “armpit” or “pantyhose”…what was so funny about those, I’ll never know.

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How can you promote laughter with your children?

Babies newborn to 12 months:

  • Play peek a boo games using a cloth, cover your face and pull it off and exclaim “peek a boo, I see you” and cover your baby’s face and ask “where’s Emily? and then help her pull off the cloth and exclaim “peek a boo, there you are!”. Give your baby lots of practice, and with repetition those giggles are bound to come, which means she wants to continue to play the game with you.
  • Play This Little Piggy with your baby’s toes, and use an animated voice!
  • Play horsey games and bounce your baby on your knee
  • Play airplane games, and lift your baby into the air above your head
  • Play tickle games, or “I’m gonna get your nose, feet, tummy”

One to two year olds:

  • Play peek a boo by hiding around a corner or under furniture and saying “boo”
  • Sing fun and silly songs like Old MacDonald or Wheels on the Bus
  • Use a funny voice or play uh-oh games
  • Make funny faces in the mirror and encourage your child to imitate

Two to three year olds:

  • Use make believe play, pretend to be a dog and crawl around on the floor and bark with your child
  • Play chasing or “I’m gonna get you” games and run around the house or yard after your child
  • Continue to use fun and silly songs that involve gestures or do the Hokey Pokey or play Simon Sez
  • Play dress up games with your child and wear funny hats
  • Hide small toys under a series of cups or hide a small toy in your hand behind your back and encourage your child to find it
  • Poke fun at yourself when you make a simple mistake, such as spilling milk when cooking, “Silly Daddy, I just dropped the milk, OOPS, I better wipe it up!”

Remember, kids, unlike adults, find humor in the simplest things! Just watch this video and it’ll make your day!

“You don’t stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing.”—Michael Pritchard

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