Laughing at you, or with you? It’s all the same to your toddler, who loves having
a good chuckle, says our child psychologist
The sound of your toddler’s giggles is probably a familiar one, and they’re about so much more than laughter. Her busy brain is processing the things she sees and hears, and triggering her sense of humour all the time. Laughter helps you and your toddler bond together during those early years.Some parents seem to think that only bright toddlers laugh, but there’s no clear connection between laughter and intelligence. Whether it’s slapstick, word play or just something that’s tickled her, your little one has a very adaptable sense of humour.
Your tot uses laughter to communicate a range of feelings to you and it’s a serious form of non-verbal language. Typical messages communicated through laughter include:
At 1 year old, your toddler begins to find situations amusing when they’re unusual. For instance, if you put her shirt on back to front and then smile at her, the chances are she’ll start to laugh. By 18 months, the focus begins to shift away from herself towards others. As she turns 2, she’ll add movement into the equation. For instance, now that she can toddle around freely, she laughs at activities with actions, like reading a book with you that involves her lifting up the flaps. The anticipation of guessing what’s underneath makes her chuckle excitedly. Her ability to understand symbolism means she can now laugh at things that require her to use her imagination. That’s why she might giggle furiously as she sits her dolls round a table. They represent people in her life and she’s playing with them in her imagination. Another feature that influences her sense of humour is her ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. She thinks something out of the ordinary is hilarious. Cartoons are popular because they show the impossible in a way that captures her imagination.
Put your child’s favourite teddy up your jumper so that the teddy’s head juts out from the top, just under your chin. Then walk up to your toddler and chat to her as normal. She’ll burst out laughing.
When young boys and girls are shown cartoons, silly drawings, or an amusing sketch with a clown, boys usually laugh sooner than girls.
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