Laughter between a parent and child is one of the strongest ways of bonding, says Dr Rachel Johnson, clinical psychologist (thefamilypsychologist).
Your little one’s first ‘real’ smile may appear as early as six weeks but it’s generally thought babies don’t truly laugh before four months.
Your baby will initially laugh in response to physical play, such as blowing raspberries or tickling, but at around six months he’ll begin to learn what’s funny by watching you. “Children learn laughter from their parents and it can help shape relationship patterns for the rest of their lives,” explains Rachel.
Learning by Example
Humour teaches your baby that playfulness can diffuse tension and distress, but there are times when it’s best not to put the funny gene into action.
“Laughter is such a positive thing, a reward even, that laughing at bad behaviour can make your child think ‘mum found it funny so I’ll try that again next time,’” explains Rachel. And sometimes you may find yourself laughing at your little one without realising it.
“Remember it’s about joining in on laughter and modeling that shared enjoyment, instead of teaching him to laugh at others for their mistakes,” says Rachel.
Laughter helps both you and your little one release tension. “Laughing releases endorphins, which relaxes the muscles, decreases stress levels and boosts immunity,” says Rachel.
As your baby’s sense of humour develops, he’ll respond to funny faces and silly voices. He’ll also start to ‘tease’ you – for example he’ll pretend to give you a toy and then grab it back.
“Take time to notice what your child is doing and join in rather than trying to start something new,” says Rachel.
A good sense of humour will benefit your baby way beyond his early years. Research shows that children who initiate humour are more likely to make strong friendships and be well-liked their peers.
In the long-term, humour is a key social skill that will serve your child well in his future relationships.
The emotional benefits are important for you too. “Psychologically, laughter’s a healthy coping mechanism for any mum to manage stress,” says Rachel. “Being able to laugh with your child makes doing the harder parts of parenting easier and much more effective.”
Did you know?
Infants laugh up to 300 times a day, while adults only chuckle four to five times, on average.