Laughter and Early Childhood Development…+ Giggle Tips!

By: Lauren O’Brien

Nothing fills our hearts more than our child’s giggles. But, did you know that laughter and having a sense of humor plays an important role in developing self-esteem, learning to problem solve, and honing social skills?

To develop that sense of humor in our children, we have to have a good sense of humor too! And, it’s easy! You wouldn’t know it, but silly things like poking fun of yourself when you spill milk sends a message that it’s ok to make mistakes — and it’s ok to laugh at those mistakes. If you can laugh when you make a mistake, it also demonstrates that you can accept imperfection. This makes the idea of getting up and trying again less intimidating for your little one, and more likely that they’ll keep trying if it’s ok to fail. And, as you know, we encourage failure because that sparks learning!

Kids also provide plenty of opportunities for laughter (sometimes unknowingly!). It’s important to encourage that and be the best audience possible by responding to their attempt at humor. You may not think it’s hilarious to bang into the wall but, hey, if that makes them squeal with laughter, run with it (or into it!).

So, let’s encourage those funny faces and  sounds…and bust out some jokes. Let’s face it, your children will only think you’re hilarious for so long! 

Here are some of our favorite ways to get those giggles going in our little ones:

Infant

  • Funny faces: Open your eyes wide, puff out your cheeks, stick out your tongue. At first your child’s laughter will be in response to you, but they will eventually try to copy you.
  • Surprise game: Change your facial expression every time you say “Boo!”. After about 4 months, babies love the element of surprise!
  • Silly sounds: Make up your own or copy your child’s noises while smiling and laughing to reinforce that the behavior is funny.
  • Playful songs: This Little Piggy with tickles and song always gets a laugh. There’s also The Happy Song — scientifically written and designed to make babies laugh!

Toddler

  • Surprise tickles: Raspberries on the tummy never get old!
  • Funny rhymes: “See ya later, Alligator!” “Give me a hug, ladybug!”  “Out the door, dinosaur!”
  • The unexpected funny: Pick up their foot and pretend to make a silly phone call. Put a bowl on your head and say it’s a hat.
  • Silly songs: I Like to Eat (who eats ay-ples and ba-nay-nays…that’s silly!), The Hokey Pokey (silly dancing and body movements always get a giggle), Slippery Fish (using funny voices makes this one a real toddler-pleaser)

Preschool

  • Goofy voices: While reading to your child, change voices for each character. The sillier the voice, the better!
  • Silly songs: An old time favorite is Slippery Fish! Any song with silly voices and hand movements (maybe even some tickles) always gets laughs.
  • Crazy dress up: Encourage your child to put on your clothes and pretend to put on theirs — they’ll think it’s hilarious that you even try to fit into their clothes.
  • Funny food: Make your child’s food funny, such as smiley face pancakes! Or get a giggle by turning your sandwich into a talking mouth!
  • Cracking Jokes: One of our favorites is “What comes before part B? Part-AY!”

Redirecting That Frown Upside Down!

Let’s be honest. Parenting is challenging and sometimes we will do anything to just get our little one to stop throwing that tantrum in the middle of the store –yelling, bribing, you name it! But, learning how to take a negative and turn it around into a positive can have an enormous impact on your child’s emotional development!

You may have heard the term “redirecting” before. Redirection basically takes an emotionally-charged situation and diffuses it in a POSITIVE WAY!

Below are some typical parenting scenarios.

Curious Infants
When you have an infant who loves to get into everything.

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Infants are very curious little beings. Always, interested in anything and everything they can get their hands on, especially drawers! Encourage that curiosity in a safe way – maybe create a “safe drawer” filled with tupperware or other plastic containers. They can rummage and bang away to their heart’s desire and you can relax knowing your child is playing safe!

Adventurous Toddlers
When your child is testing those boundaries.

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During toddler years, there is plenty of experimenting, trying new things and pushing those boundaries. That’s how they learn! But, with that, can come an impulsive “NO” from the parent. Maybe your child is trying to climb up the slide while another child is coming down. Rather, than telling them “Stop!” or “don’t do that!”, you can teach them about taking turns, explaining why they need to wait a minute but that they can still enjoy the activity.

Determined Preschoolers
When your child is learning new things and gets frustrated.

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Preschoolers are constantly learning and challenging themselves. But, tackling new challenges can also come with some frustration for them. Maybe your child is throwing blocks because they can’t figure out how to build the tower. Sit down with them and calmly show them another way to build that tower, build an entirely new structure, or take them outside and throw a ball to get that frustration out!

We know parenting isn’t a one-size-fits-all initiative! But we do know that a great place to practice redirecting is at Gymboree Play & Music!

Introducing…Our GymboFam Member, Kim Caldwell!

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You may recognize her from American Idol but she’s also a new member of the GymboFam — and took over our Instagram for #TuesdayTakeover!! Kim and her little one, Harlow, love going to our Art class and Play & Learn class every week. Harlow has gained so much confidence joining the classes — she’s even gone to a Baby Prom already! And Kim says the classes keep her young and inspired!

Check out Kim’s #TuesdayTakeover and see all of the Gymbo fun her and Harlow are having!

5 Tips For A Happy, Tear-Free Playdate For 3 Year Olds

3-year-olds are extremely skilled at expressing emotions with both adults and children. They smile, hug, ask questions and have a basic understanding of feelings which means it’s a perfect age to start hosting more independent playdates.

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At three children can play with other children rather than just “side-by-side” parallel play even if they aren’t quite ready to be completely free of mom or dad’s watchful eye.

Here are 5 super simple things you can do to help facilitate a happy playdate that doesn’t end in a meltdown.

Mind the time.

Set a start time and end time — 3-year-olds tend to do best with about an hour of play time. Once a child gets crabby, bored or distracted the tears are more likely to flow.

Two’s company, Three’s a possible tear fest.

While multiple children at parties and other events is a good way for 3-year-olds to hone their social skills, play dates are often better with two children. Odd numbers can mean someone could be left out and communication and sharing are a bit simpler one-on-one.

Don’t force interactions.

3-year-olds are used to playing in their own bubble while other kids play nearby (parallel play) and there’s no need to force side-by-side play. Eventually your two playmates will start to interact on their own out of curiosity and friendship.

Snack time is your friend.

Offering a small snack provides a distraction for children who are getting grumpy or bored. Not many tears are shed during milk and cookie time! Tip – Don’t offer too many choices — in this case mom knows best.

Give a 10-Minute Warning.

3-three-year olds can’t think too far in advance but a gentle reminder that Jake’s mom is coming to take him home in 10-minutes might help in transitioning to the end of a play date.

Three is a wonderful age to start building friendships and with just a bit of planning your play date is sure to have smooth sailing.