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!”

From the Parent Tip Toolbox! Wait and Watch.

Parent Tip for June

Watch, Wait, Play! Encourage independence and curiosity by allowing your child to take the lead with play. It’s best to support their actions, but let your child be the leader. Play only happens when your child is in control, you can’t make her play.

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Here are some examples of “Wait & Watch” by age group.

Baby

If baby is reaching for the ball, stop yourself from giving it to them. Let them get it themselves.

Toddler

If they’re trying to get up on the chair, let them try on their own before assisting. Let them get dress by themselves – put on their own shoes etc.

Preschooler:

When they encounter another child coming up the slide when they’re ready to go down, let them figure out how “negotiate” with the other child without interrupting.

Wait and Watch in action!

Cassidy’s first time in the Play & Learn Level 5 Class — she did well figuring out how to go in a circle with this rope. – from GymboFam Ambassador Crystal, https://www.instagram.com/Sugarlandfan/