Blowing raspberries on your infant’s belly. Delighting your baby with a game of peek-a-boo. Surprising your mid-tantrum toddler with a silly song. Using humor with your little one (and teaching her how to use it herself) supports development in several areas, including these:
Your first important task as a parent is developing an attachment with your child. Smiles, silly voices, and kisses on her bare belly help to form a warm bond between you. As your baby grows and begins smiling and laughing herself, humor is an easy way to create positive back-and-forth interactions that build the architecture of her brain.
Developing a sense of humor can benefit her in later relationships as well. Studies show that people with a sense of humor tend to be viewed as trustworthy, dependable and kind, form and sustain friendships with ease, experience less interpersonal conflict, and have happier marriages.
Language development begins at birth, and Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist Mandy Alvarez says that humor supports early, pre-speech language in important ways. “Using silly faces and funny voices helps your baby engage and connect with you,” Alvarez says. “The facial expressions, different tones of voice, and gestures all teach her about expressing emotion nonverbally. Humor also encourages her to anticipate what is going to happen next, which is actually very important for language development.”
Alvarez adds that as language continues to develop throughout childhood, interacting through funny books, songs, and jokes promotes higher-level language and cognitive skills including:
- Flexibly of language (manipulating words and grammar to play with meaning).
- Playing with intonation to express different things.
- Moving from concrete thinking to abstract thinking.
Alvarez highlights how humor enhances social development as well: “Humor helps children engage with others and learn to express emotion.” It also teaches children to be aware of other’s feelings, she says, because children learn to adapt humor according to how other people respond to it.
Laughter releases chemicals in the brain that lift our mood. Teaching your child to use humor during times of negative emotion is a valuable life skill. Humor also contributes to emotional intelligence, which will help her manage her emotions and the emotions of others.
What’s more, a sense of humor enhances self-esteem because it elicits positive feedback from others.
The type of thinking involved in humor is linked to the type of thinking involved in creativity, suggesting that the two reinforce each other.
There are times when your child’s behavior is no laughing matter, but experts tout humor as a powerful disciplinary tool. It can surprise, disarm, distract, motivate, change your child’s mood, and stop a power struggle in its tracks.
Humor supports any type of learning. Not only does it engender likability, trust, and confidence in the teacher (at this age, you!), it also motivates your child, especially if she’s reluctant or frustrated.
What You Can Do
Now that you know the power of humor, it’s time to laugh! Head over to this article for tips on how to weave humor into your relationship with your little one, right from the start.