March 19th is Let’s Laugh Day, so in honor of this joyful day, I thought I would discuss the sheer, unadulterated bliss of a child’s laugh. Have you ever watched the YouTube videos of babies laughing? My 3 ½ year old, P, loves to watch them. She just thinks they are the most hysterical videos and enjoys laughing along with it.
If you think about it, each person has their very own unique laugh. Infants begin to laugh and develop their own sense of happiness around 3 to 4 months old. They laugh at noises, light touch or tickling and games such as peek-a-boo. The laughter of a child is just so pure and honest.
Laughter isn’t always about finding things funny and it’s not something that we are supposed to work hard to accomplish. It should be intrinsic and as a result keep us young and change a negative mindset into a more positive one. Children don’t think about having to laugh at something. They laugh because it feels good. They laugh because they are filled with joy.
Laughter and Child Development
So how is laughter an important part of a child’s development? Well, first and foremost, did you know that on average, a child up to age 5 laughs about 300 times a day? Isn’t that just an amazing? I can’t think of anything that I do roughly 300 times a day, can you?
From a social-emotional point of view, laughter can bring a child into a state of happiness. As infants, children learn about social emotional cues from their parents and often a child’s social emotional development is greatly influenced by their parent’s own social emotional responses. If a parent is anxious, a child can exhibit anxiety and worry. If a parent is sad, a child may appear sad. But, if a parent smiles and laughs, a child will typically mirror this behavior and smile and laugh back at their parent. Laughter, in fact, is a healthy parenting aid – when we laugh, we are less stressed and tend to deal with obstacles in a more positive way.
Laughter and Socialization
Laughter also helps connect people. For young children, laughter can be a way of connecting with others through a shared experience. Children often bond with other kids that they can laugh with because they are finding the same things funny. Laughter promotes sociability, empathy, self-esteem, and problem solving; all aspects important to building relationships with others.
I know that growing up my best friends and I loved the movie Airplane!. We memorized the whole movie and would often quote dialogue back and forth to cheer one another up or to simply be happy. After all, laughter is a vital part of being authentically happy. In college my friends and I loved Friends – I mean, who didn’t, right? Many years later (I won’t say how many 😉) we are still quoting lines from that TV show back and forth in text messages, sending each other Friends GIFs or memes, causing each other to laugh, remember and put a little smile on each other’s face.
Effect of a Child’s Laugh on Parents
A child’s laugh isn’t just important for them, but it is equally as important for parents. Researchers have actually tested how the laugh of an infant can provide a uniquely rewarding experience for a parent. The laugh may activate reward centers in a parent’s brain, reinforcing continued playful interactions that produce more laughter. Positive reinforcement motivates an individual to repeat a behavior. So, a child’s laugh makes a parent feel good (positive reinforcement) and thus leads to a parent continuing to engage in meaningful interactions with their child (repeated behavior) that will continue to elicit laughter.
For years now we have heard that laughter is good for us physically, emotionally, and mentally. Think about the last time you experienced a really good laugh with your child. What was happening? Were you playing? Was your child just laughing and you suddenly began to laugh with them?
Now stop and notice your mood and facial expression at this moment. Are you smiling thinking about this joyful memory? Is there a little smile on your face? Has your mood shifted a bit, leaning you a little more toward happiness?
Its really amazing what a child’s laughter can do. 😊