Ah, the sound of a baby laughing! It can melt the coldest of hearts and turn a bad day right-side up. There’s such pure joy and happiness in it! Along with baby’s first word and first smile, baby’s first laugh is something all parents eagerly anticipate. Which means you’re probably wondering: when do babies laugh?
Read on to find out:
When babies start laughing
What baby’s laugh means
Plus, how to make baby laugh
When Do Babies Laugh?
Though you couldn’t hear it, there’s evidence baby started laughing long before he/she entered the world! When examining ultrasounds between 24 and 36 weeks, researchers observed facial movements that can be identified as laughter.
By 35 weeks, baby can stretch their lips, lower their eyebrows, and create complex expressions. By the time baby is born, researchers say they develop the facial ability to both laugh and cry.
Despite this, you’ll be waiting a couple months to actually hear those glorious baby giggles—most babies won’t laugh out loud until 3 to 4 months.
When do babies laugh in response to physical prompting?
When baby first starts to laugh around 3 or 4 months, it’s generally a physical response to something like tickling.
When do babies laugh in response to external stimuli?
Around 5 or 6 months, baby may begin to laugh at traditional newborn games like peek-a-boo. This shows that baby is beginning to show more logical reasoning. In order to find something like funny faces and jokes funny, baby must know what’s normal. If mama puts a clean diaper on her head, for example, baby needs to know that diapers don’t normally go on mama’s head to find this funny.
Note: If your baby doesn’t follow this timeline exactly, don’t panic. Babies hit milestones at different times, and some laugh much later than this.
Why is Laughter Important?
Now that you know the answer to the question when do babies laugh, let’s focus on why laughter is so important.
Laughter is a Sign of Learning
Other than the fact that it’s a joy to listen to, laughter indicates that baby is gathering information about the world around them and reacting to the world around them. After all, laughter and tears are our earliest form of communication. They provide insight into how the brain works at a primitive stage. Studies have shown that babies do laugh with and at other people, indicating that they’re social before they can even walk or talk.
“Smiling and laughing are indices of our understanding of the world. Adults laugh at something when they find it surprising or unusual; it is exactly the same for babies,” says Dr Caspar Addyman
Laughter is social
Adults and children relate to one another through laughter. We cheer up our friends by telling a joke or gently teasing them. Laughter is a component of social skills, and knowing when it’s appropriate to laugh or to join in, indicates your child grasps social norms.
Laughter is important for self-esteem
Believe it or not, laughter is also important in your child’s self-esteem. Studies show that children who can laugh at themselves when they make a mistake show that they can accept their imperfections and have the inner strength to keep trying. The research suggests that these children report being less lonely and happier.
How to Make a Baby Laugh
OK, we don’t want to “make” our baby laugh as this can be uncomfortable and no one likes to be tickled against their will but we can do things to encourage laughter.
Be a good role model
Babies mimic mom and dad, and they’ll eventually join in on your laughter. Create an atmosphere of laughter and joy in your home. Be silly with your baby. That one-on-one time with them not only stimulates brain development, but also deepens your bond.
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Make funny noises
Blow raspberries or imitate animal sounds. The sillier, the better. Combine sound and touch by blowing raspberries on their belly.
Make funny gestures and faces
Overly exaggerate your movements and dance around the living room. Stick out your tongue, play with your lips, or raise your eyebrows.
Interestingly enough, it’s not just being tickled that will make a baby laugh. It’s being tickled by someone they know. After three months old (any earlier can cause overstimulation), try tickling baby’s feet, stomach, or armpits. Just don’t overdo it—babies have very sensitive nervous systems. If baby starts to get fussy, looks away or cries, stop immediately.
Make up a song
Older babies delight in silly rhymes and nonsense words. Make up a song to a popular tune like “Happy Birthday” or “Pop! Goes the Weasel!” to accompany bath time or when walking around the neighborhood.
Play peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
Peek-a-boo brings the element of surprise into your play. Try hiding behind tables or chairs or a brightly colored blanket to increase the fun. Pat-a-cake or even This Little Piggy inspires giggles and fun, too.
Play horsey or other physical games
In thinking about when do babies laugh, do you remember when you first did? Ask your mother or grandmother if they used to bounce you on her knee. Maybe you have it on a home video! It’s a tried and true way to get baby to laugh.
Physical games like pretending to steal their nose are always a hit, too. You can also nibble on fingers and toes and pretend to be ‘eating’ your baby.
The Video Scientists Designed to Make Babies Laugh
Scientists have started trying to answer the question when do babies laugh? with more certainty. One researcher worked with a songwriter to develop the “Happy Song”—a song specifically crafted to make a baby laugh. When writing the song they used the following criteria: uptempo to mirror a baby’s heartbeat, written in the major key, repetitive but with a broad dynamic range to hold baby’s attention.
Check out the video below. Do you think it would make your baby laugh?
You can play the tune for baby to listen to and dance around. Don’t let baby watch the video though as screen time isn’t recommended till baby is around 2 years of age. (source)
Baby Laughing Video
Two of my most treasured videos are of my children Paloma and Griffin laughing. Here’s a clip of Griffin laughing hysterically:
What If Baby Isn’t Laughing?
Remember that babies all develop on different timelines—the question when do babies laugh is a hard one to answer, because it varies so much based on the child.
If your baby is hitting all other milestones (smiling, making eye contact), there’s probably nothing to worry about. If baby isn’t meeting other milestones either, talk to your pediatrician. He/she can monitor baby more closely. Always trust your gut—you know your child best.
How About You?
Do you remember when your baby first laughed? Did you ever get it on video?
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