Laughter: crucial part of development – no joke!


A child’s laughter is one of the most heartwarming sounds in the world.

It’s also a critical part of their development; helping diffuse stress, develop self-esteem and connect socially.

Director of the InfantLab at Goldsmiths, Dr Caspar Addyman, suggests that “a baby’s delight, and the help they continue receiving because of it, are part of what drives them forward to master the next thing, gradually achieving greater and greater mastery over the world.”

Benefits include:


  • Develops optimism
  • Helps not take themselves too seriously
  • Encourages spontaneity


  • Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Improves sleep
  • Releases ‘feel-good’ hormones (endorphins)
  • Relaxes muscles and reenergises the body


  • Develops connections with family and other children
  • Helps see things from a different perspective
  • Develops empathy

Ages and stages


  • Babies don’t really understand humour but become highly responsive to tactile stimuli like tickles and blowing raspberries on their tummy
  • From around 9 months (although every baby’s development is different) babies begin to laugh at things that are unexpected, e.g. when you make animal noises or animated facial expressions

1.5 – 2.5 years

  • Appreciation for physical humour grows, especially when it involves an unexpected turn, like a surprise tickle or round of peek a boo
  • Rhymes and made up words become extremely funny (this stage continues on for a little while!)
  • Another dimension of humour is discovered – making others laugh. Children might give silly or ‘wrong’ answers to evoke a response of laughter

2.5 – 4 years

  • Visual humour grows and children see the funny side in pictures that are a little out of the ordinary e.g. a giraffe on a skateboard
  • Incongruity between pictures of sounds is also hilarious, e.g. a fish that barks like a dog
  • Toilet humour begins now too, with children finding anything to do with this subject raucously funny

So whether it’s a tickle, joke, game or just doing something a little bit silly, have some lovely deep belly laughter with your children today!

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