Over 4 years ago I launched this site to ask parents all over the world what makes their baby laugh. Thousands of you responded to my survey and nearly a hundred sent in videos. I have enough laughing babies to fill a book. So that’s what I am doing..
The Laughing Baby book is about the science of infant learning and why happiness matters right from the start of life. How do babies learn all those amazing skills completely from scratch and why do they have such a great time doing it?
In four years of studying laughing babies, I’ve learned that laughter and smiles are of central importance at the start of life. Squeals of joy accompany all of a baby’s little breakthroughs. Laughs and smiles connect them to their nearest and dearest. It is how they reward you for the things they learn from you.
If a baby is laughing, you can guarantee that they have just learned a new skill or else they want your help to do so. The book tracks all the essential skills a baby learns in the first two years from my perspective as baby psychologist.
The book is being published by Unbound Books. They are an innovative company who crowdfund new books. Readers support the books they’d like to read and these get published. We need 600 people to pre-order the Laughing Baby to guarantee it is published.
When I started at Goldsmiths last October I gave a talk to my new department about my research with laughing babies. Straight afterwards Prof. Lauren Stewart came up to me and suggested we collaborate on something. Lauren is a professor of the psychology of music and was interested in how babies respond to music. Music is laden with emotion and so it would be fascinating to learn more about its effect on young babies. So I readily agreed but that was as far as we got, we couldn’t find a suitable project.
Adults are rather disappointing right now. So here are some laughing babies to cheer you up.
Qayyum – 5 months
Qayyum and his daddy, Sharul, cheer each other up. As Shahrul says “After a whole busy day at work, “The Big Lion” (dad) feel much better when his “Little Monster” (son) laugh out loud.”
Hugo – 14 months
Seems like baby Hugo and daddy James have a similar arrangements: “Baby Hugo found it hilarious to throw a pillow on my head. After realizing that got him giggling, I decided to see how long he would keep up such a maniacal laugh. Suffice it to say, I’m just glad this wasn’t an anvil.”
Baby B – 12 months
And this little fellow can’t bring himself to cry. He’d rather laugh. Let’s all be like baby B.
Laughter and smiles transcend barriers of age, language and culture, and babies know this better than anyone. They don’t speak our language. They don’t share our culture; and they are at least a generation younger than us. All the same, we can easily share a laugh.
Spend any time with a baby and, assuming that they’re fed, clean and warm, they will put most of their effort into stealing your heart. Babies are gleeful, cheerful, charismatic and gregarious – inherent comedic qualities that ensure babies give cats a good run for their money in funny YouTube videos. Yet, while research in cognitive science has long recognised the importance of cuteness in early bonding, very few researchers have dug deeper. Until now. With a renaissance in what I like to call ‘positive psychology for babies’, we are starting to appreciate that smiling and laughter serve an important purpose from birth.
Laughter is primarily social. We laugh to connect and share our feelings far more than we laugh at jokes or the silly or surprising.
The thing that makes babies laugh the most is a human connection. All over the world, peekaboo is the most successful way to make a baby laugh. It is pure social connection. Surprise plays a role but the universal popularity is all because of the shared eye-contact and turn-taking. As you play the game, the baby is learning from you.
This may be the most important thing about laughter in young babies who are still too young to communicate in other ways. Their laughter captures our attention and when they have our attention they can learn from us.
And so ,bizarrely, the best way to make a baby laugh is to take her seriously. Give the baby your full attention and really concentrate on the baby. She will be delighted and laughter will probably follow 🙂
Three steps 1. Be prepared to give the baby your full attention – Put down your phone, you’ve probably got enough pictures already. 2. Let the baby lead the interaction – You are having a conversation but you must listen to her. 3. Don’t try to make the baby laugh – Work out what she’s interested in and help her learn a little bit more.