A Look at the Many Benefits of Laughter and How to Make Kids Laugh at Any Age
Laughter’s ability to diffuse stress is just one of many reasons why it’s a critical part of a child’s development. Having a sense of humour plays an important role in developing self-esteem, learning to problem solve, and honing social skills.
Helping your child develop a good sense of humour is also one of the many responsibilities of parenthood that can lead them down the right path in life.
Learn how you can help foster humour and laughter in your child so they can reap the many laughter therapy benefits at every stage in life.
Humour and Self-Esteem
Having a sense of humour helps kids develop self-esteem, problem-solving skills, and social skills. Since humour is a desirable personality trait, people with a good sense of humour tend to form friendships easily, which helps them feel better about themselves and boosts their self-esteem.
Kids can also learn the healing power of laughter at an early age. When they try to make sad friends and loved ones laugh to cheer them up, they are also displaying the essential social skills of empathy and sympathy.
Furthermore, humour helps people cope with stressful experiences in life and can help kids develop resilience, protecting them from mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Kids who can laugh at their mistakes are also more likely to accept that no one’s perfect and keep trying.
Benefits of Play and Humour
Activities that make you and your kids laugh are not only fun, but they also benefit everyone in so many ways.
Laughter is incredibly beneficial to our physical health. When we laugh, our brain activates its ventromedial prefrontal cortex. And as a result, we get to enjoy these health benefits of laughter:
- Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression
- Improved sleep
- Prevent heart disease
- Released endorphins—also known as the feel-good hormones
- Reduced stress hormones
- Lowered blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Improved circulation
- Increased oxygen intake
- Re-energized body
- Relaxed muscles
- Massaged abdominal organs and improved functioning
- Improved digestion
- Strengthened immune system
- Increased tolerance to pain
- Increased smiling—which also triggers a part of our brain that boosts our moods
Humour and laughter help to diffuse stress, making it a critical part of child development. Laughter and humour also build resilience, so children are better able to adapt to adversity, stress, trauma, tragedy, and threats.
Another benefit is that humour helps kids develop creativity because it teaches them to look at things from an unusual perspective other than the most obvious.
A well-developed sense of humour also helps kids:
- Understand unconventional ideas and ways of thinking
- Think outside of the box
- Enjoy the playful parts of life
- Become happier and more optimistic
- Not take themselves too seriously
- Be more spontaneous.
Smiling, laughing, and having a good sense of humour helps us improve the way we perceive the world around us. Laughter is a good distraction from negative emotions such as guilt, stress, and anger.
And since a well-developed sense of humour helps kids see things from a different perspective, it also helps kids develop empathy—the ability to see things from another person’s perspective—and also to become better problem-solvers.
Laughter also boosts the moods of everyone around you. Since laughter is often contagious, when we hear others laughing, we tend to start laughing too. And then everyone involved gets to reap the benefits of laughter.
Making Kids Laugh at Any Age
Kids can develop a sense of humour at a very young age. But what kids find funny will differ at each stage of their development. Try some of these activities to help make your kids laugh depending on their age group.
Babies don’t understand humour, but they can sense your happiness when you laugh and smile. And they are very responsive to physical stimuli, like tickling and blowing raspberries on their bellies.
Here are some ideas for making babies laugh:
- Play “This Little Piggy” and gently tickle
- Play “Peek-a-Boo” and change your facial expression every time you show your face
- Say “Uh oh” in a silly voice when your baby drops something on purpose
Toddlers appreciate physical humour with an element of surprise, like “Peek-a-Boo” and tickles. They also like rhymes and nonsense words, along with trying to make their parents laugh.
To help make your toddler laugh:
- Speak and sing in rhyme and nonsense words
- Make funny faces and encourage your child to imitate your facial expressions
- Say “I’m gonna get you” while crawling after your child, and cuddle them when you catch them
Preschoolers find potty humour to be funny, along with whacky incongruent things that don’t make sense, like a picture of an animal wearing sunglasses, or cat that says, “moo.”
To get your preschooler laughing:
- Play dress-up—encourage your kids to dress up in your clothes and pretend to wear theirs
- Make fun shapes with food—such as smiley faces and animal faces
- Sing fun songs from your childhood that have silly choruses
Once kids start school, slapstick humour, wordplay, and exaggeration become funnier. At this stage, kids will also start to learn the pleasure of telling jokes.
As kids get older, they have a better understanding of words and start using puns, riddles, and other types of wordplay. They also start to make fun of things that deviate from their perception of normal, they enjoy potty humour/gross-out jokes, and they begin to learn how to use wit and sarcasm.
To get your school-aged children to laugh, share puns and jokes with them.
Other Tips for Getting Kids to Laugh
- Tell jokes and funny stories, and be sure to laugh out loud
- Watch comedic TV shows and movies
- Dress up in funny costumes
- Put hats on your pets
- Have a family skit night or talent show and see who can come up with the funniest routine
- Have a laughing contest
- Play fun games like Twister, charades, and Pictionary
- Make up funny stories by playing Telephone or using Mad Libs
- Look at funny family pictures
- Read funny books and joke books, sharing your favourite jokes
Making kids laugh is one of the top joys of parenting. And if you can get the whole family involved, it makes for many memorable moments filled with laughter, and the gratifying feeling of laughing with others.
Humour and laughter make life more bearable in stressful situations, and also make life more pleasurable overall.
It’s never too early to start instilling a good sense of humour in your kids. So be a good humour role model and help your kids benefit from having a well-developed sense of humour.