In the first year, babies are big on silent comedy. Gentle actions such as blowing on a her face or tickling seem to do the trick in the early days. After about six months they become more robust and enjoy a bit of rough and tumble. Although we usually interpret their laugh as delight, it is actually believed to be a semi fear-based reaction. Psychologist Dr Vasudevi Reddy from the University Of Portsmouth explains that babies laugh at things that could potentially be dangerous, when they occur in a safe context “Peekaboo, for instance is the story of the disappearing mother, tickling one can take as the story of the predator, who can hurt you in the most delicate places on your body, chasing is a more direct threat of attack by a predator”.
Though a baby won’t appreciate a knock-knock joke for a few years yet, she quickly learns the punch line on the end of rhymes such as round and round the garden and will begin to smile and laugh in delicious anticipation of the tickle payback.
Babies under a year old don’t just laugh with exhilaration, they giggle at sights and sounds of all sorts, including men with beards and flushing toilets. But what they find really funny is people acting silly. Pulling funny faces, talking in squeaky voices and making odd movements is as funny to a baby as it would be to an adult. Someone falling over and wailing or hitting their head and shouting “ouch” guarantees a chortle; a parent putting a dummy in his mouth and spitting it out is the height of hilarity even before a child hits one. The reason for this is the basis of all humour: incongruity. Your child knows your voice and your habits, so putting a nappy on your head or chattering like a monkey is a violation of her expectations, causing a physical reaction and making her laugh.
Infants are so adept at getting to know their world that they can spot incongruities by four months. Some psychologists believe that at that age they see odd behaviour as wrong, rather than funny and that a real sense of humour doesn’t appear until they can understand make-believe from about 18 months. But for many parents evidence abounds that babies are keen to join the comedy club.
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How to improve your child's fine motor skills
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