We all love a good old giggle, the kind where tears run down your cheeks and your belly aches. Children are particularly prone to an eruption of the giggles, reportedly laughing around 400 times a day. Which is a great thing, as laughter not only releases a rush of endorphins, it also boosts the immune system by multiplying infection-fighting cells.
Children’s charity Starlight firmly believes in the health benefits of laughter and sends clowns and entertainers into hospitals to cheer up children. “They allow children to forget about their illness for a while, and simply have fun,” says Verity Williams, Hospital Events Manager. In the wake of the 2009 Italian earthquake, clowns were even drafted in by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to provide laughter therapy to the children who had been made homeless.
With their painted faces, silly red noses and madcap routines, clowns are experts at triggering children’s mirth. “I’ve found that banging my head against a door or bumbling my way through a magic trick are sure-fire ways to get children giggling,” says clown Guy Allon, otherwise known as ‘Fun Guy’.
So why is it that some children take one look at a clown and burst into tears? This aversion to clowns is actually a recognised condition, known as coulrophobia. Guy thinks that make-up can be a big part of the problem. “Children are not used to seeing adults wearing heavy stage make-up and so find it quite scary,” he says.
If your child is unconvinced by clowns, you can always try another method to spark off their giggles. Try watching a comedy film, telling some silly jokes or pulling some funny faces. And, of course, nothing beats a good tickle.
Starlight children’s foundation: www.starlight.org.uk
This article previously appeared in Junior magazine as a print article