Every parent knows the utter sense of joy when you hear your baby’s laugh for the first time. A four-month-old’s laugh may be inspired by something as simple as seeing mom make a face they’ve never seen before or by a glance at the family cat. We delight in these early laughs, and babies love to see our reaction.
In fact, they may begin laughing just because it’s a fun sound to make, it feels good or they’re enjoying moving their mouths and making different sounds. Parents of children whose hearing loss has been identified, and who have received early intervention, get to hear these early sounds in action.
It can be hilarious for us to see what makes little ones laugh. From those spontaneous and seemingly random baby laughs, to toddlers who fall into giggle fits over silly words or obvious puns.
It’s (not) just a joke!
Laughter is more than a fun rite of passage. It’s one of the first steps in a child’s developing social and communication skills. Humor is also a sign of developing intelligence and resiliency when things don’t go as planned.
What is humor anyway?
In the simplest of terms: humor is the ability to appreciate the unexpected.
What begins in infancy as a biological capacity to laugh, evolves to seeing humor in situations, understanding the jokes other people make and, in time, making our own! Our brains are wired to experience pleasure when we laugh. A sense of humor develops as the brain’s ability to process information develops. With early identification and amplification, the brain of a child with hearing loss can have access to the sound they need for their sense of humor to grow.
What makes us laugh?
Even as adults, what makes one person laugh may bring an, “I don’t get it,” stare from someone else. A child’s understanding of humor changes as they learn and grow.
There are two kinds of humor:
Physical: Physical humor helps a child make sense of their environment. We start to see signs of physical humor when a child can track and imitate those around them.Examples of physical humor might include:
Linguistic: We start to see signs of linguistic humor when a child can hear and begin to process the meanings behind words. They reference the meanings of those words based on their understanding of the past and might laugh when something is out of sync.
This understanding of “how the world works” allows them to “get the joke” when something is out of place.
Obviously all children develop at their own pace. While one child’s development may look slightly different than another’s—the general stages of development tell us what makes children laugh:
Note: This handy list was developed by and published by Barbara Meltz in the The Boston Globe.
Why humor matters
There are many reasons why it’s important for children to have an appreciation of humor:
Here are four ways to ensure that children who are deaf or hard of hearing are developing humor just like their hearing friends.
Comedy Class Can you teach comedy from the cradle? To some extent! Often parents with a good sense of humor raise kids with a good sense of humor. The more funny situations a baby is exposed to, the better his sense of humor. Dig deeper and download our helpful handout on comedy for more songs, books, and activities to promote your baby’s developing sense of humor.
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