Fun First: Developing Your Child's Laughter Skill

- Parents sometimes seem to get caught up in the pressure to spur their baby's development along. But they should remember that fun comes first!  Babies and kids get so much more than most people realize out of play. After all, laughter IS a universal part of infant development.  For babies, laughter is critical because it is one of the very first ways they communicate and is the basis of some of the most important learning experiences in infancy and childhood. 

Dr. Gina Mireault will discusses her ongoing research on how children develop humor and stress why helping to foster laughter is one of the best things parents can do for their babies. 

· Parents use wild and outrageous behavior to get their babies to laugh, but naturally pair these behaviors with smiling and laughing, signals that even 3-month-olds appear to understand as communicating safety and fun.
· By 5 months of age, infants will laugh at absurdity in the social environment, which they can detect all by themselves.
· Infants are sophisticated comics. Even before they can speak, they understand what others find funny and will try to make them laugh.
· By 7 months of age, infants will re-evaluate something as funny if others are not laughing at it, an effect also true for adults.
· By 10 months of age, infants exhibit the audience effect, meaning they are much more likely to smile when others are watching. This effect, also found in children and adults, suggests that smiling is at least as much a social signal as an emotional one.

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For more than 20 years, Dr. Gina Mireaults research has focused on various aspects of emotional development in childhood, including childhood grief from parental loss, temper tantrums as a manifestation of childhood anxiety, and the perception and creation of humor in infants from 3 to 12 months old. Dr. Mireaults research addresses the riddle that most parents encounter: how do babies know whats funny? This research has serious implications for understanding critical developmental milestones like whether infants are capable of a theory of mind, whether humor can contribute to attachment security with parents, and whether infants rely on parental emotion to interpret ambiguous - primarily humorous- events and regulate their own emotional responses to those events. Dr. Mireault has presented at several peer-reviewed conferences including The Society for Research in Child Development, the International Conference on Infant Studies, and the European Conference on Developmental Psychology, and has been published in Infant and Child Development and Infant Behavior and Development. She has also been an invited speaker for the International Summer School for the Psychology of Humor and the British Psychological Society.Her research has been cited in multiple national and international news outlets and magazines including, WebMD, The Daily Telegraph, American Baby, Parenting, and Salon.  Her work has also appeared on PBS NOVA ScienceNow. 

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