Shortly after your baby flashes you his first gummy smile, he'll likely melt your heart with his first laugh. "This important social milestone is usually achieved around 4 months, but some babies laugh as early as 2 months, and others much later," says Jennifer Gardner, MD, a pediatrician and founder of the Healthy Kids Company. "And it's important to keep in mind that the laughter of a baby usually starts out as a squeal and a smile, not a hearty belly laugh!"
Babies typically first "laugh" in their sleep, so, unbeknownst to you, this adorable new trick might be missed the very first time it happens. But don't worry. There are plenty of ways to get -- and keep -- your little one giggling. And once you discover the, often random, thing that cracks your baby up, neither of you will be able to get enough!
Infant laughter is a form of communication, so, as with smiling and cooing, it all boils down to you talking to your baby as much as possible. "What babies are learning is tone and cadence, so you really can talk about anything as long as you make it sound exciting and fun," notes Dr. Gardner. "I must have said this a thousand times to my son, 'Look at mommy folding the wash. Oh this is fun (laugh)!'" Your baby looks to you for social cues -- and loves to copy! So, smiling and laughing while maintaining eye contact will encourage your baby to get giggling. Dr. Gardner tells her patients' parents: "Laugh and be laughed at!"
Other things you can try to get your baby chuckling when they're first learning social skills?
- Making silly faces
- Tummy tickling or belly raspberries
- Toe nibbling
- Ear kisses
- Gently blowing on the face
- Showing the baby his or her face in the mirror
- Making funny noises
- Blowing bubbles in the bath
- Playing peek-a-boo
- Mimicking the baby
- Opening eyes wide while smiling
- Dancing or jumping for the baby
- Singing animated silly songs like "B-I-N-G-O" or "Wheels on the Bus"
"It's impossible to tell what's going to spark that first genuine laugh, but it’s a feeling few ever forget," adds Dr. Gardner.
Like with other infant social skills, consider the whole picture, but typically if your baby is developing normally and has no difficulties with direct eye contact or being held and cuddled, not laughing is rarely a concern. Maybe you've just got a serious little person on your hands. "Some babies just don’t laugh," says Dr. Gardner. "I would be more concerned if a baby is not smiling in response to a caregiver’s smile or voice by 4 months." Of course, if you ever have a developmental concern, you should trust your instincts and discuss it with your baby’s doctor.
How do you encourage your baby to laugh?
Image via Corbis