Young children’s ability to laugh and make jokes has been mapped by age for the first time using data from a new study involving nearly 700 children from birth to 4 years of age, from around the world. The findings, led by University of Bristol researchers and published in Behavior Research Methods, identifies the earliest age humour emerges and how it typically builds in the first years of life…
The team found the earliest reported age that some children appreciated humour was 1 month, with an estimated 50% of children appreciating humour by 2 months, and 50% producing humour by 11 months. The team also show that once children produced humour, they produced it often, with half of children having joked in the last 3 hours.
Of the children surveyed, the team identified 21 different types of humour. Children under one year of age appreciated physical, visual and auditory forms of humour. This included hide and reveal games (e.g., peekaboo), tickling, funny faces, bodily humour (e.g., putting your head through your legs), funny voices and noises, chasing, and misusing objects (e.g., putting a cup on your head).
Dr Elena Hoicka, Associate Professor in Bristol’s School of Education and the study’s lead author, said: “Our results highlight that humour is a complex, developing process in the first four years of life. Given its universality and importance in so many aspects of children’s and adults’ lives, it is important that we develop tools to determine how humour first develops so that we can further understand not only the emergence of humour itself, but how humour may help young children function cognitively, socially, and in terms of mental health.
And laughter is the best medicine…someone first said long before we were born.