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 four 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 one month, with an estimated 50% of children appreciating humour by two 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 three 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).
One-year-olds appreciated several types of humour that involved getting a reaction from others. This included teasing, showing hidden body parts (e.g., taking off clothes), scaring others, and taboo topics (e.g., toilet humour). They also found it funny to act like something else (e.g., an animal).
Two-year-olds’ humour reflected language development, including mislabelling, playing with concepts (e.g., dogs say moo), and nonsense words. Children in this age group were also found to demonstrate a mean streak as they appreciated making fun of others and aggressive humour (e.g., pushing someone).
Finally, 3-year-olds were found to play with social rules (e.g., saying naughty words to be funny), and showed the beginnings of understanding tricks and puns.
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