The surest way to make a baby laugh is to play a game of peekaboo, a survey by researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London has found.
Dr Caspar Addyman is among leading baby and toddler scientists to appear this month on three-part BBC2 series Babies: Their Wonderful World, which explores the incredible developments children make in their first two years of life.
Episode two of the documentary looks at laughter, which research suggests helps parents bond with their babies, while also decreasing stress and boosting the immune system.
As a developmental psychologist and director of Goldsmiths InfantLab, Dr Addyman is interested in how babies adapt to the world and how we support their learning.
Working with Voltage TV Productions Ltd for the BBC, he launched a nationwide survey completed by 390 parents earlier this year. They were asked to perform and then rate and rank five games and jokes that made their baby laugh the most and which were least successful.
Some 70% of babies laughed out loud at peekaboo and parents rated it nearly twice as funny compared to other games, including putting a cup on their heads, stuffing their mouth with material and tearing paper, and pretending a toy animal is making the wrong noise, such as a cat doll woofing.
Dr Addyman says –
“Laughter is about connecting with people and peekaboo is pure connection. You’re looking your baby straight in their eyes and giving them your full attention, so it’s a very social game involving facial expressions that works particularly well on babies aged 6-18 months. Once they start running around, and don’t want to sit still, it’s much harder to hold their full attention so they won’t find it as funny.”
His team also collected data from parents on what types of touch most soothed or most amused their babies, which he intends to analyse next year.
She was asked to recreate a well-known experiment, ‘the visual cliff’ - an optical illusion made of perspex that looks like a sheer, vertical drop.
Babies that have only just begun to crawl go straight across the perspex, apparently unaware of the potential danger. Babies who have been crawling for longer react to the drop and stop at the cliff edge, showing a better understanding of danger in their environment.
The test shows how the experience of crawling changes a child’s behaviour because various other aspects of development are unlocked as they learn to move around the world.
Babies: Their Wonderful World is presented by Guddhi Singh. It airs on BBC2 on Monday 3 December and Monday 10 December and will be available in BBC iPlayer.
Dr Caspar Addyman’s new book, The Laughing Baby, will be published by Unbound in 2019.
Understanding Motor Behaviour in Developmental Coordination Disorder, co-edited by Professor Elisabeth Hill and Professor Anna Barnett (Oxford Brookes), will be published by Routledge in 2019.