Children aren’t born with a sense of humor, but you can help them develop one—and ensure they enjoy the many emotional and physical benefits of laughter.

Laughter is associated with happiness, but it’s more than a feel-good act.

“Humor is a great way to connect with others,” says Brian Richter, PhD, a licensed psychologist with St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “For a toddler, there’s no better way to get attention than with a smile or a laugh. Inside jokes can help older children bond with friends.”

Humor can teach children to laugh at themselves and help them understand other points of view, but its benefits go beyond the social aspects. It can help children deal with pain, manage stress, control blood pressure and prevent depression.

Get Ready to Giggle
Children develop a sense of humor based on experience and environment. An important way young children learn to find the joy in life is through play.

“Enjoy unstructured playtime in which you follow your child’s lead,” Dr. Richter says. “That frees both of you to be silly and laugh together.”

Other ways to help your child laugh more and foster her sense of humor include:

  • laughing at your child’s jokes
  • letting her see you being silly 
  • or humorous so she knows a sense of humor is something you value
  • reading amusing books or watching funny shows together
  • sharing funny stories as a family around the dinner table

Don’t forget to make it clear to your child that laughter can be disruptive or inappropriate in certain situations, and that some jokes can be hurtful rather than humorous.

Just Joking
A great way to nurture your child’s sense of humor—and enjoy a few laughs together—is to tell each other jokes. Need some inspiration? Consult a kid-friendly joke book or look up age-appropriate humor online, and then share your favorite funnies.