Making babies laugh using books
Published on: 02 April 2023
We think Dr Caspar Addyman has the best job in the world... he studies what makes babies laugh! Here, he explains how the magic of 'Peekaboo' can get babies giggling. Watch the video or read the transcript below.
Hello! I'm Dr Caspar Addyman and this is Babies Laugh at Peekaboo - my first book with Campbell Books, beautifully illustrated by Ania Simeone, and I'll tell you a bit about the book - but let's just look at it, first!
Babies Laugh at Peekaboo is, as you might expect, all about Peekaboo.
The story of how we made the book is almost as fun as the book itself. My day job is as a developmental psychologist, and I study how babies learn about the world - and since 2012, I've been studying what makes babies laugh!
In 2020, I published a whole book about why it's so great to be a baby and the importance of joy and delight in their lives. It summarised a lot of what I'd been looking at - how important positive emotions are in early life for babies. It was a dream come true a year or two later when I got an email from Campbell Books saying they were thinking of doing a book about babies and peekaboo. They'd been researching it and found out that I knew quite a lot about it - so I helped them write this book!
It's great to finally get a chance to take this message about baby laughter directly to parents and babies. But why is laughter so important in a baby's early life?
Firstly, it's a sign that at any given moment, they are completely absorbed in whatever it is that's in front of them. If they're laughing, that's a sign that whatever is happening there and then is really valuable to them. So they laugh when they discover something new about the world, when they get a new skill - like their first few steps, or the first triumph with a spoon! It's always accompanied by laughter.
And more than anything else, laughter is about human interaction. The main thing we have to learn about in the world is other people, and that's no less true for babies. So any time that we're interacting with them is an opportunity for them to learn, and laughter is their way of keeping us doing it.
It's no coincidence that the ultimate game for making babies laugh all over the world is peekaboo - and that's because it's all about direct human contact. It's about giving a baby your full attention. And so this is a great place to start in terms of 'what makes babies laugh?'
Peekaboo is also a great topic for a book, because reading a book to a baby is also a situation where you're giving them your full attention.
They learn a little bit from the book, but just as much - maybe even more - from the fact that you're there with them, giving them your undivided attention for this moment.
So that helps them a little bit with language and understanding about the world. It helps build the connection with that baby, and it helps with their cognitive development. And it can be a calming, soothing, familiar thing where they learn more about the simplest things in life - and hopefully with a little bit of laughter, too.
Babies Laugh at Peekaboo by Dr Caspar Addyman is available now.
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