John Oliver was the one who said, “Stand-up comedy seems like a terrifying thing. Objectively.” Well, no offense to Oliver, but there’s stand-up, and then there’s the exhausted parent making their 900th monkey face in a desperate attempt to distract from the latest bout of teething-related tears.
Let’s be honest: Stand-up comics don’t know real pressure.
That said, making your baby laugh can be one of the most fun, silliest ventures of your life. According to the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, you can start looking for laughter as early as 3 months.
For my family, it wasn’t until our baby was 4 or 5 months old that the laughter really took off. In addition, my baby boy took after his father in that he didn’t just give up the giggles for any old routine. He was only interested in quality comedy.
Here were the things that got even our critical darling convulsed with laughter.
1. Explore for tickle zones.
Tickling is the universe’s secret trick to getting even the most stoic baby to crack a chuckle. The only problem is honing your technique to your individual child. And that, my friend, takes a willingness to face stone-cold rejection.
Our baby didn’t care for tickling, we thought. Using our fingers, we tickled his knees, we tickled under his arms, we tickled his feet. No dice. Then, one day, I had the inspiration to blow a raspberry on his tummy. This blessed brain wave released a torrent of laughter, and blowing bubbles on his back and chest produced the same effect. It’s all about exploring, so go ahead! Figure out your baby’s weak spot, and then mercilessly exploit it until you find their funny.
2. Master the goofy face.
Goofy faces are a staple of the “Operation Baby Laugh” strategy. But in my experience, not every funny face is a winner. In fact, you can waste a lot of time making ridiculous faces to an unimpressed baby if you’re not careful.
First things first, eye contact. Your baby loves looking at you, and knowing that your attention is on them and only them is vital to getting a reaction.
Secondly, the key to amp up any routine is suspense. Our baby starts losing it around the first bar of the Jaws theme song, and as we get closer and closer, maintaining eye contact, he becomes a giggly mess, knowing exactly what awaits him: an overload of kisses.
Thirdly, baby is still learning about object permanence, so any way you can disappear the funny face for a moment will help provoke laughter. For example, dropping your face out of sight for a moment, then popping back up, or any other version of peek-a-boo. But beware: Baby gets used to faces you make, so mix it up!
3. Exercise with your baby.
All the moms of the world know this: Sometimes there is not enough time to get to the gym. One day I was in desperate need of an exercise pick-me-up, so I grabbed my baby and very carefully used his 25-pound weight as a kettlebell, squatting down and lightly tossing him in the air. Obviously be very, very careful if you want to try this, and move slowly!
Well, he just lost it. And since he thinks this is the best invention since iron-fortified formula, it’s a regular in our household now. Good for family bonding AND toning.
4. Potty humor is always a winner.
If you’re the mother of a daughter, perhaps this is the time when your attention diverges. All I can say is, as the mother of a bouncy baby boy, going with your gut instincts on what’ll make a little boy laugh is normally a good way to go.
If you’re uncomfortable with potty humor yourself, by all means, cover your ears. However, nothing quite gets the sly giggles out of our 8-month-old than aggressively asking him “Toots or poops?” after he farts.
This delights his sneaky baby heart to no end. I highly recommend it to all discerning parents.
5. Make some noise!
Noises can be cause for both hilarity and alarm in little babies. It’s a fine line. Our baby started sobbing when we took him to church one time and the organ sounded. On the other hand, loud animal sounds are like catnip to his little baby soul.
In fact, nothing calms him down better in the car than asking him what sound an animal makes, and then imitating it. Your partner may mock you for being “that mother,” but trust me: Finding a way to stop backseat crying is worth any temporary humiliation. Also, it’s a great way to brush up on your zoology, as I found when I tried to imitate the sound a hawk makes, and started cawing like a crow.
Baby may flunk his biology quiz, but he’ll be smiling as he does.