Giving your child a simple smile can improve his or her self image and brain development. When your child sees you smile, it not only makes her feel good, it strengthens connections in the brain as well.
Studies have shown that smiling and laughter can strengthen the immune system, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress levels. And a healthy sense of humor can help a child handle problems as they grow into adults, as well as enhance the social skills they need to make friends.
Along with smiling, laughter is a sound that’s naturally interesting to your toddler. As he’s getting ready to learn to talk, he needs help learning how to listen so he can distinguish one sound from another to form his first words. Play active listening games like “One ha-ha-happy family”, described below. As you listen, exaggerate your body posture, lean into the sound, brighten your eyes, and model the body expressions of a good, active listener for a happy, talking toddler.
One ha-ha-happy family
Laugh out loud. Ask your toddler to make the sound back. Laugh lots of different ways to your toddler. Wait for her to copy you, and vice versa. Record the sound of your toddler laughing. (Family idea: Make a “Laughter Scrapbook”! Record your family laughing together and all the different ways you can laugh. Keep adding to the recording as the years go and by and hear how the sound of your laughter changes.)
As well as listening games, why not combine physical games with music? This will give your toddler something to laugh about, learn more words about, and develop better coordination.
When you’re a toddler, running is usually accompanied by fits of laughter. This new found physical control makes games like “Ring around the Rosy” a huge hit. Rosy can fall down or do the silly walk – have fun by exploring lots of ways Rosy can “all fall down” by doing other movements that your toddler finds funny, like playing chase or running. Explore sound with your baby before bedtime. Put on your favorite lullaby (or sing it yourself) and play along gently with a musical instrument.
Smiling and laughing play a large part in the bonding and attachment process that help your child feel secure and safe. Children primarily use their parents’ facial expressions as a guide for behavior. The emotional experiences a child has (especially during the first years) help shape emotional responses throughout life. It’s worth remembering that a simple smile is one building block for your relationship with your child. Your face is where your child looks for reassurement, comfort, and attention. So don’t be afraid to show your child those pearly whites!