6 months old
The joke Dad is pretending he's a chimp.
Why it's giggle-worthy Pop may look crazy, but he's having a good time. Clowning around, whether you're making slapstick body movements or weird facial expressions, is right up your 6-month-old's alley because it's just plain kooky. That's the reason Jay Christensen's "Old Man Witherspoon" routine went over so well with his four children. "He'd cackle like an ancient, toothless, crazy man and rub his five o'clock shadow on their cheeks," says his wife, Amy, of Henderson, Nevada. The odder you act, the closer your baby will study you for emotional cues (a behavior called social referencing) to see that you're playing around and not going nutty. By smiling and laughing at yourself, you send signals that say "I'm having a ball" and encourage your baby to enjoy the absurdity, not panic. "Parents need to give their infants cues to make clear, 'This is safe and this is fun.'" Dr. Mireault says. "Deadpan doesn't work with babies." Dads tend to be more successful clowns than moms, in part because they're apt to be more physical and uninhibited, Dr. Mireault adds. So let yourself go bananas. That dorky smile on your face will show your little one that you're trying to entertain him, not having a psychotic breakdown.