Kai Mirel's first belly laugh came at 13 months, when he watched his older brother, Kaan, stumble over a toy and fall on his butt. "He just cracked up," says his mom, Trisha, of Redwood City, California. "I was amazed."
While a baby's little giggles are great, there's something special about seeing a 1-year-old howl when something strikes him as funny. "Laughing in response to things he sees is a sign of your toddler's growing intellect," says Maureen O'Brien, PhD, author of Watch Me Grow: I'm One-Two-Three. It shows that your child knows how structures and patterns are supposed to work -- and that he recognizes the humor when they don't.
Experts say a playful, supportive environment is important for nurturing your child's funny bone. That's why it's important to laugh at his earliest attempts at humor. But be forewarned: Once he gets the desired response, he'll turn you into his personal laugh track. "Kids this age really go for repetition," explains Susan Goodwyn, PhD, coauthor of Baby Minds: Brain-Building Games Your Baby Will Love. "If you chuckled the first time he stuck Mr. Potato Head's glove where his nose should be, you'll need to do it a second, third, and fourth time too."
As you grin and bear it, remember that you're helping to boost his confidence. So play along -- and try these other ways to develop your child's sense of humor.