Laughter is the best medicine

25th January 2018

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By Jenny Barber

Last week whilst carrying out some consultancy work in a day nursery, I observed some children laughing. Nothing unusual surely about children laughing? In theory no, but the laughter I witnessed in this nursery was so heartfelt and joyous I made a note of it. So, what was different? The group of children were engaging in foot painting, which had been set up to allow total exploration and freedom for the children. They were covered in paint, slipping sliding, but righting their balance, walking on the paper, walking on the floor, they were giddy with excitement and enjoyment, so they just laughed and giggled, it was contagious. The practitioners were joining in with the painting, everyone was happy.

This I thought, is what early years should be about, this freedom to explore which brings about this sheer joy. Too often, we operate activities under restrictions and control and the freedom is compromised. We need laughter, and more of it.

Laughter is a positive emotion, it is a stress reliever and when we laugh endorphins are released. Laughter also boosts our self esteem because it improves our way of seeing things by making us more optimistic, it also helps us maintain our sense of humour regardless of the situation.  This creates positive thoughts which helps boost our self-esteem.

The children I observed were laughing as they slipped and slide, they were not perturbed or put off, just laughing as they went, maintaining and developing their sense of humour as they carried on and boosting their self esteem.

A neurotransmitter called catecholamine is released when laughing, a hormone that takes part in crucial brain functions, such as movement, emotions, learning and memory.  This is triggered by laughter, so effective in supporting children’s all round learning and development.

So maybe when planning activities for children, our first thought should be will this activity trigger laughter? Will the children be delighted and joyous when taking part? How will it boost a child’s self esteem and view of themselves?  If we put that first we know the rest of their learning and development will follow. The list of what those children gained from that foot painting activity is endless, but at the top has to be a heartfelt sense of pleasure and enjoyment and laughter.

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