Humor, Social Laughing, and Pleasure to Function: Three Sources of Laughter That Are Intrinsically Connected in Early Childhood

  • Elly Singer
Part of the Educating the Young Child book series (EDYC, volume 15)


This chapter is based on a study of laughter in 2-and 3-year old children in Dutch child centers. The most frequent sources of laughter are: laughing because of incongruity; laughing because of pleasure to function; and social laughing to make contact and share experiences. Most laughing occurs in the context of physical play and pretend play with peers. Most episodes of laughter are evoked by multiple sources of laughter. Children laugh because they enjoy physical play (pleasure to function), each other’s company (social laughing) and because of making silly behaviors (incongruity). Early forms of humor in infants seem to be related to excitement because of ‘the expected unexpected’, as in peek-o-boo. In infants fulfilled expectancies can be just as funny as incongruent experiences in older children. Whether an episode is humorous or not depends on the interpretation of the children and the teacher, for instance as ‘wild/unacceptable’ behavior according to the teacher and ‘silly/funny’ behavior according to the children. Incongruity humor is playing with ideas and gives children and teachers the power to change the interpretation of situations from ‘difficult’ or ‘painful’ into shared laughing. Laughter is a good indicator of the pedagogical climate and quality in early childhood education.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elly Singer
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Utrecht University (retired)UtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.University of Amsterdam (retired)AmsterdamThe Netherlands

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