When will my toddler develop a sense of humor?

You might be thinking, “Baby already has a sense of humor – she laughs all the time!” It’s true that babies can start laughing at a very young age, but they don’t really “get” the jokes for a while. Until Baby was about a year old, any laughter you heard was probably unrelated to any understanding of humor. So no, sorry, Baby probably wasn’t laughing because she understood your impression of an elephant and found it hilarious.

What actually happening is interesting though! she was responding to the stimuli of the weird noises you were making and the smile on your face. That’s why she might also laugh at a dog sneezing, a toy getting stepped on, or when she is bounced up and down. Things are happening, she is excited, and she laughs! It’s not quite funny, but it is fun.

For Baby to have a true sense of humor, she needs to understand the world well enough to know when something is off. This starts to happen at about 1 year old. Right now, she probably understands enough to get some basic jokes or gags related to things being not quite right. For instance, she knows what you usually look like and sound like. So if you do start imitating an elephant, she knows that you’re doing something different than usual, and that’s funny! She just might not quite get why you’re also waving your arm like a trunk or trying to look wider. But the noise part, that’s good stuff! When she gets older, she will get the rest of the joke.

Baby‘s sense of humor will evolve as she grows, and she will start to understand more complex jokes and make jokes of her own. The first stop? Unfortunately, much of the time, it’s going to be toilet humor. Get ready for a lot of incoherent poop jokes from your toddler once you start potty training! You might also find that Baby gets really into physical humor like people falling down or running into things and “that’s not right!” humor where she just finds it really funny when you say things that obviously aren’t true.  

So, when will Baby develop a sense of humor? Right now! And tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Her sense of humor is developing as you read this, and everything that you bring into her little world will help it grow. she will start to get knock-knock jokes and imitation and sarcasm (eventually). One day she might even master irony, though there are plenty of adults who still struggle with that one!

  • Price, Michael. “The joke’s in you.” American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association. November 2007. http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov07/thejoke.aspx
  • “Encouraging Your Child’s Sense of Humor.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation. June 2015. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/child-humor.html#
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