A new study has suggested that laughter may be the key to helping toddlers learn faster.

Children aged 18 months who watched a funny demonstration of how to pick up a toy with a tool were found to perform the task significantly better afterwards than those who shown a serious demo.

Psychologists from Paris Descartes University, who claim that their study is the first to look at the effects of humour on learning in very young children, have suggested that certain brain chemicals may be influenced by positive emotions.

Previous studies on adults have found that positive emotions can affect the release of dopamine and endorphins, which in turn can have a positive effect on learning.

Positive emotions have been shown to improve creative problem-solving and aid mental flexibility.

Fifty-three toddlers were shown to reach a toy duck using a cardboard rake. Thirty-seven of these children watched a demonstration in which the adult threw the duck on the floor and then smiled every time she retrieved it. The remaining children watched a non-humorous version.

Afterwards it was found that 93.7 per cent of the toddlers who had laughed at the funny demo (16 in total) managed to mimic the adult’s use of the rake.

Meanwhile, only 19 percent of non-laughing toddlers in the humorous group used the rake correctly. In the serious demonstration only 25 per cent copied the adult’s actions.

Writing in the journal Cognition and Emotion, the researchers said: “Our results suggest that laughing may be a stimulant of learning even during the second year of life.

“Further work is clearly now required to elucidate the question of the mechanisms underlying this effect of laughter on infants’ learning, and more specifically why laughing babies were so much better at imitating the exact gesture of an adult demonstrator.”

Source: Daily Mail by Sophie Freeman