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What makes kids laugh

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It feels like the rain is never going to end here at Platypus Towers.  This April has taken the term April showers to whole new levels making us all feel a bit....washed out.  So what better way to cheer ourselves up than by focussing on laughter and specifically What Makes Kids Laugh?.

What Makes Kids Laugh?

Children laugh a lot more than adults.  On average babies laugh 300 times a day compared to 20 times a day for adults.  Laughter makes us healthier, can make us more popular and helps development.   Children’s sense of humour reflects their new intellectual achievements. Humour is a form of intellectual play – play with ideas and children have a built in tendency to have fun with newly developed skills – both physical and mental. (Paul McGhee, Understanding and Promoting the Development of Children’s Humour, 2002).

Kid’s laughter is contagious.  If you disagree – watch this clip – I defy you not to at least raise a little smile.  But what is it that tickles their funny bones?  

Finding out what makes kids laugh was the key objective of a project worked on for CBBC a few years back to inform the development of the Saturday morning TV Show TMi.   It was one of my most interesting, engaging and memorable pieces of work.  I got to spend Saturdays with kids playing games, watching TV, going out to clubs, watch their home videos of what made them laugh and speak to them about their favourite TV shows.  

We have also worked on hundreds of other kids’ research projects at Platypus and have asked our Platypus mums panel to share their experiences.  From this we have identified a number of key observations and laughter themes that we wanted to share. 

An important aspect of kids laughter is the fact that the same things are making kids laugh today that did 50 years ago (just in different guises).  Scooby Doo, the Chuckle Brothers, friends pulling funny faces is as popular and funny now as ever before.  However, the means by which this humour is received is changing.  You Tube is a particularly popular method of communicating hilarious video clips (anyone seen the monkey on the back of a pig clip? one of our Mini Platypuses was in hysterics watching this.)

The first thing to note is that laughter themes change as children get older.  According to Paul McGhee* he states there are several stages:

  • Laughter at the attachment figure (6-12 or 15 months) – the earliest form of humour tends to involve things parents do as the most emotionally important person in their lives and the person whose face and features they have learned the best.  This usually takes the form of laughter at some unusual behaviour e.g. waddling like a penguin, making silly faces etc.   These are funny because infants recognise them as something different to their parent’s usual behaviours.
  • Treating an object as a different object (12/15 months – 3, 4, 5 years).  The concept of pretend play paves the way for humour related to using an object for something different to what was intended.
  • Misnaming Objects or Actions (2 – 3 or 4 years). As language develops this brings new opportunities for humour.  They begin to play with the names of things and start giving you the wrong name (e.g. calling you your proper name instead of mummy, daddy etc.)
  • Playing with words sounds (3 to 5 years). Children become attuned to the way words sound and begin playing with the sounds themselves often taking the form of repeating variations of a familiar word over and over e.g daddy, faddy, paddy.

  • Nonsense real world combinations (3 to 5 years)

  • Distortion of Objects, People or Animals (3 to 5 years).At this age children understand that names of objects apply to classes or categories that share certain features e.g. dogs – things that bark have fur, four legs and so on.  A new form of humour is to change any of the features that define ‘dog’ in the child’s mind e.g. adding features, (a dogs head on a man’s body), removing features (a person with no nose or ears), chaging shape, size, location of familiar things, exaggerated features, impossible behaviour e.g. cow on roller skates, dog playing a piano and singing.
  • Pre Riddle Transition Stage Period (5 to 6/7 years).   Starting to become interested in the humour of older children.  When they hear older kids telling jokes followed by laughter they imitate what they hear but don’t understand the double meanings and so make no sense at all e.g. “Knock-Knock. Who’s there? Piece of bread....want another piece of bread?” “What did the big car say to the little car? I’ve got a blocked up nose.” 

Above and beyond the ‘psychology’ there seem to be some golden rules of humour that will be invaluable to anyone trying to entertain what can be a difficult audience.

Belonging – Having a laugh relies on a true connection or relationship with a person or thing.  This type of humour is tends to be generated by real life situations. 

Accidents – As long as we can identify they are not serious! Accidents tend to be unexpected, create a reaction (funny face, noise) and are not set up. 

“When Scooby Doo walked into the wall.”


Jokes ‘It’s the way ya tell em’– Dad’s jokes, cheesy jokes, the humour is often in the delivery rather than the joke itself.  Jokes, puns and riddles also allow imagination of an event that would be funny in real life and with the understanding of double meanings become a ‘play’ on words.

“Robert’s dad makes a joke out of everything.  They’re not funny but he makes him funny.”


Faces – Different/strange facial expressions especially from people known or have a connection with.

Noises – ‘Toilet humour’ and noises they can make themselves

“I sat on a whoopee cushion and it made a funny noise like a fart.”

Voices – Baby voices, impressions of people (TV characters, teachers, parents, friends), total changes of character and things unexpected e.g. giving animals voices.

Dressing up and Exaggerated Reality

One of the key reasons Little Britain was so popular with kids (despite being well past the water shed!) was the fact that it had men dressed up as women but it was still obvious they were men.

Caricatures are also liked for being reality but with a twist and one reason why the Wallace and Gromit characters are so popular given their over-exaggerated facial features, voices and expressions.

Oblivious to being watched

Children find pets and babies particularly funny.  This seems to have something to do with their innocence and increased likelihood they will get themselves into a funny situation without realising they are being funny.

Also actions like, over hearing people singing in the bath, sleep walking/talking, people talking to themselves and being engrossed in something and making a silly noise or face or all equally hilarious and made even funnier by the fact the person creating the laughter is totally oblivious to the fact!

“My dog is not allowed to go on the sofa and we have these cushions with straps on and my dog got off the sofa and a cushion was hanging from his waist!”

Laughter research Robert Povine said: Laughter is a mechanism everyone has; laughter is part of universal human vocabulary. There are thousands of languages, hundreds of thousands of dialects, but everyone speaks laughter in pretty much the same way. Babies have the ability to laugh before they speak. Children who are born blind and deaf still retain the ability to laugh.

One thing is for certain, there is nothing like the warm, fuzzy feeling you get from sharing a moment with your child when no one else in the world knows what you're laughing at......and neither do you!

Laughter Factoids

  • Recent research shows that people in a light-hearted mood more often have eureka moments of sudden inspiration. (Karuna Subramaniam, Northwestern University)
  • We are 50percent more likely to laugh when speaking than when listening. Robert Provine
  • We are 30 times gigglier in a social setting than when alone.  Robert Provine
  • It has been found that Chimpanzees laugh when tickled and even rats have been found to ‘laugh’ (although not in the same way humans do!) when in a happy mood!


Robert Provine of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County – Laughter: A Scientific Investigation


Paul McGhee, www.laughter

Jo Cliff, Platypus Research

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Education - University vs. Apprenticeships

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So University or another route?  It's a daunting dilemma many teens face when approaching the end of college.  While most are involved with UCAS applications and deciding what University course they want to do, some are left frantically trying to make sense of it all, and what their future holds.  

It is almost tradition for most students to go straight to University after college.  But what about those who question the value of University?  

Apprenticeships are commonly thought of as plumbers, electricians and engineers or generally anything that doesn't  necessarily require more than a few GCSE's.  We've found out, however, that this isn't the case.  There are a number of apprenticeships out there which lead to a specialised job. The lack of knowledge of what is available leads to teens questioning their options. 

We have some views from people who've been through this, and they wanted to share their thoughts on the matter:

Matt - I was left feeling unsure about what realistic alternatives were out there. I was under the impression that apprenticeships were all about plumbers and electricians. The careers advisors weren’t helpful at all. I was originally going to go to University, but began to speculate on better alternatives.  I found a number of good chances through my own research. I wanted to pursue Web Development and gain entry into a company to gain valued experience.

Now, Digital agencies and the area of Web Development is not something commonly thought of to be available as an apprenticeship. I think my case is a good example of what varieties of choice companies out there want to offer an apprentice. In my opinion, I value this higher than University, simply due to the fact that by the time a student has graduated, I’ll have 3 – 4 years of industry experience under my belt, recognised NVQ qualifications which can be used for University entry, and I’ll have kick started my career in my chosen industry instead of being left with a big debt, and a degree and not being able to get a job.

I think that degrees are becoming so common these days that they are beginning to lose their credibility, especially with some of the subjects that you can now attain a degree in.  I can learn all the skills I would learn while studying for a degree on my apprenticeship, while actually putting them into practice in the work place on client projects.  You can’t get that experience anywhere else.  46% of graduates are expected not to get jobs they want, and jobs that aren't in any way related to their degree.  That's quite a shocking statistic to me, so I think myself lucky to be where I am!

Sam - I left college and decided not to go to University.  I think that in the long run it wasn’t worth getting all the debt for a commonly obtained degree.  While both going to Uni or following an apprenticeship provide valuable life skills, these skills often differ massively.  Going to Uni, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to get out of it.  The inherent costs and time involved with it means that it's not a decision you should take lightly.  I personally don't feel that going to Uni is worth the time or effort if you don't have a definite idea of the profession you want to follow.

Apprenticeships were often seen as the route to take for those that haven't always achieved fantastic grades.  While it's potentially true, however recent ones that have come up prove that there’s such a broad spectrum of apprenticeships, so it seems like another valuable way to start your career.  The life skills and work experience you pick up within an apprenticeship scheme is invaluable.  Uni graduates often don't have anything to fall back on if their chosen path doesn't go as planned; this isn't too much of an issue for those taking an apprenticeship.

Most apprenticeships often pay and recognise your value, which is a nice bonus.

Platypus has a vast knowledge of this sector. Get in touch with your next brief to see how the experts would approach and deliver against your research objectives. You can either email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact the team on 01924 474734

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Team News & Updates

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March 1st saw Rachel Hoy join Platypus as a Research Director. Rachel makes the move from Optimisa and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team. Rachel will help drive the research functions within Platypus. Rachel has been a researcher for 18 years. She is not only a highly experienced researcher but is extremely adept at working with clients and wider teams to ensure the research gives a clear actionable recommendations and strategic guidance for the way forward.

Rachel has a great deal of experience in the children and youth arena with examples as follows:

  • Establishing a youth research panel as a joint venture with a major high street bank. The opportunity to join the panel was offered to customers who opened a young person's bank account.
  • Managed a number of projects for a client who wanted to launch a new healthy snack that was an acceptable addition to a child's lunchbox. The key was that the client wanted the product to be truly healthy...whilst also appealing to children! These projects involved various stages of in-home interviews with parents and children to test the proposition, comms and positioning.
  • Set up and ran a programme of research which established young people's attitudes to saving in general. It also involved an element of proposition testing to establish if a savers account, specifically aimed at the youth market, would be a welcomed addition to the product portfolio of a well-known financial institution. The programme involved talking with parents and youths alike.

For more information and expert guidance, talk to Platypus about your next research project. You can either email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact the team on 01924 474734.

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Goldman Sachs

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Platypus has been privileged to not only be accepted on the prestigious Goldmans Sachs 10,000 Small Business  programme but to also have recently completed the programme.

10,000 Small Business is targeted at small business and social enterprises with clear ambitions to expand. The goal of the programme is to provide participants with tools and resources to help them lay the foundation for long-term sustainable growth and job creation in their communities.

The programme has proved a great success to Platypus and our increased focus and organisational awareness is helping us to rapidly expand our client base.

Platypus has recently posted 43% growth on turnover for the last financial year and is targeted to achieve 70% growth in 2012.

This is possible due to its niche, clear and expert offering that is attractive to not only existing clients (80% repeat business in 2011) but also to new clients who are seeing that Platypus can offer and deliver expert research over and above the rest of the market.

Give your organisations next research programme the benefit of our expertise and experience. You can either email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact the team on 01925 474734.

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Does Facebook mean we talk less?

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Christmas wish lists of 2011 (for adults and children alike) were dominated with Xbox 360, Kinect Live, PS3, iPads (1 &2) - it's fair to say that technology was by far the front runner. Whilst this is not necessarily unusual and in many households expected, it did get the team here thinking about how and if  we still communicate as families.

The following conversation happened in a friends house;

Mum (shouting):Daniel, your tea is ready.

Son: Be down in a minute.

15 minutes later

Mum: Daniel, your tea is getting cold.

Daniel: Alright, be there in a second.

True to teenage form he eventually  surfaced. The difference here was that the conversation took place over Facebook messenger. Mum had tried shouting and got nowhere so gave in and jumped onto the iPad & messaged her son - finally she got a response.

So does this mean we speak to each other less? We did a mini-survey on Linkedin and the results actually showed that whilst social networking sites are great for keeping in touch with distant family, it can also enhance relationships with your children as you're communicating with them on their level and platforms that they understand.

We'd be interested to hear your views on this, please feel free to leave your comments below.

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Team Edward make Jesus Bracelets trendy

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But where did it all start? We did a little research to find out.

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New Year Resolution #1 Say goodbye to Monster & Red Bull

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Shocking news about energy drinks and their effects on children.

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12 Days of Platypus Factoids

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We've pulled together a festive list of factoid treats to keep you entertained whilst eating your mince pies!

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Teen Shopaholics

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Some surprising (and interesting) facts about shopping with teen and tween girls.

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Why Platypus?

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 In many of the projects we work on we are often asked by our clients to bring their target market to life and this is one of our key strengths.  The best way of being able to communicate with an audience is by fully understanding them, and we believe this cannot be achieved through sitting in a 90 minute debrief.  “Seeing is believing” and visuals can say so much more than the words written on a powerpoint slide.

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What's happened to innocence?

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Wearing heavy make-up and gold stilettos, Thylane Blondeau sprawls seductively on leopard print bed covers.

The provocative pose might seem like nothing unusual for a Vogue fashion shoot – except that Miss Blondeau is just ten years old.

Now the shocking images of the French child model have brought condemnation from parents’ groups and MPs.

Closer to home, a goverment-backed website that makes it easier for parents to lodge complaints about advertisements, programmes, products or services that sexualise children is likely to launch before the end of the year. The single platform was recommended by the chief executive of the Mothers Union Reg Bailey and was welcomed by prime minister David Cameron. 

Read more:


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Welsh government rule out smacking ban

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Gwenda Thomas said the Welsh government was committed to stopping the physical punishment of children. Assembly members voted in favour of a call to change the law to stop parents smacking their children. But she said she was "committed to retaining the option to legislate at a future date”. Wales' children's commissioner joined the call for legislation, saying the law should not condone smacking.

Labour's Julie Morgan, said she wanted the law to give children the same protection as adults.

"That is our priority, the goal isn't to criminalise parents," she said.

But her Conservative opponent Darren Millar said: "I firmly believe parents should have the right to chastise their children. "I think there should be less interference in family life, not more."

Children’s commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, who is appointed as an advocate to speak up for young people on issues concerning them, said: "Children are the only people in the UK who can be hit without consequence.

"Children should be entitled to the same level of protection as adults. There's no such thing as a safe smack."

What are your thoughts? How do you chastise your children?

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Bank of Mum and Dad

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“Sorry son, not only can we no longer afford to give you pocket money we can no longer save for your future or help you through university,” said mum and dad to Tommy, “Oh, and by the way you’ll need to go and find yourself a weekend job so that you can pay your share of the bills.”

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Focus on.... Ethical Marketing

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Ethical marketing is about whether a business marketing decision is morally right or wrong. As more and more businesses adopt these practices both here in the UK and worldwide is it possible for a porfitable business to be ethical?

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Platypus and the Expert Patient Programme

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One of Platypus’ key areas of expertise is the pharmaceutical healthcare market. We’ve undertaken loads of research with clients in this sector who want to understand how to tailor their product or communications to young people. If you would like further information on this piece of research or the article in general please get in touch.

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Did you know....

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Top 10 Universities to receive the most applicants are......

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Platypus Factoids!

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Some random facts and figures, from the funny to the downright weird!

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Newsround up

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A few of the articles relating to our industry and the child, youth and family market.

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All in the name of charity....

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The Platypus team did a 5k fun run in Leeds in aid of Action for Children on 13th August at Roundhay Park in Leeds. For some of us it turned into a 'fun walk' but we made it round and managed to raise money for a great cause too! 

We're now looking for our next big challenge - any ideas? Just drop us a line This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About Action for Children.

Through our work and through speaking out, we seek to break the cycle of deprivation. We challenge injustice and empower children to overcome the obstacles in their lives that hold them back. We tailor our work to local circumstances, in partnership with children and young people, families, communities and local organisations.

We work with children and young people:

  • whose families need support
  • who cannot live with their birth families
  • who are disabled
  • who experience severe difficulties in their lives

We have been working with the UK's most vulnerable and neglected children since 1869. We were originally called the National Children's Home, or NCH, until September 2008 when we changed our name to one that better describes what we do and what we value - Action for Children. 

For more information take a look at their website:

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Britain's Got Talent in the playground

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Are skipping, ball bouncing and clapping games still popular in the playground?

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