Why do babies like when you make faces?

Babies love it when adults make goofy or exaggerated faces at them. This reaction from infants generally starts between 2-4 months of age and peaks around 6 months. There are several reasons why babies enjoy watching people make faces:

Faces are engaging and hold baby’s attention

The exaggerated expressions that adults make when interacting with infants are high in contrast, with big eyes, raised eyebrows, and wide open mouths. The high color contrast and large features are easier for a baby’s still-developing visual system to see and process. Faces also move in familiar yet unpredictable ways, which makes them interesting and attractive to watch. The engaging faces help hold the infant’s gaze and attention.

Faces foster social interaction

Making animated facial expressions helps adults connect and bond with babies. The faces act as a form of non-verbal communication, allowing the baby to interact even though their language skills are limited. When the adult makes a funny face, the baby may laugh, coo, or make faces back. This back-and-forth helps the baby learn the rhythms of social interaction.

Faces are soothing

The gentle, singsong voices that adults often use when making faces can have a soothing effect on infants. Exaggerated happy faces can also act as “social rewards” that make babies feel good. Studies show that smiling faces activate the pleasure and reward areas of the brain. So when someone makes a goofy grin at a baby, it lights up the infant’s brain in a positive way.

What kind of faces do babies like best?

Research indicates that infants respond most strongly to faces that are engaging, clear, and moderately complex. Here are some of the key features that appeal to babies:

  • Round face shape
  • Big eyes
  • Arched eyebrows
  • Wide open mouth
  • Protruding tongue
  • High contrast colors

These exaggerated features grab the baby’s attention because they are easier to see and more engaging. Simple, cartoonish faces with just a few high-contrast elements are preferred by young infants over more complex or more realistic faces.

As babies grow older, they become interested in more complex faces with subtle expressions. But when interacting with a very young infant, sticking to big, simple expressions is best.

Happy and surprised faces

Research shows that infants respond especially well to happy, smiling faces. The big grinning mouth is attractive and helps light up the pleasure centers of a baby’s brain.

Surprised wide-eyed faces also get a big reaction. Opening the eyes and mouth wide in mock surprise is an easy way to capture a baby’s gaze. The unexpected expression is arousing for infants.

Slow, repeated motions

The way adults move their faces also matters. Exaggerated but moderately paced, repeated motions work best. Very fast face-making doesn’t give infants enough time to fully process what they are seeing.

Slowly opening and closing your mouth or raising and lowering your eyebrows lets the baby take in all the features. Repeating the same expression over again also helps infants recognize the face. The repetition makes the faces more rewarding.

When do babies start to enjoy watching faces?

Most infants start showing an interest in faces soon after birth. Newborns have a preference for looking at face-like patterns. But social smiling and face-making emerges a bit later in development:

  • 0-2 months – interest in faces develops but minimal social interaction
  • 2-4 months – babies start smiling back, first real social responses to faces
  • 4-6 months – greater interest and engagement with exaggerated faces, lots of reactions like laughter
  • 6-12 months – babies make faces back and initiate social games like peekaboo

So the peak of babies enjoying watch adults make silly faces is between 4-6 months. But almost all infants start deriving pleasure from animated faces sometime in the 2-4 month range.

Very young babies may still enjoy seeing faces, but they probably won’t laugh or make strong social responses until around 2-3 months of age.

How do babies show they like watching faces?

Babies have a range of behaviors they use to communicate enjoyment and interest when watching someone make faces. Signs a baby likes what they see include:

Laughing or squealing

Giggling, chuckling, or excited squeals are a sure sign a baby is engaged with the faces they are watching. Laughter emerges as early as 3 months but peaks around 4-5 months when infants are most entertained by facial antics.

Maintaining eye contact

If a baby keeps their gaze focused on the adult’s face as they make changing expressions, it shows they are captivated. Infants prefer to look at faces from birth, making eye contact one indicator of interest.

Kicking and waving

Arm and leg movements are another way babies display engagement with facial expressions. The exaggerated motor activity reflects the baby’s inner excitement.

Cooing or babbling

Vocalizations like coos, gurgles, or consonant sounds are how older infants interact. Babbling while watching changing facial expressions imitates the social back-and-forth of a conversation.

Smiling or making faces

What could be a clearer sign of enjoyment than when the baby makes faces back? By 4-6 months, infants start mirroring expressions and reciprocating in the social exchange.

Why do most babies love watching faces?

While individual responses vary, the vast majority of infants get extremely engaged by watching adults make animated facial gestures like:

  • Puffing cheeks out
  • Opening mouth wide
  • Raising eyebrows
  • Sticking tongue out
  • Making silly sounds

There are good evolutionary explanations for why human babies are primed to pay attention to faces from birth.

Faces convey valuable social information

Faces communicate emotions and intentions – key social cues babies must learn to navigate the world. Babies are born with brains wired to study faces intently from Day 1.

Exaggerated faces are super stimulating

The high color contrast, simple features, and exaggerated movements of adult face-making captivate infants. Their brains are still developing, so the cartoonish faces are easier to process.

Faces activate the reward circuitry

Research using brain imaging shows that happy, smiling human faces turn on an infant’s dopamine reward system. The uplifting faces are literally pleasurable for babies’ developing brains. So of course they want more!

Interactive faces aid development

Watching expressive faces supports infants’ emerging social, emotional, and communication skills. The back-and-forth of face-making provides learning opportunities that aid development.

In short, human babies are hardwired to be attracted to faces, and animated faces provide developmental benefits. So making silly faces for infants is rewarding across many levels.

Do all babies enjoy watching faces?

While the majority of infants get a kick out of watching someone make goofy faces, some babies don’t seem as enthralled or reactive:

  • Premature infants may be less responsive at first
  • Babies with visual impairments react less
  • Low muscle tone can limit facial reactions
  • Some babies are more serious tempered
  • Response peaks at different ages for each child

So while most infants love goofy faces, there are exceptions based on the baby’s maturity, health issues, and personality. If a baby seems uninterested or overwhelmed by lots of animated expressions, it’s best to tone it down and limit stimulation. Pay attention to the individual child’s cues.

Are there risks to making faces at babies?

Making silly faces is generally a safe, healthy way to interact with infants. But there are some potential downsides if taken to excess:


Too many loud voices and exaggerated expressions could stress out some babies if they get overwhelmed. It’s best to watch for signs of overstimulation like fussiness or gaze aversion.

Scaring baby

Making sudden scary faces could frighten some infants – so sticking to happy, silly faces is recommended. Avoid looming in too close.

Distracting baby

Excessive face-making could disrupt desired routines or distract babies from sleep. Faces are best used selectively in calm, social settings.

Impeding development

Research suggests babies may miss opportunities to self-explore and learn when adults entertain them continuously. Occasional downtime is important too.

So making faces for babies in moderation, while paying attention to the child’s responses, is the healthiest approach. Responsive face-to-face interaction provides babies with meaningful cognitive and social benefits.

Tips for making engaging faces for babies

Here are some top tips for making silly faces that will delight infants:

Get on baby’s level

Make eye contact at the baby’s height level. Lying down or bending over the baby creates a better view of your expressions.

Use exaggerated features

Open your eyes and mouth wide to showcase the high contrast shapes babies naturally focus on.

Repeat sequences

It helps babies predict what’s coming when you repeat a sequence of expressions several times in a row.

Pair faces with sounds

Adding exaggerated vocalizations like gasps, chuckles or raspberries boosts the entertainment value.

Offer pauses

Leave occasional pauses to give baby a chance to respond and take turns in the social exchange.

React to baby’s responses

Notice what expressions make your baby laugh or coo, then give more of those rewarding reactions.

Keep it positive

Stick to lighthearted, upbeat faces to create a positive emotional climate for baby.

So try opening those eyes wide, puffing out those cheeks, and bringing out your silliest voice! Making engaging faces for babies stimulates their social, emotional, language, and cognitive development – plus it’s fun bonding time for baby and caregiver.


Babies love watching caregivers make animated facial expressions for many reasons:

– Faces with exaggerated features grab and hold babies’ attention in a pleasurable way.

– The social interaction of face-making helps infants learn emotion expression, nonverbal communication, and conversation rhythms.

– Silly faces act as “social rewards” that stimulate babies’ brains and foster bonding.

– Watching engaging faces supports cognitive, language, motor, and social development.

Most babies start showing strong interest in and enjoyment of faces starting around 2-4 months, peaking around 4-6 months of age. Signs of babies liking faces include sustained eye contact, laughter, movements, and vocalizations. While individual reactions vary, making faces for infants in a calm, moderate, positive manner provides developmental benefits. With some simple techniques, you can easily make all kinds of silly faces that will delight babies!

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