Smiling baby, lying down.

Activities to support your baby's social and emotional development

From crying to using facial expressions, your baby begins adapting to the world immediately following birth. These early exchanges are an important part of your baby’s social and emotional development.

What are your baby's social skills?

Social skills include interacting with others, establishing relationships with family and friends, learning to work with others, and responding to others' feelings.

Your baby's social and emotional development in year 1

Your baby begins experimenting with grins and grimaces in the first month.

By month 2 or 3, your baby has mastered the social smile, realizing it gets attention. The more your baby engages with you, the less time she will feel overwhelmed by internal sensations, such as hunger, gas, or fatigue.

By a few months into the first year, your baby should enjoy playing with familiar people and become more communicative and expressive. She might smile at a reflection or start to scream to show annoyance, and assert preferences for certain people and specific toys. Additionally, your baby might be fearful of new situations, but with your help, she will be able to learn and accept new settings.

How to support your baby's social and emotional growth and development

Respond quickly to newborn needs. Research shows that responding to your baby's needs builds trust in you and helps your baby feel secure. This strong bond and confidence can help your baby settle down without your help in the future.

Observe and take the time to better understand your baby's unique personality. It's important to understand your baby's character traits and behavioral style as completely as possible so you can respond to your infant in the way that works best. For instance, an irritable baby might need cuddling or distraction to refocus energy, while a shy infant might need time to watch from a distance before becoming directly involved with others.

Let your baby set the pace. When your baby turns away or gets fussy, take a short break from the activity you were just doing.

Use activities to deal with your baby's fear of strangers. By month 5 to 7, your baby might recognize certain people and fear those who are not familiar, including relatives who aren't regularly seen. You can ease her fears by introducing new people gradually and carefully when your baby is well rested, healthy, and full. Offer a comfort object, such as stuffed animal or blanket to help her feel secure.

Reduce separation anxiety with games at home. This common fear typically appears at 6 to 8 months of age, when your baby becomes aware that you can walk away at any time. The best way to calm your baby is to leave briefly and then return. Make this a game, repeating the pattern, starting with a few seconds and lengthening the time apart. As another practice activity, allow your baby to crawl into another room that's safe, but wait one to two minutes before following. If you do leave your baby with someone else, take an extra few minutes before leaving.

Grow self-awareness with mirror games. Around 12 months, stand beside your baby in front of a mirror and point out different body parts, such as your nose or arm. Have your baby do the same. Move in and out of the reflection for mirror peek-a-boo. You and your baby can make faces to display the various emotions you suggest.

Introduce your baby to brief playdates for group play practice. Although there won't be much interactive playing yet, time spent with other children establishes a strong social foundation for the years to come.

Keep learning about your baby's development every week
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