Social Development

By Cathie Sondergaard, Peel Infant Development. on March 22, 2007
Babies start by learning the signals they can give to show adults they are hungry or tired. They watch how their parents respond to other people and situations, then begin to copy them.

Children Learn Social Skills By Copying You

Copying the adults that are close to them helps toddlers begin to understand what the world expects of them.

Preschoolers gradually learn how to co-operate by sharing, taking turns and playing games with others. Preschoolers often copy the things that someone they love does.

When your children play house and copy the words and actions of the adults around them, you know that your children are learning the rules and values of your family and the community you live in. This is why you need to remember that your children use you as a model for how to behave.

Trying To Be Independent

Toddlers and preschoolers try to be their own bosses, so they may not always do what they are told. They are trying to rely on their own skills and to become less dependent on adults.

Children at this stage are sometimes very possessive about their toys and don't share well. Your children may say no a lot. They may also demand that routines stay the same, including where they sit, what they eat and what book they want to read. This is a normal step in learning to be independent.

At this stage, your children may change from clinging to you to defying you. Remember, at this time your children still need reassurance that you love them, and that they can depend on you to meet their needs.

Setting routines and clear limits and guiding your children calmly helps them feel secure in their new independence. By the time your children are three to four years old, they are usually much more confident co-operating with others, and they enjoy the company of other children.

Milestones in Social & Emotional Development
Birth to 1 month:

Your baby looks at others for a few seconds at a time. Babies like human faces, and they react to sights and sounds. Your baby may smile, but not necessarily at anything in particular. Your baby may also cry a lot and is usually soothed by being fed, held, changed or cuddled.

2 to 3 months:

Your baby shows a wider variety of feelings: smiling at others, showing distress and excitement. The baby uses her (or his) whole body to express emotions. Your baby gazes intently into other people's eyes and responds to people when they talk or smile at her. Your baby is comforted by being rocked, fed, changed, cuddled and talked to. Some babies at this age may soothe themselves by sucking on their fingers or a pacifier. Babies recognize the people most familiar to them.

3 to 4 months:

Your baby expresses emotions through smiles and frowns, sounds, and body movements. Your baby may also gurgle and coo and make sounds other than crying to show when she is unhappy. Babies like attention, and like smiling at familiar people. Your baby is calmed by seeing a familiar caregiver, being held and rocked, and having physical needs met.

4 to 6 months:

Because babies can now recognize familiar people, they may begin to show fear around new people. When babies are happy they smile, laugh and make pleasant sounds.

Your baby can also begin to express happy and unhappy feelings. Your baby will feel calmer when rocked and held, and when she hears comforting voices. Your baby may reach out to be picked up.

6 to 9 months:

Your baby may react strongly to strangers by crying and clinging to you. Babies at this age may start to resist when they don't want to do something.

Your baby wants attention and likes watching children. Your baby smiles and babbles socially to familiar people. Some babies at this age may soothe themselves when they wake up at night by holding a familiar toy or sucking on their fingers.

9 to 12 months:

Your baby continues to be anxious around strangers and shows attachment to special people. The baby likes playing with others by making sounds, and giving and taking objects. Babies at this age express lots of different feelings with expressions, gestures and sounds. Your baby can play alone for a short time, but usually prefers to be with people.

12 to 18 months:

Your baby likes to have consistent routines and schedules. Your baby likes adult company and loves to make you laugh. Your baby shows more negative emotions than before and may resist naps, refuse certain foods, or even have tantrums.

Your baby begins to understand turn-taking games. Babies at this age start to explore and learn about different toys and people, but they return to familiar things and people for comfort and reassurance.

18 to 24 months:

Your child likes to be in charge and often says no! Children at this age start to understand that they are their own persons and want to be more independent. They may show frustration when they are misunderstood, and they may need comfort and understanding when things don't go right.

Children at this stage start to learn words to express their feelings. Pictures and stories can help them recognize these feelings.

24 to 36 months:

At this stage, children are still self-centred. They may be just beginning to have a sense of their own identity, and they become possessive of their belongings. Mine is a favourite word.

Sometimes, children at this age have trouble choosing between two things and don't want things to change. They enjoy affection and react better to distractions and things they find funny, rather than rules or reason.

They have more words and ways to express their feelings more calmly. Your child is more adventurous and secure.

3 to 4 years:

Your children want to make choices. For example, they may want to dress themselves. This is the time where parents need to have lots of patience.

It can take a child a long time to choose an outfit and get dressed. Let your child pick from a range of clothes for the weather or for the occasion.

Children at this age feel good about themselves and what they can do. They can talk about their feelings. They show strong attachments to their families, and they are interested in spending time with people close to them. When they don't get something right at first, they may keep trying. Children at this stage can control their frustration and their anger much better, and they can pay attention for about 20 minutes.

4 to 6 years:

Children at this age enjoy being active and busy in their play. They like to make things and be involved in tasks. They may also begin to try to act like their mother or father. They understand and like to follow rules, and may feel bad when they don't. These children are more self-assured and confident, and they have a good sense of humour. EY


By Cathie Sondergaard, Peel Infant Development.| March 22, 2007

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