Babies are fascinating. They develop rapidly in the first few years of life. How they interact, behave and communicate are important indicators of their development. When we think of a baby being on track with their development, we are inclined to consider their physical growth and milestones. As parents, we thoroughly follow their physical milestones, keeping track of when they first rolled over, began to crawl, tried to stand or take their first step. And while those milestones are important, those are not the only ones they hit in the first year of life. Equally important are their social and emotional milestones that we need to monitor. Even as newborns or at just a few months old, babies find ways to express themselves, indicate their needs, interact and bond with their caregivers.
Why are social and emotional milestones important?
Babies are born social by nature. Socio-Emotional milestones are relevant and crucial, irrespective of the child’s personality. Whether they are shy and reserved or outgoing and friendly, social and emotional growth is a necessary development. Like Kim John Payne says in his book, Simplicity Parenting ” Like magnetic fields babies attract people to them. Facial gestures, eye contact, nuzzling, clapping and rhyming games begin the lifelong interplay with others”.
It is these skills that help babies bond with their parents and make their interactions personal. They are also crucial indicators of a baby’s development as they can tell us whether babies are developing typically and as expected. Social skills help children interact, communicate and manage their emotions and feelings. As children grow older, these skills guide them to manage their personal feelings, understand emotions and express themselves. It also helps them understand the emotions and feelings of people around them. These are skills that will teach them to take turns, share, engage and interact with others.
Social Milestones in your baby’s first year
As with all development, there are individual differences that exist when it comes to a baby’s socio-emotional development. Babies reach these milestones at their own pace, but broadly they fall into certain typical timelines. There is a predictable sequence that children progress into as they grow. While not being a strict checklist, these milestones rather work as a guide of what changes to expect as babies grow. They can make us aware of the typical patterns that exist in socio-emotional development and if and when we should reach out for help, in the event that they do not meet these timelines.
Shows feelings by crying
Quietens in response to touch
Responds to calming actions such as rocking, singing or a soothing voice.
Shows interest in watching your face
Shows eye contact at around 2 months
Develops social smile
4- 6 months :
Shows excitement by waving arms and legs
Smiles spontaneously at people
Can recognise familiar faces and knows when someone is a stranger
Mostly calms down when comforted
Enjoys looking at self in the mirror
Responds to own name
Might show separation anxiety
Uses sounds to express happiness, anger, sadness.
Clings to familiar adults
Establish a shared focus with people around, through pointing etc
Is nervous or shy around strangers
Cries when parents leave
Shows preference for certain people and toys
Might show fear in new situations
Imitates sounds or actions to get your attention
Enjoys playing games such as peek-a-boo
Engage in parallel play with other children
Always remember, all children develop and reach milestones differently. Do not panic if you don’t see your child hitting these milestones as expected. Reach out to your paediatrician or a child specialist to share your concerns and understand if anything needs further attention.