Social Development

Babies’ interest in other people, evident in the early months of life, extends to their interest in other children and forms the foundation of later relationships with peers. By six months of age, infants can communicate with other infants by smiling, touching, and babbling. Early reactions such as crying in response to other babies crying are the signs that infants are developing empathy toward peers. To develop these early behaviors into social skills, infants and toddlers should be guided in their interactions with peers and explicitly taught the social rules of these interactions. Caregivers need to be mindful of the cultural differences in the rules of social interactions between children and between children and adults. In addition, special attention should be paid to children with developmental delays or disabilities who may demonstrate challenges related to attention and imitation skills. Children with limited vocabularies may also encounter difficulties in establishing relationships with peers and will need additional support to be successful in their efforts at communicating.