Your infant starts developing social skills soon after birth. As he becomes aware of you -- and interacts with you -- he is beginning to learn how to how to connect with others. You can encourage his social development through some games and daily activities that can help him understand emotions, faces and the joys of communicating and being social.
0 to 6 Months
Your face is a source of fascination for your baby from the very beginning of his life. According to the HealthyChildren.org website, from birth to 3 months, infants begin to imitate movements and expressions -- and develop a social smile -- so lots of face-to-face contact will encourage him to do this. Play peek-a-boo, exaggerating a surprised expression as you pop up. An infant “coos” and “goos” in his first 3 months -- and starts to imitate sounds. You can repeat his sounds, waiting for him to answer. This is his first attempt at “conversation.” At about 3 months, your child can also grasp a toy. You can encourage social interaction by placing toys in his hand for him to hold.
6 to 12 Months
As your infant grows and develops, you can continue to play peek-a-boo to show her various facial expressions. Swipe your hand slowly down over your face to reveal a sad or grumpy face. Then swipe it gently back up to reveal a huge smile. According to PBS The Whole Child website, babies can start to express emotions on their faces at age 6 months, so when you play peek-a-boo with a variety of facial expressions, your baby might start to mimic your face. During your play, you should also introduce the words, "happy" and "sad," to encourage her to understand the difference between a happy and sad face. Try attending some parent and baby groups where she can see lots of other baby faces. Let her see you roll or pass toys to other babies and moms. This will develop her interest in other faces and help her feel relaxed around other people as she watches you interacting with them.
12 to 18 Months
At around 1-year-old, your baby will become more aware and interested in daily activities, according to the AskDrSears website. Try including your baby in some of your chores. You could place her on the bed beside you while you sort through the wash, or sit her in her high chair while you clean or cook in the kitchen, telling her what you are doing as you go along. She might not understand everything you are saying, but she will hear new words -- and pick up on the different tones in your voice, which will help develop her ability to communicate with others.
18 to 24 Months
Singing nursery rhymes is another way to help your baby pick up on language and tone that he can use to interact with others. While he likely enjoyed listening to your singing all along, some time between 18 and 24 months, he might start trying to join in when you sing to him. Try choosing rhymes with actions that he can try to copy. Speech-Language Pathologist Caroline Bowen Ph.D. notes on her website that children at this age really enjoy listening to the same rhymes over and over again because they begin to remember them.
- Healthy Children.org: Baby 0-12 Months
- KidsHealth: Bonding With Your Baby
- Scholastic: How Your Baby Makes Friends
- PBS The Whole Child: The ABCs of Child Development
- AskDrSears: 12-24 Months Active Play
- Kidspot: Your Baby's Social Development
- AskDrSears: Birth to 3 Months, All Hands and Mouth
- Speech-Language Therapy.com: Receptive Language
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