7 Ways to Encourage Infant Social Development

How to Encourage Infant Social Development

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An important part of learning social skills is meeting, playing and interacting with others. This skill simply cannot be developed in isolation!

Interacting with other could be said to begin before a baby is even born.

From about 18 weeks after conception a baby's hearing comes into action and he gradually becomes aware of the sounds of the world around him. His mother's heart beat of course, but other sounds too - voices and noises of home, the deeper voice of his father, the barking of a dog, shutting of doors and so on.

By the time of birth all these should be familiar and he will be able to distinguish familiar voices from others. Such things make up the very beginnings of a child's engagement with the world around him - his socialization.

Your child's need to interact with other people and to be accepted by others is just one of the steps in the direction of developing social skills.

At birth of course he discovers the smell and sight of his mother's breast, the feel of a father's fingers, their voices no longer muffled. At first his sight is a little blurred and they can see only outlines, but gradually faces and other things come into focus. They are especially interested in your eyes and mouth.

After a few weeks baby can control his own head and turn to look at the world around. By this time too some parent's are beginning to get a little anxious. They have seen many pictures of smiling babies. When will they get a response? Yet the baby is already telling them something of the kind of person he is by his periods of rest and activity. And then suddenly at about 6 weeks old there it is. They smile - he smiles.

He also does other things of course and he seeks to understand and to control his environment - he practices the facial expressions he will use later and he grabs at anything that interests him and cries when he wants attention or in frightened or in pain.

As early as two months old researchers tell us that babies can distinguish between various facial expressions such as happy, sad, fear and so on, though it takes a while longer to realize what these expressions mean. Before long baby is making sounds, - baby talk - first of all to entertain himself, but he gradually, over many months, will learn which sounds obtain the response he wants - a drink, a smile, a clean nappy and so on.

He gradually discards the sounds that aren't used by those in his immediate circle in favor of the language of home - and so we get 'Da Da' rather than 'Tad Tad'... unless the family are Welsh speakers.

How Does Infant Social Development Happen?

But at first social development is about trust. And babies only become "human" through their social interactions with others.

Your child learns to trust others to provide for his needs - whether bodily or for entertainment, security and so on. Children who experience such security are better able to deal with the world. You often see a toddler, a few steps away from his parent or carer, turn his head for reassurance before touching something or venturing further away.  

Another thing is…

Infant social development is not possible without emotional and language skills

There are a number of reported cases where babies were raised by animals. Although they still looked like children, their mannerisms, communications and actions reflected those of the animals.

A baby that is spoken too often, long before he understands the significance of all that is said, has a better chance of developing language skills and so developing social skills. Keep in mind that your baby wants to interact with others. This need introduces and triggers infant social development. This also stimulates emotional and language development.

I suggest you also read our baby language development articles for more information.

Without words, babies cannot explain feelings and thoughts to others, thereby hindering social interaction.

But how you do stimulate social development?

7 Ways to Encourage Infant Social Development

Dads play an important part in your baby's social development.

  1. Smile and talk to your baby - explain and describe your day to day activities and tasks

  2. Touch your baby often

  3. Encourage acceptance and approval by often making eye contact

  4. Involve dads by letting him hold, talk to and touch your baby

  5. Pick up your baby when he reaches out with his arms

  6. Encourage and boost confidence by making a fuss over little things your baby accomplishes, like asking "where is your hand?"; "put your foot here". Encourage and make a fuss when your child learns such things as feeding himself, rolling over to reach a dropped toy, and eventually dressing himself and going to the toilet successfully. This grows confidence, both in his own abilities and others that support him. This means that by the time he reaches the age of about three he is better able to cope with such things as nursery and other periods away from his main carers.

  7. Encourages self discovery by letting her spend time in front of a mirror… your baby likes to watch and talk to the mirror image.

Infant Social Development Comments

When babies are an only child it is important that his family socialize with others who have small children. They may be too small to join in play or even get down on the floor, but babies are keen observers and in this way your baby not only discovers that other small people exist, he will learn about such things as sharing and taking turns.

Taking turns applies to all of the following areas:

  • When food or drink is passed round

  • When conversation takes place

  • When people pause to allow others to speak.

Some of these things can be very subtle so the more often the baby is exposed to them the better chance he has of learning the social skills he needs to become a positive asset to the society in which he belongs.

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