Babies are social beings. It’s in their nature and their way to connect with others it’s a key aspect for their survival.

From the moment they’re born, babies begin to communicate with others through their very own language: crying. A baby’s cry prompts the caregiver to offer comfort and fulfill the child’s needs, be it food, a diaper change, or simply cuddle time.

By responding to your baby’s needs, you are helping her become more efficient at communicating with you, and soon all those sleepless nights will be rewarded with your little one’s first toothless grin.

Your baby’s first social smile will emerge between one and a half to three months of age. You’ll be able to differentiate this smile from her first reflex smile, since this smile occurs in response to a stimulus and not a spontaneous body reaction. For example seeing your face or listening to dad’s voice will elicit a social smile. Respond to your baby’s smile and she’ll learn that she can communicate with her parents in more ways than just crying. Talking, singing, and making eye contact with your baby helps her learn to socialize and express her different emotions.

Babies love to interact with others and this helps them build social skills. As young as three or four months old, you can take your baby out to explore the world and interact with other adults and children. Your baby will not play with other babies until she’s around two years old, but she will still be happy to be around others.

Between one and two years of age, babies will play side by side with other children but not interact just yet. This type of interaction is known as parallel play. This is completely normal, since babies this age tend to be possessive of their toys and are self-centered too. So, don’t worry, with time your little one will be making new friends. Socialization is a learned skill and like any other, to master, it takes practice.

Helping my baby socialize

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Since socialization is a learned skill, there must be interactions with others so it can be developed. Your baby mostly interacts with her primary caregivers, but exposing her to different environments and people will broaden her knowledge of others while you learn about her temperament and needs. Your little one will love spending time with others, exploring and interacting. She will observe other babies and learn or react to them even if she does not play directly with them. So, if you were having a hard time getting your little one to crawl, set up a play date with babies who do, this might be the boost your little one needs to start.

You can slowly begin taking your baby out to the park, set up a play date, or go to a mommy and me yoga class. Each of these environments gives your baby the opportunity to engage with those around her. You can start slowly with one or two friends and work your way up to large groups. The important thing is to expose your little one and choose a variety of settings.

Be sure to be a good role model too, introduce your baby to others, take your little one to greet your partner, grandma, or your friends. Just don’t forget to be gentle and stay within your little one’s sight when exposing her to a new environment, especially if she is having a tough time with separation anxiety.

Finally, remember to take the necessary precautions when exposing your baby to different environments. Make sure her vaccines are up to date and avoid crowded places during flu season.

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