Your Baby’s Social Development 3-6 months
Smile, laugh and have conversations with your baby. Learn about her emotional needs
Your baby at a glance
Your baby is becoming increasingly aware of and interested in what is going on around her. During this stage you are likely to see your baby:
- Starting to connect what she hears with what she sees
- Increasingly initiating interactions with you, using sounds and babbles to help get your attention
- Looking at you and reaching out for you when feeding or playing
- Starting to recognise familiar faces around him
- May start to be more cautious around strangers, showing that she is starting to be able to understand and distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar people.
- Enjoying peek-a-boo, delighting at the surprise every time you ‘pop’ back out from behind e.g. a towel (object permanence is not yet developed)
Your baby's story
You will see that your baby takes a lot more interest in her environment now, turning her head when hearing a sound to see what people are doing and to learn from them. Her communication skills accelerate, and you'll find more and more that she initiates interaction with you through gurgles and smiles. She'll also find ways to better communicate what she wants, such as reaching her hands up when she wants to be picked up.
During this time you're likely to experience that your baby suddenly laughs, probably at something you've just done to amuse him. What a great step forward in his social repertoire!
When your baby is around 4 months, you may see her socialising with other people and interacting with them with squeals and smiles to get their attention. Still, you will be her favourite person and get the most excited responses from her. Toward 6 months of age, you may start to see a difference in how your baby reacts to unfamiliar people. She is not yet experiencing stranger anxiety, but may become quiet and serious around someone she doesn't know. In other words, she is starting to distinguish between people she knows and those she doesn't, and will prefer to be around familiar people and of course you in particular.
Your baby has not yet developed the concept of ‘object permanence’, which is the understanding that an object continues to exist even though it is out of sight. So he will reach for and play enthusiastically with things brought into his line of sight, but will not look for a toy if you hide it or it falls under something and is out of sight. Also, he will love a game of peek-a-boo with you, showing real excitement every time you "re-appear” from behind something.
What you can do to encourage and support your baby's development
Respond to your baby’s attempts to get your attention and interact, as this means he’s ready to play and learn. Smile, laugh and talk back to him, and make some new faces to see if he laughs or even copies you. When he laughs for the first time, his reward will be your positive response and laughing back at him. This reinforces the behaviour, and you’ll see him laughing more and more. Notice what he is looking at so you can talk about and play with what has captured his attention. Research shows that this how young children best learn language.
Observe her responses to different situations and listen to her cries to understand what they mean and what she is trying to tell you. This will help your baby calm down more quickly, and strengthens the communication between you. It is important to be ‘emotionally available’, to ensure your baby feels she is supported and understood, as this will help her learn to cope with negative emotions and engage positively with others.
Revel in your baby's increasing social interaction. Continue talking, play peek-a-boo in different situations using various props, and also help him engage and start playing with others when you're together in various social settings. If you see your baby starting to feel more anxious or less secure around people he doesn't know (often around 6 months), be sensitive and understanding and model positive interactions he can learn from.
During tummy-time your baby may love to 'socialise' with her own reflection in the mirror if you put a mirror in front of her.
From the earliest days your baby will enjoy and learn from reading, talking, singing, and laughing.