During early life, the attachment your child develops with loving caregivers forms the foundation for the way he or she will learn and interact with others. Your baby first learns to trust you for his physical needs and for comfort; then to interact with other people and things in increasingly complex ways. The way you cuddle, talk to, play with, and respond to your child creates the basis for her developing ability to make friends, communicate feelings, and resolve conflicts as she grows into toddlerhood and beyond.

Social and Emotional Skills at 2 months

  • Begins to smile at people
  • Can self-calm (may suck hand or thumb)
  • Tries to look at parent

Social and Emotional Skills at 4 months

  • Smiles spontaneously, especially at people
  • Likes to play with people and might cry when playing stops
  • Copies some movements and facial expressions, like smiling or frowning

Social and Emotional Skills at 6 months

  • Knows familiar faces and begins to know if someone is a stranger
  • Likes to play with others, especially parents
  • Responds to other people's emotions and often seems happy
  • Likes to look at self in a mirror

Social and Emotional Skills at 9 months

  • May be afraid of strangers
  • May be clingy with familiar adults
  • Has favorite toys

Social and Emotional Skills at 12 months

  • Is shy or nervous with strangers
  • Cries when mom or dad leaves
  • Has favorite things and people
  • Shows fear in some situations
  • Hands you a book when he wants to hear a story
  • Repeats sounds or actions to get attention
  • Puts out arm or leg to help with dressing
  • Plays games such as "peek-a-boo" and "pat-a-cake"

Social and Emotional Skills at 18 months

  • Likes to hand things to others as play
  • May have temper tantrums
  • May be afraid of strangers
  • Shows affection to familiar people
  • Plays simple pretend, such as feeding a doll
  • May cling to caregivers in new situations
  • Points to show others something interesting
  • Explores alone but with parent close by

Social and Emotional Skills at 2 years

  • Copies others, especially adults and older children
  • Gets excited when with other children
  • Shows more and more independence
  • Shows defiant behavior (doing what he has been told not to)
  • Plays mainly beside other children, but is beginning to include other children, such as in chase games

Social and Emotional Skills at 3 years

  • Copies the behavior of adults and friends
  • Shows affection for friends without prompting
  • Takes turns in games
  • Shows concern for crying friend
  • Understands the idea of "mine" and "his" or "hers"
  • Shows a wide range of emotions
  • Separates easily from mom and dad
  • May get upset with major changes in routine

Social and Emotional Skills at 4 years

  • Cooperates with other children
  • Enjoys doing new things
  • Plays "Mom" and "Dad"
  • Is more and more creative with make-believe play
  • Would rather play with other children than by himself
  • Cooperates with other children
  • Talks about what she likes and what she is interested in

Social and Emotional Skills at 5 years

  • Wants to please and be like friends
  • Likes to be center of attention
  • More likely to agree with rules
  • Likes to sing, dance, and act
  • Shows concern and sympathy for others
  • Is aware of gender
  • Shows more independence
  • Is sometimes demanding but sometimes very cooperative