Social Development

Forming Relationships

Social development reflects your baby’s growing trust in you and how secure she will feel in the world.


Four-month-old Holly is sit ting with Dad in the chair. Dad holds his hands over his face and then swings his hands out and says, “Peek-a-boo, Holly! I see you!” Each time Dad shows his face, Holly laughs. When Dad tries to stop the game Holly kicks her arms and legs to let Dad know she wants to keep playing the game. Dad decides to continue to play the game until Holly loses focus and wants to move on to something else.


Holly is discovering that relationships with people in her environment are fun and satisfying. Through this experience Holly demonstrates her ability to follow Dad in whatever he is doing. As well, Holly is letting Dad know that wherever Dad may go, she wants to interact and be with him.

More awareness is being placed on the foundation of social development during the first three years of life. This foundation will be reflected in your child’s ability to be successful in relationships, with the additional belief in her ability to achieve any goal she puts her mind to.

When your baby is secure in her relationship with you, she then knows that no matter what happens you will be there emotionally, and you will show her how to form strong, positive relationships with others.

During the first three years of life your baby is working hard to develop trust and relationship skills. Your baby learns social skills first by using her eyes, next by turning her head to see you, and then by observing what you are doing around her. She finally ends with adding her body to the experience. This is why it is so important for your baby to stare into your eyes and fall in love with you shortly after birth. Your baby is learning who she is by how she is treated.

Parents play a big role in their babies’ social development by sending messages like “I love you. You’re such a smart baby. I love being with you. You are such a funny baby.” Verbal messages like these will help form your baby’s self-esteem.

Because the bond with you is becoming so strong there will be times during your baby’s social development when she will have stranger and separation anxiety, which is apparent when a fear of unfamiliar people occurs and is expressed by your baby crying.

Separation anxiety is a normal part of social development; however, it does require your emotional support to let your infant know that the social encounter is a safe one, and she does not need to fear. This support can be given through touch; cuddles; a calm, soothing voice; and just taking the time to play an interactive game. For example, in the afternoons when your baby gets grumpy and it's not time for a nap, nothing works better than dancing with her. Put on some music and hold her in your arms. A good distraction is silly exaggerated movements like jazz hands (fingers splayed, wrists twisting), which are funny to your baby.

Parents have relationships with extended family and friends on a routine basis. Talk with these people when appropriate about your baby’s likes and dislikes, what calms her and what upsets her. Working with extended family and others who may spend time with your baby helps to ensure that she will feel safe and secure with all relationships.

Social development is also learned through play experiences you provide for your baby. Your baby will learn about the world around her through play, and play builds all areas of her development.