Birth to 18 months Emotional Development

The Social and Emotional Development from Birth to 18 months is often a concern for parents, especially first time parents.  Trying to engage babies so that they grow in their own SELF-CONCEPT is a daunting task to begin with. Somehow as we parents become more attuned to our infant/baby, we gain confidence that “everything is okay.”  But until we stop looking for something that doesn’t “seem right,” we often experience anxiety about individual instances of our baby not responding like we expect him to.

So, from the good folks who have written the “Washington State Early Learning and Development Benchmarks–Review Draft, Nov. 2004,” here are some basics for parents:

Some Indicators for Children:

  • Explores own body (e.g., observes hands, reaches for toes)
  • Responds with gestures or vocalizations when name is spoken.
  • Shows awareness of self in voice, mirror image, and body.
  • Attempts to complete basic daily living tasks (e.g., feeds self)

Some Strategies for Caregivers:

  • Make time to be alone and fully engaged with child.
  • Use child’s name during interactions
  • Provide unbreakable mirrors for child to look at self.
  • Give child time to find ways to soothe self.
  • Give child time to remain engaged in activities.

As I write the two lists above, I’m realizing that there is a HUGE developmental difference between a month old infant and an 18 month old almost “child.”  So please be aware that the above indicators are a building block process.

Here’s what I think I would do:  As I play with my infant, I use her name a lot–the name you want to call her when she is six years old and fourteen years old.  Not the cute name that rhymes with “banana.”  It’s interesting how early childhood names “stick” when they are possibly “outgrown.”  I have a dear friend named “Duck.”  Yep.  That’s his name.  His mother referred to him in the womb as her “Little Duck.”  Duck is now in his 70’s and very few people know that his given name is Donald (see how this works?).  FYI–I am so glad that Duck has been a part of my life–he has given me untold gifts of friendship.

The unbreakable mirror is a GREAT tool for babies.  I hope you have the opportunity to see what happens when your baby catches a glimpse in the mirror of himself for the very first time (probably around 6 months, when he is starting to crawl).  I will never forget one of my children as she found herself reflected in the floor length mirror for the first time.  Surprise?  Curiosity–yes!  She sat up and stared at herself for several moments and then reached out to touch that “other” baby.  I don’t think she had the cognition ability to know that she was looking at herself.  She certainly had to ability to know it was another baby looking at her from the mirror.  As she reached out to herself in the mirror, and touched only glass, she seemed puzzled, but not frustrated.  She repeated this gesture again and then crawled away.

When you are providing quality time between you and your baby, please do allow for an engagement period that allows the baby time to think and respond to what you are presenting.  For example:  take a favorite toy and as the baby watches, place the toy under a magazine, or wash cloth.  Give your baby time to think about this.  If the baby shows initiative to find her toy, celebrate with a clapping of hands, smiling and stating, “Susie, you found your toy!”  If your baby does not show a willingness to explore immediately, play a game of “peek-a-boo” with the hidden toy.  Give your baby time to want to PLAY with you.  Do not make it so difficult that your baby can’t WIN–this is all about the self-gratification of learning the enjoyment of curiosity and adventure.

What fun (even when Mommy and Daddy are exhausted) to PLAY with a baby!  Enjoy and savor the moments!

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