Birth to 18 Months Social and Emotional Development

There is so much concern and questions raised about the spectrum of Autism that I thought it might be helpful to list some normal development aspects for babies and toddlers before the age of five.  This will be in a series of posts, determined by the physical age of the child.

Today’s post is for those babies ages BIRTH to 18 Months.

From “Washington State Early Learning and Development Benchmarks–Review Draft, November 2004.”

Social and Emotional Development from Birth to 18 Months.


Goal:  Children demonstrate belief in their abilities and are proud of their accomplishments.

Some Indicators for Children:

  • Repeats a sound or gesture that creates an effect (e.g., repeatedly shakes a rattle after discovering that it makes a sound)
  • Explores environment independently, at first with close contact with caregiver and then farther away from caregiver.
  • Looks to caregiver when accomplishing new tasks (eg., standing or walking).
  • Gives objects or toys to others (eg.g., picks up rock then reaches to give it to caregiver).
  • Smiles when succeeding in a task/activity.

Some Strategies for Caregivers:

  • Stay near child so you can give encouragement as needed.
  • Provide a safe environment for child to successfully accomplish appropriate activities.
  • Express enthusiasm for child’s accomplishments (e.g., by clapping, smiling, saying “you did it”).

I believe that the most useful tool a parent has for engaging a child is called “eye contact.”  When you have your baby’s attention, make sure that you have a warm, inviting facial expression.  Eye contact with gentle physical contact are the two tools in a parent’s realm that are indispensable.  Babies attach through all the senses.

Along with eye contact, we want our babies to learn to engage with others by reacting to them (returning smiling, turning their heads to find someone, etc.)  We want our babies to be able to find comfort in physical touch and cuddling.   When we carry our  very young babies, it is helpful that they have eye contact access to us, so their ability to see us without moving their heads is helpful (baby carriers that allow for this are really helpful.

Please avoid the baby carrier that has the baby facing AWAY from the carrier.  When the baby is older and wants to see where their carried journey is taking them, then it is time to turn the carrier around so that the early toddler can see the street or path in front of him.

If you are concerned that your baby is not reacting according to expectations, remember that some babies develop earlier or later than the norm.  If you continue to be concerned, please contact your local child development center for guidance as to how to obtain information and assessment.

Be gentle with yourself and your baby.

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1 Response to Birth to 18 Months Social and Emotional Development

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